The last loss was a tough one – no doubt about it.
Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter admitted as much Wednesday as his team hit the training field for the first time since falling in a 4-2 home defeat Sunday to their rivals, the Seattle Sounders. The scoreline – especially considering that two late Fanendo Adi goals made it look closer than it really was – and the fact that it came it at home against the Sounders made it all very tough to swallow, Porter said.
But he also reinforced that nothing is lost, with Portland still just two points off the red line marking the playoff spots, with another rivalry game ahead this weekend against the Vancouver Whitecaps (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE), the team that currently occupies the fifth and final MLS Cup playoff spot from the Western Conference.
“We obviously took the loss hard against Seattle,” Porter told the media at the team training facility. “Every game is the same, but there’s certain games you take harder than others. That being a rivalry game, there’s a lot of reasons we took it hard. So I think it took a couple of more days to get over it, but the message to the group today was, we have to get over it. We’ve got to stay positive. We have to keep fighting and grinding like we have all season. We have to stick together.”
The math is simple: beat the Whitecaps on Saturday at BC Place, and the Timbers are above the red line for the first time this season.
With Portland currently sixth in the Western Conference with 31 points from 25 games (Vancouver do have a game in hand), Porter thinks the race will come down to the Timbers and Whitecaps in the season’s final two months, with the Colorado Rapids in seventh place with 30 points from 25 games.
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“I think a big way to erase the game against Seattle -- the best thing to do is get three points and do it against a team that is above you and move above the red line and beat a rival,” Porter said. “That’s an easy quick way to get rid of the feeling we have – or had – against Seattle.”
To do that, Portland will have to alter their current form against top teams. The Timbers are winless in their last eight games against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, with six losses, including a 4-3 defeat against the Whitecaps on June 1. In those eight games, the Timbers have allowed 21 goals.
“You can only tell how good the team is when you’re down and people think that they’re not going to make the playoffs and not going to make the red line,” defender Liam Ridgewell said. “We know we’re a good team, and [the Seattle loss is] not going to change that. [We] have to bounce back.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.