Portland hope defeat at TFC serves as a wake-up call for stretch run

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PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s never easy for a team to take any positives out of a 4-1 loss, but the Portland Timbers are hopeful that a silver lining has emerged from their big defeat at Toronto FC last weekend.

A new sense of urgency.

Portland head coach Caleb Porter was harshly critical of his squad after last Saturday’s loss at BMO Field, calling out a lack of effort as the Timbers conceded four times in the final 32 minutes.

“I was extremely disappointed with what I saw,” Porter said after the game. “We gave up the last two goals because certain individuals stopped playing and allowed those two goals. I think they thought the game was done.”

Portland gave up several soft goals at Toronto, something that’s become a bit of a worrying trend for this year’s Timbers. Portland have too often taken a loss or draw out of games they’ve been on the verge of winning, and they’ve talked repeatedly about needing to develop more of a killer instinct to close out matches.

Now there’s hope around the club that Saturday’s big defeat will serve as a wake-up call for the Timbers.  Portland’s still in a good position in the West, currently sitting in fifth in the conference, just three points behind co-leaders Houston, Seattle and Sporting KC. They’ll have a chance to move into a temporary tie for first when they host the New York Red Bulls at Providence Park on Friday (10 pm ET; FS1 in the US | MLS LIVE in Canada).

Porter’s teams have traditionally responded well after losses, with the fifth-year head coach amassing a 22-10-14 record in matches following a defeat since he took over in 2013. However, Porter sees a tough opponent ahead, if not one of the best in the league since a tactical adjustment spurred them to win five of their last six games in league play.

"They’ve switched to 3-4-3 – call it at 3-6-1 – and every since they made that switch, they’ve been in really good form, on a good run," Porter said of Friday's opponents. "When I look at their recent form, as good as Toronto was, I think this team’s better."

The Red Bulls have also never lost in Portland, but they are coming off a grueling 120-minute US Open Cup semifinal win at FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Jesse Marsch used most of his regular starters in that match, and will likely be forced to rest at least a few big names on Friday.  

"You can only game plan for what you know," Porter said. "This is a team that's won five of their last six games and that's not even counting the Open Cup game. I think they are one of the best teams in the league. We have to prepare as if they are going to play the same lineup they played the last two games."