PORTLAND, Ore. – John Spencer has a pretty good idea what other coaching staffs around the league are saying about the Timbers, and he’s eager to start changing perceptions.
Portland (2-3-1) have conceded 13 goals so far – most of any team in MLS. And perhaps what’s most troubling is that teams have been scoring goals in clusters. The Timbers have a bad habit of conceding not just one goal, but multiple goals, within a few minutes.
The most recent example of that trend came early in Saturday’s game at the Home Depot Center against the Galaxy. LA scored twice in the first 10 minutes of a 3-0 victory.
“I know that we’re starting to get a reputation as a team that’s soft and concedes goals,” the first-year head coach of the Timbers said. “And that’s something that’s a bitter pill to swallow for me because I’ve never been known as that type of player, or never been involved with teams that were known as soft teams that get rolled over and concede very easily.
"If you score one, you score two or score three. That’s what I would be saying against Portland if I was coaching against this team.”
To that end, the Timbers spent part of Tuesday’s practice devoted to maintaining defensive shape. The players say they can do a better job of concentrating and cleaning up mistakes. Spencer said the team must respond to adversity by raising its level of play.
“We’re going to concede goals," he said. "We know that. Every team in Major League Soccer concedes goals. Most teams around the world conceded goals. We have to have the mentality that yeah, we’re going to concede one, but we need to stay together, we need to stay composed, not panic and get through the next five, 10 minutes and make sure we don’t concede again.”
The Timbers play host to undefeated Real Salt Lake on Saturday at JELD-WEN Field. So the challenge will be a difficult one.
Real Salt Lake play for the CONCACAF Champions League title on Wednesday. If there’s good news for Portland, it may be that RSL will have a short turnaround to prepare for Saturday’s game.