BEAVERTON, Ore. – Given the course of the Portland Timbers' season so far, it's easy to argue the team could use a re-boot. So it's no wonder the team is treating their two-week break between games as a "mini preseason."
“Any time you have a two-and-a-half week break in games, there can sometimes be that lull when you come back when you’re not playing consistently week in and week out,” Timbers captain and defender Jack Jewsbury said Tuesday after a session at the team’s training facility. “We don’t want that, and this week I think we’re going to hit it really hard and then taper down as we normally would next week leading into the LA game.”
Rather than dwell on the team’s most recent result – an embarrassing 1-0 loss to amateur club Cal FC in the US Open Cup – Timbers head coach John Spencer said it’s crucial the team looks forward. The team returns to competition on June 17 at the LA Galaxy before playing host to bitter rivals Seattle Sounders on June 24 at JELD-WEN Field.
The matches start a stretch of 10-straight Western Conference games that will be vital to the Timbers' already-precarious playoff chances.
“We can’t do [anything] about it except look forward to the Galaxy and the other games that are coming up,” Spencer said. “The next 10 games are in-conference games, and we’re going to have to make sure our minds are clear and ready for the road ahead.”
And of course, the focus of the Timbers “mini preseason” will be remedying their inability to finish at the goal. That’s what came back to bite Portland against Cal FC, having created 37 shots without a goal.
“I feel like everyone is still confident,” midfielder/forward Darlington Nagbe said. “I don’t feel like anybody has any doubt in themselves.”
Veteran goalkeeper Troy Perkins said the break will also be a good chance for players to reset their mindsets.
“It’s a chance to get back to the basics,” Perkins said. “No matter what level you’re at, you always need to get back to the simple things and the little things that got you here. And I think this is a time for us to be able to look back and get back to those things.”
Regardless, there’s a lot of work to do – Portland currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference, 16 points behind first-place Real Salt Lake. And nobody in Timbers camp expects much of a “break” in the next two weeks.
“I don’t necessarily think of it as a down week,” Jewsbury said. “It’s time for us to continue working on our finishing and stuff that’s been lacking the last couple weeks and trying to get sharp in that sense in and around the goal. And guys have the right attitude because it’s going to be a tough week.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.