Timbers coach John Spencer says starting spots for the team's home opener are up for grabs.
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Timbers turn focus from first home loss to LA trip

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Timbers are looking forward to next weekend's game on the road at Chivas USA and not dwelling on last Sunday’s 3-2 loss to D.C. United at JELD-WEN Field.

United spoiled the Timbers’ home winning streak, but head coach John Spencer said on Tuesday that he never expected to win every home game.

“At the start of year, if you’d have told me we’d win five of our first six games at home, I’d have taken it,” Spencer said.

Certainly, the team would have preferred to win their sixth straight against a DC side that was missing key players Charlie Davies and Dax McCarty due to injury. However, the loss may have shaken the Timbers back to reality as a first-year MLS franchise trying to claw its way toward a playoff berth.

“Realistically, where we are is in the pack,” Spencer said. “The fans were shocked [we lost], the players were shocked, but you’re not going to go undefeated at home. That’s almost impossible.”

After a spirited practice soaked by yet another spring shower, an upbeat Spencer said he returned to work with “high tempo” and “good energy,” something the Timbers lacked in their loss on Sunday, where they languished at times through periods of poor passing and a lack of energy and desire to win 50-50 balls.

“When we tied the game up, I thought we had the mentality like, ‘Oh, here we go. We’re going to win now,’” Spencer said. “We can’t expect to win games.”

If the Timbers were taking the JELD-WEN Field home advantage for granted, they may have learned their lesson.

At 5-4-2 thus far in the season, Portland have still not won a game on the road in five tries. The Timbers would love to exchange one streak for another, beginning at the Home Depot Center against Chivas USA on Saturday.

“If you look at the big picture, we’re in the mix with teams like Seattle, Salt Lake, Colorado — we’re not that far away,” Spencer said. “So I take a hat off to the guys so far. How now can we proceed to getting another 17 points in the bag? It’s important we stay focused and realize why we’re in the position we’re sitting in, which is working hard every day in practice.”

Portland have already tasted some success against the Goats. The Timbers first success of the season in the Rose City was a 2-0 victory over Chivas USA in a US Open Cup play-in game, played under the rain on March 29 at the University of Portland’s Merlo Field.

That game came on the heels of back-to-back losses to open the 2011 MLS season at Colorado and Toronto.

“That was a turning point that kick-started things for us,” Spencer said.

He’d sure love for that to happen again this weekend.