PORTLAND, Ore. – From appearing in back-to-back national title games at Akron to winning MLS Cup 20015, Timbers coach Caleb Porter has seen a lot in his career.
But he found himself in unfamiliar waters Saturday night.
“I’ve never in my managerial career lost two center backs in the same game,” Porter said after he was forced to substitute center backs Liam Ridgewell and Roy Miller in the first 60 minutes of the Timbers’ 2-0 win over FC Dallas on Saturday at Providence Park.
In their place, first Lawrence Olum and, later, Amobi Okugo slid back from a midfield position to the backline. All the while, the defense did not miss a beat, with Portland keeping a shutout to post consecutive clean sheets for the first time this season.
Ridgewell, who missed a handful of games earlier this year with leg issues, was replaced in the 26th minute with an apparent quad injury. Miller, meanwhile, was in visible pain towards the end of the first half following a collision with Maximiliano Urruti. The Costa Rican fought through the knock for a quarter hour, but finally had to come out in the 60th minute.
By the end of the evening, three different Timbers played the defensive midfield spot normally occupied by David Guzman. Guzman, away on international duty, made an appearance in Costa Rica’s World Cup Qualifier against Panama on Thursday night.
“You get a guy like Amobi that goes in,” Porter remarked, “I don’t even think he got a proper warm-up, and he plays two positions. He didn’t have a wrong step.”
“That says everything about our depth and how bought in this team is,” Porter continued. “You want to find out if a team’s bought in look at the guys that come in off the bench. That’s the best way to tell if a team, a squad, not just the 11, but a squad, the entire group is bought in. You see that. Amobi was great, he played two positions. Lawrence played two positions. Roy Miller played both center back positions. Really pleased with the clean sheet. That’s two in a row.”
That depth will serve the Timbers well in the coming weeks. Portland are in the midst of a very busy stretch, set to follow Saturday’s match with an Open Cup game at Seattle on Tuesday, a trip to Colorado next Saturday, another midweek match at Minnesota on June 21, a regular season match at Seattle on June 25, another potential Open Cup game on June 28 and a tough date at Sporting KC on July 1.
And while the entire backline performed well on Saturday, the clean sheet would not have been possible without Zarek Valentin’s goal-line clearance in the 22nd minute.
“I think I owe them a coffee in the morning for that one,” said goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. “Little plays like that and little things that go your way because we know we’ve been playing well. We’re a good team, and if we keep playing the way we are we’re going to go on a good run hopefully.”