PORTLAND, Ore. – Since Caleb Porter took over as head coach of the Portland Timbers in 2013, the side have ended each of their seasons on a hot streak, including 2015's MLS Cup-winning run through the playoffs.
Porter's teams have become known for their ability to win vital late-season games, embarking on an eight-game unbeaten run to close out the 2013 regular season, getting a result in eight of their last nine in 2014 and finishing off 2015 with four wins in their last five games. Now, having endured a long, injury-riddled 2016, the Timbers hope to start yet another season-capping run, preferably starting with Sunday's 4-2 win over the Seattle Sounders.
Diego Valeri, who provided a pair of assists in the win, acknowledged the team's penchant for strong play late in the season.
"To be honest," Valeri told the press on Sunday, "we don't care about the standings now. We know that we have to perform and if we perform we will get points. We have been a good team in the last part of the season, so we will give everything to keep that situation, to keep winning games in the last part of the season."
Porter also commented on his teams' ability to close out the season with strong performances, preferring to defer credit to his team.
"It is all about the players," said Porter in the post-game press conference on Sunday. "I liked what [Steven Taylor] said this week: 'Big players step up in big games.' That was one of the things that I used in the pre-game.
"Everybody asks me why we are so good at the end of the year," Porter continued. "It is nothing to do with me; I have good players and a good team. With good players and a good team, when the pressure is high and the margin for error is slim, if you need more, you get more."
Next, the Timbers must find a way to build on Sunday's performance with a road result on Saturday against the first-place team in the Western Conference, FC Dallas (9 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
"We knew that this part of the season is the most important," said Valeri. "This game will give us some momentum for the next couple of games. Our goal is to make the playoffs, so now we will rest and enjoy this and then think about [FC Dallas]."
For his part, Porter is confident in his side's ability to finish strong yet again.
"I think that we are just scratching the surface of the team that we can be," he said.