Through all of the Portland Timbers' struggles this season – and there have been many: 8-game winless streak to start the campaign, injuries, questionable penalties – suddenly things aren’t looking so bad.
After a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake -- Portland’s first victory over RSL in their last 11 tries -- the Timbers are once again setting franchise records.
To start, the club's first-ever road winning streak, set last week with wins over the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA, has now been extended to three games. Saturday’s result at Rio Tinto Stadium was also Portland’s first-ever win in Utah. They lost four times and drew once in their five previous meetings.
Safe to say, this was a sweet result for Portland.
“I’m just happy that we got three points,” head coach Caleb Porter told the media in his postgame remarks. “We haven’t gotten results at home like we needed to, but we’ve now gotten three victories in a row on the road and that says a lot about this group. And it shows that even though we’re dropping a few points at home that we can make up for it.”
And then there’s Fanendo Adi.
The Timbers newest attacking option, acquired several weeks ago on a short-term loan from Danish side FC Copenhagen, had a breakout performance in a Timbers shirt on Saturday – and that’s saying something considering the 6-foot-4 target man came in with two goals and two assists already on four appearances and just one start.
Adi not only notched two goals on Saturday against RSL, but also provided a target presence for Portland that proved key to the final result. Porter said Adi’s hold-up play and physicality up top freed up the Timbers’ talented attackers, including Darlington Nagbe, Gaston Fernandez, and Diego Valeri.
“I thought it allowed us to control the midfield on Salt Lake, which is the key to beating them – you’ve got to flood the midfield,” Porter said. “And I thought basically our group of five guys with the two holding mids, [Diego] Chara and [Will] Johnson… those five guys really did a nice job on both sides of the ball of controlling the midfield. And I thought that was the key to the match.”
Adi’s addition comes at a perfect time for a team that lacked a true target forward after the off-season departure of Ryan Johnson. Adi has quickly fit into Porter's multi-faceted attacking set up, and has linked up with nearly every one of the Timbers' attacking players, either by providing an assist on one of their goals or finishing off a pass from one of them.
“It’s great having those players,” Adi said of his chemistry with Valeri, Nagbe and Fernandez. “They’re really established players, and I love playing around them. The coach spoke to us before the game and told us what to do, and I’m just to stay there and hold the ball. And the guys play around me. And it was so beautiful today.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.