BEAVERTON, Ore. – Even John Spencer's climbing on the Miami Heat bandwagon.
The Portland Timbers head coach revealed his inner shooting guard when he addressed his team’s continuing struggles on the road Friday in their final training session before departing for Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online), likening it to a certain hoops superstar finally winning a his long-evasive championship.
“Reporters asked Dwyane Wade, ‘How much better a player is LeBron James this year than he was last year?’” Spencer said, referring to an interview with the Miami Heat star after the team won the NBA Finals. “And he said, ‘He’s not a better player, he’s got more experience.’
“That’s one thing you can’t coach. You can’t coach experience. You can’t buy it. It’s only over time, training every day, playing in big games, that’s where you get your experience from.”
Since joining MLS last year, Portland have just two wins on the road and are 0-4-2 away from JELD-WEN Field this year. Spencer said he hopes that experience is something his young team – featuring five regular players 24 years old or younger – is beginning to gain.
“It’s just a matter of being professional,” defender and team captain Jack Jewsbury said. “We realize what the circumstances are going to be there away from home. We haven’t been as successful as we want to be there, and it’s a matter of proving to other people and to ourselves that we can do it at home and away. I think … we’ve got some confidence now. And it’s only one game, but it’s something we can build on.”
That “one game” was a big one. And of the many things the Portland Timbers needed to address coming into last weekend’s 2-1 win against Seattle, one could say they checked a few off the list.
Rediscover an offense that had scored just four goals in their previous nine games – check.
Prevent a late defensive collapse that had plagued the team with 11 goals allowed in the final 15 minutes – check.
Beat their bitter rival for the first time in MLS play – check.
So now all that’s left to do is keep it going away from JELD-WEN Field. Striker Kris Boyd, who scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season on Sunday against Seattle, said the mentality from that game needs to carry over.
“Sometimes we’ve put on performances that are good enough to win games and you don’t win them,” Boyd said. “Sometimes you battle away and you win games. I felt last week for 60 minutes, we were tremendous and then, as normal the opposition gets a few chances, but overall we deserved the victory and we look forward to going into Colorado tomorrow.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.