Timbers take much-needed point away from home

The Portland Timbers struggle on the road, right? That's so late September.

After Wednesday's 1-1 tie at D.C. United, the Timbers have recorded points in back-to-back road matches for the first time this season. And for head coach John Spencer, who insisted the Timbers had the mettle to salvage points on the road when they needed them, the latest result vindicates what he thought all along.

"I thought we played well," Spencer said. "I thought in the first half we controlled the game. I think it was the middle of the game where we lost three or four minutes of possession, which was expected. [D.C. United] was the home team and they were fighting for their lives."

The Timbers unleashed a season-high 22 shots on goal in the match, and the draw fits nicely with a 1-0 win over Vancouver last time they suited up on the road. Portland had earned just eight points in 14 road games before those two matches.

The Timbers, however, still need some luck to go their way if they want their regular-season finale at Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, watch LIVE online) to matter. They need the New York Red Bulls to lose at home against Philadelphia on Thursday in order to stay alive in the playoff hunt.

But should it come down to Portland's final match, Spencer's group proved they're up to the task in a pressure situation on hostile ground. The Timbers coolly dominated the early goings at RFK Stadium and were paid off when a Rodney Wallace cross was nodded in by Kenny Cooper in the 24th minute.

The Timbers also withstood a barrage down the stretch by a desperate D.C. United team also fighting to stay alive. United had 26 shots, six of which were saved by goalkeeper Troy Perkins, including consecutive reaction saves in the game's final seconds to preserve the tie.

"We got off to a good start going up 1-0 into halftime," Cooper said. "Obviously we wanted to get three points out of this game. We'll take the one point and keep pushing forward and keep believing and continuing with the same attitude and approach that we applied to the game tonight."

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at dcitel@hotmail.com.