BEAVERTON, Ore. — It’s not often that defender Eric Brunner gets such an unhindered look at what Portland Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins is capable of doing.
Brunner, the Timbers center back who was suspended for Saturday’s 1-0 road victory against the Chicago Fire, is usually a little busy when Perkins is on the job. But from the sideline Saturday, he was able to watch Perkins put on a show.
“He made some huge saves,” said Brunner, who was serving a one-game suspension because of a red card received in last week’s game against Seattle. “I think where he made the save with his foot probably was one of the best saves of the season. If that doesn’t make save of the week, I don’t know what will.”
The kick-save may have single handedly preserved the Timbers’ much-needed victory, which ended the team’s seven-game winless streak and was their first road win in their MLS franchise history. Perkins actually made two diving saves — one in the 79th minute and the other in stoppage time — as Chicago desperately tried for the equalizer.
“It’s my job, I guess,” Perkins said. “The last one with my foot was just a reaction. I saw the ball late and that was the only thing I could think of to get out there quick enough. But everything else, I think those are saves I should make.”
Perkins recorded a season-high seven saves in the match, the highlight of an unheralded season in which he has notched four shutouts. He’s 11th in MLS with 45 saves, but has only played in 13 games, after serving as the backup for the Timbers’ first five matches. The league’s leading goalkeepers have played around 20.
“The guys in front of me ran 90-plus minutes non-stop, and we didn’t give up one chance,” Perkins said after the Chicago match. “Credit goes to them as well.”
Timbers head coach John Spencer thought differently, giving Perkins special recognition for going above and beyond in the victory.
“I thought Troy pulled off two or three unbelievable saves, especially the one he saved with his foot,” Spencer said.
During a season where the spotlight has been virtually everywhere expect Perkins — on All-Star Jack Jewsbury, lineup changes, a home winning streak that turned into a seven-game winless streak — the six-year veteran has silently been putting together one of his best seasons.
For Perkins’ next performance, Brunner will happily be back in front of the net, perhaps with a bit more appreciation for the Timbers’ final line of defense.