In the days leading up to recent games against the Montreal Impact and Chivas USA, Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter talked a lot about the “wounded animal” effect of playing a struggling side.
Overlook those games at your own peril, he said, especially considering the fact that he felt their records didn’t necessarily represent their talent level. And with wins in both games, Porter’s group appeared to take that message seriously.
That’s precisely what Porter was preaching this week with a matchup looming against another reeling squad in Saturday’s away meeting with the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium (7:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
“It’s similar to Chivas in that they’ve had some really good win streaks, but they’ve had some losing streaks as well,” Porter said from the team training facility before the team departed Thursday for New England. “So they’re a dangerous team because of that. They’re capable of beating anybody; they’ve shown that. They’ve got some good players. It’s basically the same team they had last year, and obviously they were a playoff team.”
The Revolution have lost nine of their last 10 games, a span that included an eight-game losing streak, and sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Surprising, considering they strung together five straight wins earlier this season, a streak had them sitting atop the East following their run to the MLS Cup Playoffs last season.
To top it off, New England have no shortage of talent with attacking players like Diego Fagundez and Lee Nguyen and defensive standouts such as Jose Goncalves and A.J. Soares, all players who were part of last year’s playoff squad. And Porter said the additions of Teal Bunbury and Andre Akpan make them even more dangerous.
“You wonder how that happened with the players that they have,” Porter said. “So that makes me nervous going into the game because we can’t be looking at where they’re at in the table or record or any of those things. It’s definitely going to be a difficult game.”
“Defensively we’re going to have to be just as sharp as we were against Chivas, if not better,” Johnson said. “So for me, the main thing is to watch out; they have some dangerous guys up front.”
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Not overlooking New England, Porter said, is especially important considering a misstep at this point in the season could be critical.
The Timbers, like New England, are also looking up at the red line and trail the fifth-place Vancouver Whitecaps by two points for the fifth and final playoff spot. With 11 games remaining, time is running out.
“We’re at the stage of the season, obviously, where points are important every week,” Porter said. “We’re going to go for it; we’re going to go for three points, no doubt about it. It’s a non-conference game, so we’re going to go full throttle for three points. But if we don’t play well, we will not win the game.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.