PORTLAND, Ore. — The last time the Portland Timbers left the temperate weather of the Pacific Northwest for the unforgiving Texas heat and humidity, things didn’t work out so well.
Portland turned in their worst performance of the year as they were thrashed 4-0 on June 25 against Dallas FC in 95-degree heat at Pizza Hut Park.
Whether it was the weather or just a bad performance, the Timbers will face a similar environment Sunday when they play the Houston Dynamo (9 pm ET, Galavisión). The forecast calls for the mercury to hit 98 degrees on game day at Robertson Stadium.
“At the end of the day, the temperature during the game is going to be the same for both groups of guys and our approach just has to be better,” said Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury, who will travel with the team after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury. “Whether it’s us being a little bit smarter about managing the game during certain times in the heat, I think that definitely plays a role, and that’s maybe something we didn’t do so well in Dallas.”
This time, however, the Timbers have two secret weapons.
Defenders Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer both played for the Dynamo before coming to Portland in a trade three weeks ago. Over the course of training this week, they’ve tried to share their knowledge on what it takes to survive the heat.
“I love the heat, so I’m actually really looking forward to it,” said Chabala, who spent his first six years in MLS with Houston. “But I think with our team, it’s going to be very important to be very disciplined when we’re pressing. I think just managing the game [is crucial]; the guys aren’t going to be used to it, so it’s going to be imperative that Lovel and I both talk to the forwards and pull them back at times instead of going and trying to chase the game and take our chances when we can get them.”
Chabala said a quick glance at Houston’s home record during the summer months shows how big of an advantage it creates for the Dynamo.
“Absolutely it’s a big competitor’s advantage when you go and play in 95-, 100-degree weather, 80 percent humidity, losing eight to 10 pounds after a game,” Chabala said. “If you look over the course of the history of the club, during the summertime is when the team would really take advantage of other teams at home.
“Even good clubs come in there and you’d watch them just sort of bunker in and sit back. But at the same time you have to manage the game. … You can’t go out and attack teams and press teams for 90 minutes. It’s just not possible.”
Both Palmer and Chabala reiterated that managing the game will be key for the Timbers. After the loss in Dallas, Portland head coach John Spencer ripped his team for a lackluster performance and said the heat was no excuse.
The players will certainly keep that in mind on Sunday.
“As a professional, you have to adapt to any situation or climate you play under,” said Palmer, who played professionally in Jamaica before coming to Houston last season. “We have to be smart about it and how we want to play and have a game plan and execute it. It’s going to be hard for us, but it’s going to be hard for them.”