PORTLAND, Ore. – With all the Portland Timbers have been through this year, looking on the bright side is understandably difficult.
But in their last two games, interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson is starting to see some positive changes – the fruits of a change in philosophy that he has undertaken since the dismissal of former head coach John Spencer.
It’s an optimistic outlook, especially considering the results – a 1-0 loss to Chivas USA on July 28 and a 1-1 tie Sunday against FC Dallas to extend their winless streak to six games.
“With everything that we’ve gone through at the moment, I think it’s a tremendous sign that when they didn’t give up,” Wilkinson said, praising his team’s performance against Dallas after falling behind 1-0. “They knew what we expected, what they expected with themselves and I take that as a big positive and a big plus for the players. They continued to try to find a way to win, and some of the football that we played I thought was very impressive.”
HIGHLIGHTS: POR vs DAL
The statistics bear out Wilkinson’s positive narrative. The product on the field in the last two games has matched Wilkinson’s desire to play a more controlled, possession-oriented game.
Against Dallas, Portland held a 57-percent possession advantage and had a season-high 21 shots to Dallas’ eight. Plus, the Timbers created six corner kicks and 20 crosses.
Against Chivas, Portland once again played to a possession advantage (55 percent) and created 19 shots – previously their highest mark of the season – to Chivas’ seven. The Timbers earned 11 corner kicks to Chivas’ two.
“If you’re on a bit of a losing streak, and you’ve got young players and you question the mentality and the past, and you question the leadership; for that response, hopefully shows that some of the players are maturing, some of them are starting to give it a little bit more sacrifice,” he said. “And I think that’s a positive.”
Midfielder Franck Songo’o will miss Portland’s next game – Aug. 15 at Toronto – due to yellow-card accumulation.
Songo’o was issued a yellow for the second consecutive game, and has five on the season. His suspension is ill timed for a player working his way back to full fitness after several early-season injuries. He took seven shots against Dallas, the most by any Timbers player this season.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.