Caleb Porter -- Thumbs Up -- Touchline

BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo combined for 10 goals in their prior two matches this season.


Portland had the better of the series, winning 4-2 in March and nearly walking out of BBVA Compass Stadium with a road victory in July, before Houston’s Juan David Cabezas found the equalizer in the 81st minute of a 2-2 draw.


Timbers coach Caleb Porter says that recent history provides a blueprint for what his side needs to do to advance from their Western Conference semifinal, which begins Monday night in Houston (9:30 pm ET | FS1, TVAS, TSN GO)


“A lot of goals were scored in those games,” Porter remarked. “If we can duplicate that type of series, we’ll be through.”


A win and scoring road goals are “best case scenarios” for Portland. While a draw would set up a winner-take-all match in Portland, ”We’re not going to play for a draw,” Porter declared.


“People have a tendency to over-analyze when you get in the playoffs and, for some reason, change what’s worked,” Porter continued. “Especially in a two-legged series. Like I said to the group, ‘If we win both games, it doesn’t matter.’”


Portland finished the season with wins over D.C. and Vancouver to wrap up the Western Conference regular season and Cascadia Cup titles.


“The good thing we’ve kind of been in a rhythm facing counter-attacking teams," Porter said. "We’ve worked a lot at training at transition and managing and defending counters. We’re kind of in that mindset.”


Despite Portland’s being the West’s top seed and the team’s recent successes, Porter is wary of the Dynamo, praising Houston’s "dynamic" attack in particular.


Houston are unbeaten in their last seven, a stretch that helped them transition from a team on the fringe of the playoff picture to one that earned the right to host their Knockout Round victory over Sporting Kansas City.


“They certainly showed a lot of maturity in the knockout game versus a very experienced team in KC,” Porter said.


“They are very good this year at executing the way they want to play,” he continued. “A lot of credit should go to Wilmer [Cabrera]. He gets those guys playing and having the right mentality. His experience really showed in that knockout game. Some of the other teams, the first time they are in the playoffs, they look rattled. I don’t think Houston looked rattled at all.”


Managing set-pieces will be important, as well as potentially choppy winds and less-than-ideal pitch conditions. But overthinking matters could be the biggest hazard.


“I think that's been the key," he said. "Just do what we’ve been doing and don't over-analyze anything. Just go and go play the game.”