Brunner returns as Portland set to face down Columbus

PORTLAND, Ore. — A little home cooking for Eric Brunner may be on the agenda this weekend when Portland travel to face the Columbus Crew on Saturday (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online). But make no mistake: It’s all business for the Ohio native.

“I think it will be great to get back home and see my family,” said Brunner, the leader of the Timbers back line, who plans on seeing his family for the first time since the offseason. “Other than that, I’m just focused on what [head coach John Spencer] wants us to do and getting a good result.

Saturday’s match against the Crew has special meaning for a number of reasons for Brunner, who grew up in the Columbus area, attended Ohio State University and played two seasons with the Crew before coming to Portland.

The bigger picture, though is that the Timbers are coming off their first MLS road win last Saturday against Chicago.

But Brunner had to watch that one from the sidelines as he served a one-game suspension for receiving a red card against Seattle, which led to the Sounders’ game-winning, penalty-kick goal. Brunner has had a two-week wait for redemption.

“It was tough,” Brunner said of sitting out the Chicago game. “Obviously excited for the result first and foremost, but it was definitely tough watching it. [The road win] gets the monkey off the back a little bit. We stuck together. It shows the heart and character of the team.”

Brunner will be welcoming two new faces to the defense after the Timbers made a trade Thursday for Houston defenders Lovel Palmer and Mike Chabala.

Even so, the Timbers defense will still be under the spotlight.

If it weren’t for several spectacular saves by goalkeeper Troy Perkins — including a second-half, stoppage-time kick save that won him his second consecutive MLS Save of the Week — Portland would be singing a different tune in preparation for the Crew.

In all, Chicago out-shot Portland 19-12. And the Timbers have allowed 31 goals this season, the second highest total in MLS.

“I still think we gave up too many shots on goal and too many looks on the goal," Spencer said. "We need to try to deny shots on goal."

Palmer, who may get the start alongside Brunner on Saturday, and Chabala may help with that. And an extra-inspired Brunner couldn’t hurt. He provided the game-winner the last time the two sides met, back on May 21.

“You kind of have to have a short-term memory in this league just because you can’t dwell on the past,” Brunner said. “I’m sure they’ll be wanting to come out and prove something. At Crew Stadium, they usually have a good record there. … And we’re going to go in and try to spoil that.”