Portland Timbers hoping to fix defensive mistakes ahead of Chivas USA match: "It's a matter of pride"

BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers’ 4-4 draw Saturday against the Seattle Sounders was a clear-cut case of good news, bad news.

The good news was the Timbers got their attack, so vaunted in their 2013 run to the Western Conference Championship of the MLS Cup Playoffs, back on track, doubling their goal output from their first four games.

Bad news, obviously, was Portland’s defense failed to make it stand up.

“I think for us it’s a matter of pride, of course, because that’s our job,” Timbers center back Pa Modou Kah said following Thursday’s session at the team training facility. “Our job is to keep a clean sheet, and we haven’t been able to do it right now. It takes pride. I’m not happy about it because that’s what people are going to count me on, so I’m looking forward to get our first clean sheet. I think the whole backline and everybody are … angry because we didn’t keep a clean sheet.”

They’ll get that chance Saturday when they play host to Western Conference foe Chivas USA at Providence Park (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live). And head coach Caleb Porter said the bright side of last weekend’s bad news is the problems that arose against Seattle are easily corrected.

He said it was a series of individual errors, not anything systematic, that led to at least three of Seattle’s four goals.

“It’s a lot easier, I’ve found over the years, to correct defending mistakes than it is to correct your attacking play,” Porter said. “Even though we didn’t get three points, we have a lot of guys who performed very well and will take a lot of confidence from that game going into the next game. And we need to take care of the big mistakes we made.”

Kah said they’ve been working all week on correcting those mistakes, although he declined to go into specifics. Porter said he’ll be looking closely at backline personnel and that changes could be in works.

“You’ve got to look at the backline, there’s no doubt about it,” Porter said. “You’ve got to look there because I thought the front six, the middle three and the front three, were fantastic.”

One likely lineup change from the previous two weeks will be at goalkeeper. Donovan Ricketts, the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year who missed Portland’s previous two games while serving a suspension for a reckless tackle in a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids, is expected back in place of backup Andrew Weber.

And despite having to be stretchered off the field after the offending tackle with a knee injury, Porter said he expects Ricketts, who was not made available to the media this week, to be in the lineup against Chivas.

“It’s not for me to decide who’s playing,” Kah said. “But what I do know is, and everybody knows, that he’s the goalkeeper of the year and Donovan is a tremendous goalkeeper and a tremendous guy in the locker room with his experience, 100 caps for Jamaica and he’s been in the league a long time.

"But Andrew Weber has been doing good. So it’s not only him when you look at this, you can’t just point at the goalkeeper … it’s the whole backline. And we have to do a better job to protect our goalkeepers as well, whether it’s Donovan or it’s Weber.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.