Road Woes a Final Test for Timbers

Portland trying for first league away win vs. Western foe in 2013
by Ray Marcham   |   Thursday, October 24, 2013

Green Logs – column on Portland Timbers (PTFC) & the Portland, Oregon area soccer scene.

The Portland Timbers head back to the scene of one of their worst performances of the season on Saturday, and at the same time try to end a streak that has been a big negative in an otherwise successful season for the club.

It was back on Sept. 14 when the Timbers went down to the StubHub Center and put on one of their worst performances of the season, being totally outplayed by Chivas USA for the first half, then riding a second half Diego Valeri goal to snag a 1-1 draw with the Goats in a match where Portland was outplayed for long periods.

A win at the SHC would give Portland the top seed in the Western Conference and possibly keep an outside chance at the Supporters’ Shield alive. A draw may cost the Timbers the top seed, especially now that RSL got three points last night against Chivas. A loss and the Timbers could drop as low as fourth place if Colorado and Los Angeles win on the weekend.

Of course, it’s not been just Chivas USA that have given Portland problems on the road. It has been four months since the Timbers’ last road win, a thrilling 3-2 US Open Cup triumph at FC Dallas when what was, at that point, a battle of the top two clubs in the Western Conference. The last road win in MLS for the Timbers? That’s another month farther back, a 1-0 at DC United on May 25. The only other away win for Portland was on April 27, when they came from behind to stun Sporting Kansas City 3-2 at Sporting Park.

That means Portland has not beaten a Western Conference side on the road, in league play, in 2013. The closest may have been the 2-2 thriller in Vancouver on Oct. 6, where the Timbers twice led before Camilo Sanvezzo equalized twice in a three-minute span to deny Portland the win.

Overall, Portland has 8 draws and 3 losses in 13 conference road matches this season. The losses came at San Jose on July 27, at Seattle on Aug. 25 and at RSL on Aug. 30. The only Eastern Conference side that the Timbers lost to on the road was Columbus back on July 7. The overall road record for Portland this season, heading into the Chivas USA match, is 2-4-10.

Of course, it was on the road early in the season, against conference rivals, when the Timbers started to make a statement that they could be a force in MLS. Two come-from-behind draws in March at Seattle and Colorado were, looking back in hindsight, clues that this was a much different Portland side than the ones that wore the green and white in the Timbers’ first 2 MLS seasons.

But while Portland was stacking up wins at home and turning JELD-WEN Field into a fortress, life on the road has been frustrating. And the last match against Chivas USA at the StubHub Center last month might have been the most frustrating of them all, as the Timbers looked listless, at times lacking energy and allowing the Goats to dominate for long stretches, especially in the first half. When Portland did create a little offense, they rarely finished with a decent shot. Only two of Portland’s 12 shots were on goal, including Valeri’s score in the 50th minute. Valeri had come in as a sub to start the second half, and scored soon after his entry.

Like last month, not much of a crowd will be expected in Carson, Calif., for the match. Chivas USA has yet to draw a crowd over 10,000 for a home match not involving the LA Galaxy, and the match against the Timbers last month draw an announced crowd of 5,123, their lowest of the season.

Chivas USA may also have its own energy issues. They will be coming off of a Wednesday night away match at RSL, where they tried to play the same spoiler role that they will play on Saturday against Portland. Chivas lost 2-1 in that match, and may not be up to the task of facing the Timbers.

But that won’t be a concern for the Timbers. They know that a win gives them the top seed in the West, no matter what else happens. They know that a better performance than what they gave last month against the Goats is not only crucial, but required if a win is to be achieved.

And finally getting a conference away win, even over Chivas, will be a huge confidence boost going into the playoffs.

NEXT UP: October 26 – Portland Timbers vs. Chivas USA, StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. 10:30 p.m. EST, ROOT Sports NW, MLS Live.

Ray MARCHAM

Nationality:
USA
College:
Washington State
Club Domestic:
Portland Timbers
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.
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