Ripe pickings for anyone, right?
“You would think, but that’s not the case in MLS,” Portland head coach Caleb Porter said ahead of the Timbers' Sunday afternoon match at Montreal (8 pm ET, UDN, MLS LIVE). “I’ve been in the league now a year and a half, and I’m sure of one thing, that the record a team has doesn’t play into how hard a game is, whatsoever.”
Regardless of the rhetoric, Porter -- who said that he’s “shocked” that the Impact have the record they have -- still hopes Sunday’s game continues the Timbers' long slog back from the early-season hole they dug for themselves. They are currently in 7th place in the Western Conference, but are now just three points below "the red line" -- the playoff demarcation line. They’re coming off a 2-1 come-from-behind victory last week against the Colorado Rapids.
But Porter knows that Montreal have little to lose as they battle through a disappointing season.
“It’s soccer, one, which means anything can happen,” he said. “And it’s MLS, two, which means anybody can beat anybody. We never go into a game looking at a team’s record thinking it’s going to be easier, or harder even. You see all across the league, it’s flip a coin who’s going to win. You think something is going to happen, and it doesn’t. So that will be the message.”
One big reason Porter knows better than to take Montreal lightly are their two forwards, Marco Di Vaio and Jack McInerney. Di Vaio, of course, scored 20 goals for the Impact last season but has struggled this year to the tune of just four. McInerney, who was acquired earlier this year in a trade with Philadelphia, leads the team with six. Porter coached JackMac with the US U-23 national team,
“Di Vaio was one of the best strikers in the league last year,” Porter said. “He didn’t all of a sudden become a bad striker. So for whatever reason he hasn’t been producing, but he’s as dangerous as anybody in the league. McInerney is one of the best young strikers in the league. Those two guys together, we’re not going to take them lightly.”
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According to Porter, one thing is for certain, however, he doesn’t plan on heading north of the border with a conservative game plan. The need for three points and the fact that it’s a non-conference game, which he said provides little risk in giving the other team three points, sets up nicely for Portland to throw caution to the wind in Montreal.
“We always go for the win, but in these types of games you can go for it even more and even risk losing,” Porter said. “… We want three points, and if we can’t get three points, I’d rather get zero going for three until the final whistle.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.