BEAVERTON, Ore. – When the Portland Timbers visit the Chicago Fire for a Saturday game at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week), the overarching storyline will assuredly be Portland’s team-record 11-game unbeaten streak in league play.
Timbers players and coaches, however, couldn’t care less. The message out of Timbers camp this week has been more along the lines of, “What streak?”
“I don’t think the guys are thinking about it at all,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said from the team’s training facility before departing Thursday for Chicago. “I know I’m not. I don’t think they care about any streaks. We care about getting points, that’s it.”
Porter is focusing more on a particularly ominous schedule facing his team this month.
In addition to Saturday’s match against a Chicago side coming off a 2-0 win over D.C. United last weekend and a 1-1 draw May 25 with Real Salt Lake, bookending a US Open Cup win over the Charlotte Eagles, the Timbers face a crucial stretch of games against Western Conference opponents.
“We realize that we’re in a good position, but it’s still very early and it’s a tight race in the Western Conference,” Porter said.
After Chicago, the Timbers will return home for a Wednesday USOC match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies before playing host to first-place FC Dallas in a nationally televised showdown on June 15 at JELD-WEN Field.
The Timbers will then travel to face the LA Galaxy (June 19) and then return home for Colorado (June 23). At the moment, the Timbers sit in third place in the West with 22 points from 13 games, trailing Dallas by six points and Real Salt Lake by two.
“We’ve talked about the fact that in the next four games, three of those games are against teams that are in the top five in the conference,” Porter said. “So it’s important that we get points in those games, otherwise we get passed by. And if we want to have any chance of passing Dallas and Salt Lake we have to keep getting points. We’ve kind of chunked the next four games to make sure we’re focused on that period.”
Timbers defender Michael Harrington said he isn’t worried that the streak will get in the heads of his teammates. Right now, he said, there’s no need to overthink anything.
“We’re really, I think as a team, enjoying our soccer,” Harrington said. “And that’s important when you’ve got a long season, game after game, you need to enjoy it, you need to kind of take it one step at a time. And psychologically that’s very important, and I think our group is doing a great job of that and I just hope we continue that.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.