PORTLAND, Ore. – Nearly all of the milestone “firsts” have been accounted for and crossed off the list during this inaugural MLS season for the Portland Timbers – except for their first road win.
That’s what the team is focused on this week, when they will try and earn that first victory away from JELD-WEN Field on Saturday in Carson, Calif., against Chivas USA. (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online)
“We are trying to get that monkey off our back,” captain Jack Jewsbury said after Thursday’s practice. “We’d like to get that first road win so we don’t have to answer any more questions about it, to be honest.”
The Timbers (5-4-2, 17 points) answered some critics in their last road outing, pulling out a 1-1 result against rivals Seattle.
But it’s not the same as a win, and the team would love nothing more than to replace the three points that got away in last Sunday’s 3-2 loss at home.
The Timbers are familiar with the Goats, having beaten them 2-0 in a US Open Cup play-in match two months ago. However, both teams have improved significantly since then.
One notable difference for Chivas USA is the addition of defender Heath Pearce, who did not play in the March 29 game at the University of Portland.
Jewsbury, who came off the bench in the second half and scored the difference-making goal, said he doesn’t see much carry-over to Saturday’s game.
“We have to approach it as a totally different game,” he said. “Every game creates its own drama that plays out. We have to start the game well, we have to play and defend for 90 minutes as a team and that’s what gets you results on the road.”
Another hot button topic in Portland is the play of forwards Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper and the scarcity of scoring output coming from them. Perlaza scored his first goal in eight games on late in Sunday’s 3-2 loss to D.C. United. He has taken 15 shots in 11 games and has three goals and no assists.
Cooper, who has taken a team-high 25 shots, doesn’t have a goal or an assist in the last four games. (He has three goals, one assist on the season).
Coach John Spencer would like to see better movement from his forwards, better possession in the final third and better set-up passes.
“There are three or four things we can do better,” Spencer said.
The coach said there are also times when forwards need to make things happen on their own.
“Sometimes as a forward when you go through a sticky patch, or a dry spell, I always feel you’ve got to blast your way out of trouble,” Spencer said. “So any chance you get, rather than lead someone else and try to be the best teammate in the world, sometimes you’ve got to go one-touch and smash it on the second at the target. Sometimes you’ve got to create that opportunity for yourself.”
Forward Ryan Pore and his wife Ashley welcomed their first child, a baby boy, early Thursday morning.
It is not clear whether Pore will accompany the team to Los Angeles or not and Spencer said he would leave the decision to the first-time father.
“I told him, ‘Come in to practice if you want to, come to the game if you want to. If you want to stay with your newborn baby and wife, [do that],’” said Spencer. “More important to me than the game is family.”