BEAVERTON, Ore. – A cursory look at the Portland Timbers’ game Saturday at Chivas USA (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live) would indicate a lopsided matchup between a playoff-bound team and one that has already written off the 2013 season.
A closer look, however, shows that’s not quite the case.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter expressed as much after his team’s final training session Friday before they departed for Southern California. He said Chivas are a different team since head coach Jose Luis Real took over in early June, acquired veteran center back Carlos Bocanegra and seen the emergence of young goalscorer Erick Torres.
“They’re not a bad team,” Porter said. “We’re going there to get three points, that’s the goal. I feel like if we play well we’ll get three points, but it’s not going to be an easy game. You look at where they’re at in the table, you could think it’s going to be an easy game. But really they’re sitting on ninth place in the table because of the first part of the year when they didn’t have a lot of these players when they didn’t have a coach like Real.”
- Get the latest Portland Timbers news at PortlandTimbers.com
Especially over their last six games, Chivas are proving that with their results. The Rojiblancos have posted a 2-2-2 record, are coming off a 1-0 win over D.C. United last weekend and have also defeated the New York Red Bulls and tied the Vancouver Whitecaps in that span.
The 22-year-old Torres, a Chivas Guadalajara product, has scored seven goals in his nine games with the stateside club. And Chivas are 3-3-1 in games with midseason acquisition Bocanegra manning the back line.
Timbers defender Michael Harrington said everyone has been brought up to speed on the new-look Chivas side and said they bear no resemblance to the one Portland easily defeated 3-0 on May 12.
Still, he said, their approach is the same one they’ve brought to the table all season, even when dealing with a scorching hot player such as Torres.
“Like I always say… it’s about what we do and imposing our game on them and impressing them and if we do that effectively he won’t be on the ball very much and won’t be in front of the goal very much,” Harrington said.
Porter, who is looking to reassert the Timbers as one of the Western Conference’s top teams after a decisive 4-0 win over Toronto last weekend, said the differences he’s seen, aside from the improved personnel, have to do with the Real’s affect. He said they’re more organized and consistent in their approach from mostly a 4-4-2 formation.
“You can see his influence on this team over the last several games, especially,” Porter said of the former Atlas and Chivas Guadalajara boss. “We’re not taking them lightly. We’re not going to just stroll in there and get three points unless we play well.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.