BEAVERTON, Ore. – With no wins and just two goals on the road, the environment is ripe for change for the Portland Timbers as they face yet another tough test away from home Saturday against Real Salt Lake (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Drawing on the experience from the Timbers' dismal performance last weekend in a 3-0 loss at Colorado – and with the midweek addition of right back Kosuke Kimura – it’s clear there will be a new look to the lineup and strategy Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We’ve went on the road and we’ve kept the same team that has been playing at home and scoring regular,” Timbers striker Kris Boyd said Friday after a short session at the team’s training facility before the team departed for Salt Lake City. “And we’ve went on the road, and it’s not worked for us. So we’re going to have to change something. And I think going into tomorrow we may mix it up, and hopefully we can get a successful result out of that and it’s a better outcome.”
Boyd hinted that the team would employ a more defensive strategy. Against Colorado, Boyd said the altitude played a role as the Timbers fell behind 2-0 after 22 minutes. The elevation at Rio Tinto Stadium is similar to that of Dick’s Sporting Good Park in Commerce City, Colo.
“Over the last week, we’ve discussed quite a bit about maybe sitting in and trying frustrate the opposition for long periods,” Boyd said. “The game of soccer is over 90 minutes, yet it can be lost in the opening stages but it can’t be won. So it’s up to us to go and make it difficult for them and maybe toward the end we can try to nick the game.”
Also factoring into the impending changes is the fact that Saturday’s game will be the Timbers' third in seven days and fourth in two weeks. Timbers head coach John Spencer said Kimura will play against RSL, leaving Jewsbury’s fate in the lineup uncertain.
The team captain has manned right back for seven of the last eight games after he vacated his normal attacking midfield spot to Darlington Nagbe.
“[Spencer] hasn’t talked to me about it at all,” said Nagbe, who hasn’t scored since a first-half brace, which happened to come in Portland’s 3-2 loss to RSL, on March 31. “I don’t know if he’s talked to anybody else about it, but he hasn’t talked to me.”
Both Boyd and Nagbe said the way the team played against Real Salt Lake the first time around – taking a 2-1 lead into the 89th minute before watching RSL respond in spectacular fashion with two goals in four minutes – gives them added confidence despite their road struggles.
“When you look at the Real Salt Lake, we probably should have won the game,” Boyd said. “We had numerous changes and we were 2-1 up after 89 minutes. So for me that night the worst we should do is tie the game, but we somehow managed to lose two goals in four minutes and lose the game. It’s got the makings of another good, classic game, and hopefully we can come out victorious this time.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.