Happy with a point on the road? New Portland Timbers say it "could be a lot better"

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers certainly are happy to be in second place in the Western Conference standings just past the season’s midway point. But there’s one thing that just might be eating a bit at head coach Caleb Porter and his players: those darn ties.

Portland’s scoreless draw on the road Saturday against the Philadelphia Union was their 10th tie of the season, most in MLS.

“We didn’t come here for a point, we came here for three points,” Porter said after the game. “But we knew we’d have a battle. Credit to Philly, I thought they fought us tooth and nail, and they were certainly up for it as well. In the end it was probably fair.”

Perhaps it’s a sign of the way Portland play away from JELD-WEN Field, when they dial back their attack a bit, coupled with the league’s stingiest defense (just 18 goals conceded all year). Eight of the Timbers’ 10 draws have come on the road.

It’s a mark a lot of teams would love to have, considering Portland are the only team in the league with just one loss on the road.

And Philadelphia’s 32 goals puts them among the league’s offensive leaders. So Porter was pleased to come away with a point for good reason.

“Listen, Philly’s a good team and there’s a reason why they have 30 points, and now 31,” Porter said. “They’re a team that scores a lot of goals, and they do it by getting balls in the box. I’m happy that our guys were up for the challenge.”

But, despite all the positives, another tie says there’s still room for Portland to grow, according to captain Will Johnson. With a remade roster in the offseason and a number of players cycling through the backline due to injuries, the Timbers feel they haven’t seen their best days.

“It’s still early in the process of putting the team together, but we could be a lot better,” Johnson said. “Being hard to beat and not being outworked, those are two very good blocks to build the team on, so I’m proud that we’ve got those things down. We just need to work on the attacking phase and quality of the attacking third.”

The good news for Portland is that they’ve played their last East Coast road game. All but one of their 14 remaining matches are against conference opponents, including their next MLS game on Saturday at the San Jose Earthquakes.

“It says a lot about our guys that we leave a game with a point on the road, and in some ways we’re not happy,” Porter said.

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.