Caleb Porter knows how important it is for the Portland Timbers to get their first win of the season.
Now winless in their past nine games dating back to Nov. 7 of last year (and one of just two remaining teams without a win this season), the pressure is clearly building. Just don’t expect the Timbers' second-year head coach to change a thing in their preparation heading into Sunday’s road game against the Houston Dynamo (3 pm ET; UniMas).
The recipe of placing equal importance on every match still holds true, Porter said.
“I don’t know if it’s more important,” Porter said Thursday before the team departed for Texas, where they will train Saturday. “It’s easy to think that way. But we followed a process last year that worked, and we’re not going to deviate from that, just like I’m not going to start overthinking things.
"Certainly I’m going to look at my team, and if there are things that need to be changed, like I’ve been talking about, there are certainly things that need to improve, but in terms of the process that I follow and the process we follow as a team, we’re not going to change that.”
And as rough as the Timbers’ start has been, considering where they left off last year having advanced to the Western Conference Championship of the MLS Cup Playoffs, Porter also provided some perspective. Portland are in eighth place with four points, but they trail the fifth-place Vancouver Whitecaps for the final playoff spot by just five points.
“You can’t let the accumulative effect of not winning pile on so much that you forget about the reality, and the reality is we’re only five points off the red line,” Porter said.
The Timbers have basically been able to pick their poison when it comes to where the shortfalls are occurring.
They’ve struggled to score goals, having netted just seven. They’ve also seen a number of defensive lapses, most notably in their 4-4 draw April 5 against the Seattle Sounders.
Is the pressure of their winless streak affecting the product on the field?
“Obviously, if you’re not getting results, you feel the pressure,” Timbers defender Michael Harrington said. “You want it so bad because that’s what we do. If you’re not winning you don’t feel like you’re doing your job. Obviously, the pressure grows and that edge grows a little bit more, but that shouldn’t stop everybody from doing their jobs.”
- Get the latest news at Timbers.com
In Houston, Portland will face a team that is going through a similar dry spell. After winning their first two games of the season, the Dynamo have lost four games during a five-game winless streak.
For Porter, both sides – two teams that “are a bit wounded and fighting for their lives,” he said – will undoubtedly turn things around. He just hopes it’s his team that does it first.
“It’s important to get the first win, for sure,” he said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.