PORTLAND, Ore. – The Houston Dynamo made it clear earlier this week that there will be no change to their attacking mentality in Saturday’s match against the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field (10:30 pm ET, watch FREE on MLS Stream of the Week on MLSsoccer.com).
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter had the same message after the team’s Friday training session, saying he’s looking for his club to put Houston on their back foot.
“It’s going to be a bit of two alpha dogs looking to go toe-to-toe,” Porter said. “And in the end, we hope we’re the one that comes out on the winning end.”
Much has been made of Portland’s first-year coach and his possession-orientated attack. And while Portland have enjoyed a possession advantage in each of their four games, it’s resulted in just three ties and a loss.
Houston, meanwhile, have exemplified how to have success in attack-oriented soccer. The two-time defending MLS Cup runners-up have three wins and scored an Eastern Conference-leading eight goals while allowing just four in their first four games.
“They’re not going to back down,” Porter said. “They’re going to come in here ready to fight, ready to press, ready to attack. But we’re not going to back down either. We’re going to do what we do, like we did in the first two games, which was be aggressive and proactive and get on the front foot and press them and attack them.”
After scoring four goals in their first two games, both at home, out of a full-speed-ahead 4-3-3 formation, Porter fielded a more conservative lineup in their last two road games, resulting in fewer goals against (three) but also fewer goals scored (also three) in draws against Seattle and Colorado.
Does that mean the Timbers shift into overdrive again for Saturday’s matchup despite the openings that left the defense exposed to the tune of five goals against in those first two games?
“We’re figuring out how to piece the group together in a way where you get enough in the attack but also enough balance defensively,” he said. “I think we’ve evolved in every single game in that regard. The last game I thought we were balanced but a bit tentative in terms of our mentality and aggressiveness early on, but that won’t be the case in this game.”
Porter will presumably have more confidence in his backline with the return of veteran David Horst, who unexpectedly returned to the starting XI last week for the first time this season after missing the first three games with a hip injury. Horst took the place for an injured Mikael Silvestre, but both are expected to start Saturday.
“We’re on our home field, so we have to dictate the pace of the game and make them change and play the way we want them to play,” Horst said. “We can’t change our lineup for them, so we just have to go out there and play our game.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.