PORTLAND, Ore. — They say home is where the heart is.
The Portland Timbers are hoping home is where the wins are, because they’ll need those in bunches as they return to JELD-WEN Field licking their wounds after a winless three-game road swing.
“Anytime you get back home to play here is a special occasion,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said. “The atmosphere, just the build up to the game is a tremendous experience. When you walk out for the pregame here, it just gets you going. If you don’t want to play here or coach here, then there’s something wrong with you.”
In addition to keeping a shot at the playoffs within reach, the Timbers welcome Cascadia rivals Vancouver for Saturday’s match (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer, TSN). Portland remain in seventh place in the Western Conference with 26 points from 24 games, four points behind Chivas USA, who Portland host on Aug. 24.
The Whitecaps may be the last-place team in the West, but with five points separating the Timbers from the last wildcard playoff spot with 10 games remaining, they can’t afford to take any team lightly.
“We need to get points, get ourselves back on track and try to get into the race for the playoffs,” Spencer said. “The window is closing for an opportunity to get there. And we know that. We’re not dummies.”
Vancouver’s Eric Hassli — who leads the team with 10 goals — should be of particular concern for Portland. After a clean sheet in a surprising 3-0 victory against the LA Galaxy on Aug. 3 — during which they limited Landon Donovan to no shots on goal — the Timbers have struggled against elite strikers.
In their three road games — a tie against San Jose and then losses to Houston and Kansas City — Portland have allowed six goals.
“I guess it’s frustrating if you look at the guys afterward and they don’t care,” Spencer said. “Then it would get frustrating. It doesn’t get frustrating sitting in the locker room and seeing how low the guys feel. They know that they have the abilities to score goals. We’ve seen it here. We’ve seen us play at a really, really high level a really good level We know we can score goals and we know we can keep clean sheets. It’s just that inconsistency at times that has killed us.”
Portland’s 6-4-2 home record is a sure confidence-builder, especially with wins against teams currently in the playoff picture such as FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake, Philadelphia, Columbus and LA.
“We’re at that point of the season where every game matters, every point matters,” added Timbers defender David Horst. “If it’s one, if it’s three, we need every point to get into the playoffs. We’re only five points out of that last spot. We need to come out with that mindset that every game matters. We need to win these games or we’re not going to make the playoffs.”