BEAVERTON, Ore. – It would've been hard to argue in preseason that a Wednesday evening showdown between FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers would be one of the early marquee matchups of the season, but 10 weeks in, two of the biggest surprise teams of 2013 will finally face off in a much-anticipated clash (9 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
And though FCD (6-1-2) have garnered most of the attention as they’ve shot to the top of the Western Conference standings with the league’s best record with 20 points from nine games, the Timbers (3-1-5) are chugging right along just six points behind.
Just like Dallas, the Timbers haven’t lost since the second week of the season, and Wednesday’s matchup provides another chance for Portland to prove their groundbreaking season is for real.
“I think we’ve already proven ourselves, but you’ve got to prove yourself every single game,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after Monday’s session at the team’s training facility before departing for Dallas. “You don’t prove yourself and now you’ve arrived. We have to show up every single game.”
The Timbers’ résumé certainly stands up against any in the league.
They’ve already faced the top four teams in the Eastern Conference and lost just once – 2-1 to the Montreal Impact on March 9, Portland’s only loss this season. The Timbers defeated the Houston Dynamo (2-0 at home on April 6) and Sporting Kansas City (3-2 on the road on April 27) and played the New York Red Bulls to a 3-3 draw in Week 1.
FC Dallas, meanwhile, have the confidence of having won all five of their home games, which also includes a slate of impressive victories over the LA Galaxy, Vancouver, Houston and Real Salt Lake.
“We have a lot of confidence going into the game because we’ve done very well on the road, and we know they’ve been very good at home,” Porter said. “We know it’s going to be a tough test. They’re at the top of the table in the Western Conference, and we’re tied for second. It’s a great chance for us to make up ground on them … It’s important that we have a good result.”
The Timbers have achieved their success despite having lost three center backs to injury, likely for the season. Porter said it was last week’s relatively disappointing scoreless draw at home against New England, in which center back Mikael Silvestre was lost for up to eight months with an ACL injury, that served as a reminder that nothing will come easily.
“We’ve had some adversity this year, but I think that’s why we’re a team that continues to get stronger because we’ve had unfortunate things come our way,” Porter said. “And the sign of a good team is that they respond through difficult times, and we’ve done that all season long.
"As I’ve said, you cannot stop us, which is the mantra of this club," Porter added. "And that is a bit of our mission this year, no matter what you throw our way, no matter what comes our way, no matter what happens, you’re not going to stop us from getting to where we want to be. And that’s the playoffs.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.