During the course of the regular season, the Portland Timbers were one of the top road teams in MLS.
They will have a chance to prove that once again as they travel to Columbus for Sunday's MLS Cup (4 pm ET; ESPN | UniMás | TSN1,4 | RDS2)
Digging deeper to understand how they were able to become so comfortable on the road, a few numbers pop out:
They scored 18 goals in their 17 road games, putting them in the bottom half of the league. Portland also weren’t conceding goals at a low rate either. Their 26 goals conceded wasn’t among the fewest in MLS.
Below you can see where they ranked in some other key categories:
|Timbers on the Road (reg. season)|
|Shots on Target||76||3|
|Shots on Target Faced||78||5|
That they took the most shots on the road isn't surprising, considering they took the most shots total in the league this year.
To break it down a bit further, they took the fourth-most shots at home among any team this year. Despite that, Portland were able to win just eight games, fewest among all Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoff teams. Also former MLSsoccer.com contributor Devin Pleuler (now Toronto FC Director of Analytics) pointed out during the World Cup that taking more shots than your opponent doesn't necessarily translate to wins.
During the regular season the Timbers won seven games on the road, tied for the most with the Vancouver Whitecaps. They added an eighth win in the conference semifinals, beating the ‘Caps 2-0 at BC Place.
Below you can find all eight wins and how they were able to pull off each one:
April 19: Portland Timbers 1, New York City FC 0
The Timbers were badly outshot in this game (21-12) and managed just three shots on target. They scored the lone goal in the game thanks to a badly deflected shot off the foot of Dairon Asprilla in the 79th minute that got by Josh Saunders.
The Timbers put eight shots on target to the Rapids’ three and were rewarded with a 93rd minute game-winner from Jack Jewsbury. The “old salty dog” finished off a Timbers counter at the death to give Portland their second-straight win.
August 15: Portland Timbers 1, Real Salt Lake 0
After four straight road games without a win (0-3-1), Caleb Porter’s team got off the schnide with another stoppage-time winner. This time Borchers was the hero, scoring in the 95th minute, to oust his former club.
September 26: Portland Timbers 2, Columbus Crew SC 1
The most pertinent of their road wins, considering the rematch will be in MLS Cup, Portland rode a Fanendo Adi brace to get their first win since their victory over RSL a month and a half before. Though they were badly outpossessed (59-41), the Timbers put more shots on target than Columbus (6-3).
October 15: Portland Timbers 1, Real Salt Lake 0
This game brought on the formation switch that changed the season for the Timbers. Darlington Nagbe was moved to the middle while Diego Chara was deployed as a lone defensive midfielder as Portland were given a controversial penalty kick after Jamison Olave appeared to foul Lucas Melano outside the box.
October 18: Portland Timbers 5, LA Galaxy 2
The most famous Timbers road win came three days later as they trounced the defending MLS Cup champs to put the rest of the league on notice. All five of their goals came in the second half as the Galaxy looked helpless for the first time in almost six years.
November 8: Portland Timbers 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 0
A comprehensive performance from Porltand finished the Whitecaps off in the second leg of the Conference Semifinals. They outpossessed the ‘Caps (53-47) and outshot (14-12) despite Vancouver being the team that needed a goal to advance.
Their performances on the road have shown a team that can handle their own. But that level has gotten even greater their last four road games (including their 2-2 draw at FC Dallas in the Conference Championships) have certainly shown that they are a team that knows how to perform away from Providence Park.