PORTLAND, Ore. – Last weekend, for the first time in four months, the Portland Timbers were reminded how it feels to taste defeat.
Nonetheless, don’t expect them to be any less confident going into Saturday’s Western Conference showdown at JELD-WEN Field against two-time defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy (11 pm ET; NBCSN, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“You won’t see a team that is losing confidence, you’ll see a team that is probably a notch more hungry,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after Friday’s training session at JELD-WEN.
A shorthanded Timbers side, due to international absences, hit the skids in a 1-0 road defeat last Sunday against the Columbus Crew for their first loss since March 9. They now find themselves tied with the Galaxy for third place with 30 points from 18 games.
Porter said he’s seen no hangover in their week of preparation.
“It’s because we’ve been following a clear process of preparing for a game and then going into the game and trying to win the game and then reflecting on it and then going back to work and not dwelling on it,” he said.
What Porter did say was that his team are clear “underdogs” against the Galaxy.
“Regardless of how things have gone for them this year,” Porter said, “and the fact that they have lost some games, this is the time of the year that they turn it on the last several years. … We’re a team that’s trying to be a playoff team. We have a young group and we’ve made progress. But regardless of this year, they’re the clear favorites for this game.”
A defensive-minded Timbers side played the Galaxy to a scoreless draw at the StubHub Center on June 19, a result Porter was pleased with. The Timbers usually dial up the pressure on their home field, and as the Galaxy will be playing without Landon Donovan as he continues his USMNT comeback, that will likely be the case on Saturday.
Still, Porter said, the Galaxy aren’t suffering from a lack of talent, with or without Donovan.
“They’re a team that can open you up,” Porter said. “So if you’re letting them attack and do what they want to do and you’re giving them time and space, a guy like Robbie Keane will rip you apart.”
Portland will again be without several key pieces in captain and midfielder Will Johnson and forward Rodney Wallace. Forward Frederic Piquionne is back in camp after Gold Cup duty with Martinique, but he is still questionable.
“You have to be very careful going toe-to-toe with a team like the Galaxy,” Porter said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.