BEAVERTON, Ore. – Followers of MLS have certainly been abuzz about the Portland Timbers' ability to go to Kansas City, dictate the pace of play and come away with three points.
That even includes Sporting Kansas City themselves.
“They were impressed, obviously, that we went there and not only won the game but played the way that we did, attacked them at their place the way that we did and really had the better of the play and obviously got the result,” said Timbers defender Michael Harrington, who spent his first six years in the league with SKC before coming to Portland during the offseason.
Harrington said that high praise came as he caught up with a few of his former teammates after Saturday’s game that Portland won 3-2 at Sporting Park – quite the confidence booster for a team that has taken the league by storm under new head coach Caleb Porter.
The Timbers now face a Thursday night game against the New England Revolution at JELD-WEN Field (10:30 pm ET, Univision Deportes) with a sparkling third-place position in the Western Conference standings on the line and having set franchise-record marks for goals scored (14) and allowed (11) through eight games.
“It’s big-time,” Harrington said, “because nobody expects you to go in there and win that game. Everybody is just really excited about it and looking forward to Thursday.”
Even before the SKC game, the Timbers had the confidence of a five-game unbeaten streak with victories over San Jose and Houston under their belts. But Porter said last Saturday’s game would offer his club a measuring stick as to how far they’ve really come.
Obviously, he likes the answer.
“We got the result by attacking and pressing and by being aggressive and proactive,” Porter said after the team’s first training session Tuesday after the victory. “So I think we learned that we have a good team, capable of getting a result home and away against anybody. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen without being hungry and without performing well.”
You could say the Timbers beat Kansas City at their own game, nearly equaling the attacking side in shots on goals (8-7 in favor of SKC) and possession (53 percent for SKC). Porter even liked the way SKC scored against his defense – as much as a coach can like conceding goals. He said that both of Kansas City’s goals coming by way of set pieces is a good sign that Portland’s defense can hold up against the counterattack.
“I think we gained confidence and belief and it continues to reinforce that we have a good enough team to go into any game and not hope to win but expect to win,” Porter said. “It doesn’t mean we’ll win unless we play well, though.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.