Conceding first highlights Portland's lingering road woes
BEAVERTON, Ore. — Spoken like a true defender.
Hanyer Mosquera (above), the Portland Timbers' big central defender, pointed out the obvious after Thursday's session at the team's training facility: One goal is all it takes to win.
"A 1-0 score is good enough for us," Mosquera said through a translator.
The problem is, Mosquera continued, the fact that the Timbers have been all too quick to give that important first goal, especially on the road. The Timbers have conceded the first goal in the first 25 minutes in each of their last three losses on the road.
In their 3-0 loss on Oct. 7 in Seattle, the Sounders scored in the 25th minute. And in their 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake on Sept. 22 and their 3-0 loss at Colorado on Sept. 5, the opposition scored in the 14th minute in both games.
It's a recent trend that has added to Portland's well-publicized struggles away from JELD-WEN Field; the Timbers are winless in each of their 16 road games, a total that includes 12 losses. Sunday's game against the Vancouver Whitecaps at B.C. Place is the Timbers' last chance to avoid becoming the fifth team in MLS history to finish a season winless on the road.
"What I have noticed is that when we play away, the home team tends to score fast on us," Mosquera said. "And once you're behind in the score, you try to move your lines up, and that leaves the defense a little unprotected and they have made us pay for it. And I think what's been happening is that we've been trying to catch up with the score, and they've been taking advantage of that."
Mosquera said the team has talked about coming out of the gate focused on marking attackers and preventing mental mistakes.
"And I think as the game progresses then there's going to be a play up front that the guys can take advantage of and score," he said. "And hopefully we'll be able to get a win."
Interim head coach/general manager Gavin Wilkinson said the team focused on their game plan for Vancouver at Thursday's training session. He said there's no denying that the Timbers have been punished early and often for their mistakes on the road.
"There's no real surprises at this point in the season," Wilkinson said. "We know what we need to do, we know how we need to prepare."
And if there's one positive going into the Timbers' final road game of the season it's the fact that they won in Vancouver on Oct. 2 last year, one of their two road wins of their expansion season.
"It's very, very important knowing everything there is to know about Vancouver," Wilkinson said. "It's just a matter of being up for the challenge and getting the job done."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.