PORTLAND, Ore. — Troy Perkins said Friday he doesn’t want to think too much about personal motivations he has for playing well against D.C. United on Sunday (5 pm ET; Direct Kick, MatchDay Live) at JELD-WEN Field.
The Timbers goalkeeper would rather not dwell on the 3-15-4 record he had minding the D.C. United net last year, or the 1.68 goals-against average.
It was an unpleasant experience for the 2006 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. He shouldered the blame for a bad season and felt, at the end, like he had been made the scapegoat.
Then, with a fresh start Portland, he got hurt during preseason training and watched a 20-year-old third-stringer take the starting job for the franchise’s historic first games. When Perkins did finally get in — on the road at the LA Galaxy — he was bombarded by two goals in the first eight minutes of a 3-0 loss.
Through it all, Perkins persevered. No player has done more for the Timbers during the four-game unbeaten streak since the Los Angeles trip. Perkins even won Save of the Week honors for tipping away a Columbus Crew scoring chance last week.
“Just keeping a positive attitude,” Perkins said of his revival. “There’s days where you come in and you don’t want to train, and you kind of feel tired. Those are the days you’ve got to say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to [be negative], we’re going to put ourselves out. We’re going to fight and push for it.’”
Perkins does not mince words about his DC experience.
“When you have a winning mentality around a team, it’s easy to come in every day and do your job instead of doing the same thing over and over again,” he said. “It was redundant [in DC]. It was one of those things where it wasn’t a good atmosphere or a good environment.”
The Timbers traded Steve Cronin, a popular goalkeeper with fans who played with the second-division side last year, to get Perkins.
“I think that he’s such a perfectionist, he does get down on himself,” Portland head coach John Spencer said of Perkins. “That’s one of the things I heard about him. I approached him about this and said, ‘The rumor is you work too hard, you get too hard on yourself. Just play well. You’re an experienced goalkeeper. You’ve played in big games. Play well. Use your natural ability.’ I think people have seen that the last few games.”
Perkins has given up just one goal in the past four games and has a GAA of 0.80 in five starts. As the save against the Crew demonstrated last week, he’s capable of wiping out prime scoring chances and preventing wins from becoming ties — or worse.
Perkins appears to have gotten his groove back.
“Last year was a big learning experience for me and something I don’t ever want to happen again,” he said.
Familiar faces for Wallace
A second former D.C. United player, Rodney Wallace, has been a little more coy about his feelings facing his old team. Wallace went to college at Maryland and was roommates at DC with Chris Pontius.
Wallace came to Portland through a trade following the Expansion Draft that sent Dax McCarty to the Red-and-Black.
“It’s exciting,” Wallace said. “It’s good to see familiar faces, but at the same time, I’m focused on the game. I want to play well in every single game. This obviously means a lot because it’s my old team, but I’m here in Portland now and I think we’re ready to go.”