Shorthanded Timbers hope to avoid letdown after big win

PORTLAND, Ore. — After their 3-0 victory against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, the Portland Timbers could probably fly themselves to the Bay Area for Saturday’s match against the Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

But that’s exactly what head coach John Spencer will be guarding against: overconfidence and a letdown as Portland begin a three-game road trip with the playoffs still in sight.

“Ninety minutes doesn’t make a season,” Spencer said. “We have to make sure we’re consistent.”

With the surprising win over the Galaxy, Portland took a one-point advantage over San Jose in the Western Conference standings and currently sit in seventh place with 25 points from 21 games. The Timbers also have a game in hand over the Earthquakes, making Saturday’s match all the more important.

“It’s definitely a big game, and it’s one we want to get a good result in,” said defenseman Eric Brunner, who scored the third goal against the Galaxy.

But the road has not been kind to the Timbers in their inaugural season in MLS. They have just one victory away from JELD-WEN Field, and the cozy-but-loud atmosphere of Buck Shaw could be just the kind of environment in which they could trip up.

“Hopefully it doesn’t happen if we come out with the same mentality as we had in [the LA game],” Brunner said. “We got a taste of what kind of work rate is needed. Everyone was exhausted after the game, and it’s because we worked really hard for each other.”

Adding uncertainty to the match is the fact that All-Star midfielder and team captain Jack Jewsbury will be a game-time decision after missing the Galaxy game with a hamstring injury. Forward Eddie Johnson, who was a late scratch from the starting lineup Wednesday after sustaining a concussion in pregame warm-ups, is out due to league rules that require recovery time after a concussion.

And starting midfielder Diego Chara, who assisted on Jorge Perlaza’s goal against LA, will be suspended for yellow-card accumulation after getting booked in the 84th minute of that match, his fifth yellow of the season.

Spencer was pleased with the minutes played by former starter Kenny Cooper in place of Johnson. Cooper’s touch pass to Chara off a throw-in ultimately led to Perlaza’s goal.

“I thought Kenny played his best minutes in a Portland uniform,” Spencer said. “I thought especially in the first half he was dynamite.”

Spencer declined to provide specifics for Chara’s replacement but did say Lovel Palmer (pictured above), who has played defense in his three games since joining Portland in a trade, has the ability to slide up to the midfield.
“We’ve got options,” Spencer said.

Regardless of who is on the field, Spencer said, he expects his players to once again be all business.

“It’s over with now,” Brunner said of the Galaxy match. “We celebrated last night and had fun and enjoyed the moment. But it’s back to business, getting our bodies recuperated for the weekend. And it would be nice to get another three points and springboard into the playoffs.”