PORTLAND, Ore. – If the Portland Timbers hope to erase the memory of their loss to Cal FC from the minds of fans, this coming Sunday’s match would be a good place to start.
That's when then Timbers kick off the first of three matches, starting against their bitter rivals, the Seattle Sounders, at JELD-WEN Field.
And there would be no better way to turn around a disappointing season so far and win back the hearts of fans who booed the Timbers off the field the last time they saw them – in a 1-0 loss May 30 to amateur club Cal FC in the US Open Cup – than with a win over a historic rivals.
HIGHLIGHTS: LA 1, POR 0
“I think not only a turning point for us, but I think it’s going to get a lot of people back on our side and change the atmosphere of what we’re experiencing now,” Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins said after Tuesday’s training session at JELD-WEN.
Portland’s latest result – a 1-0 loss Sunday on the road to the LA Galaxy – didn’t help abate the cloud currently hanging over the club. It also ended the one positive the Timbers had going for them: a four-game MLS unbeaten streak.
But with the explosive Sounders coming to town, the Timbers' inability to find the back of the net will undoubtedly be put under a microscope. The team itself has scored 10 goals in 13 games. Only three teams have scored fewer than their 12 total goals (two have been own-goals).
“It’s tough,” Perkins said. “I’m not going to pull any punches, it’s tough losing like that, it’s tough being in the situation we’re in. But at the end of the day, you can’t blame anyone but the person you see in the mirror. And that’s the only guy who’s going to get you out of it as well. So we all have to dig deep and fight through it.”
Timbers head coach John Spencer said the team is in good spirits despite returning from Los Angeles having been handed a loss. He pointed to a strong first half as a positive to build upon in a very important week.
“You can’t let your head get down for too long because the place is going to be jumping, it’s going to be packed out every bum on a seat and the fans are going to be demanding a good performance and a win,” Spencer said.
And, he reiterated, even though it’s Seattle and even though the team took a big hit in fans’ eyes the last time out at JELD-WEN, the upcoming game isn’t more important than any other.
“I don’t think it adds more pressure,” Spencer said. “I think in this environment we’re always under pressure to produce at home. It’s a great environment to play in, a great environment to coach in and it’s an even better environment when you’re winning games.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.