Caleb Porter: Timbers "starting to hit our stride" ahead of "final push"

SEATTLE – The Portland Timbers1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders in their Cascadia Cup derby at CenturyLink Field on Sunday would have been an impressive result under any circumstances.

But given the adversity his team had to overcome in order to leave CenturyLink with a road point in their pocket – only their third in 10 regular-season trips to Seattle – Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said this result might even carry a little bit more luster than usual.

Portland managed to pull of the draw even without the services of some of their most important players – including star forward Fanendo Adi (hamstring), captain Liam Ridgewell (quad), defensive midfielder David Guzman (yellow card accumulation) and starting goalkeeper Jake Gleeson (hamstring).

“We didn’t have the luxury of rotating too many guys,” Porter told reporters after the game. “A good number of guys played all three games [this week]. You could see that a little bit in the second half. But for us to come in here on the road, missing a couple guys and playing a very talented team, a team that’s used to scoring goals late and for us to get the point, I think we’ll take it.”

Playing without Adi, Porter turned to Jamaican speedster Darren Mattocks to fill the void at striker for Sunday’s match. The 26-year-old didn’t manage to find the net himself, but earned the penalty kick that teammate Diego Valeri netted for the equalizer, via a charging run in first-half stoppage time.

“Mattocks had a good game,” Porter said.” You can see why I keep going back to him because when he’s on and he’s running and working, he’s a threat. I don’t think [Roman] Torres and [Chad] Marshall like playing against him. When he’s on his game, that’s what he brings.”

Perhaps more important than the result itself, Porter said, is how the Timbers seem to be collectively righting the ship after a lull in form that saw them go winless in six straight matches from June 17 to July 23.

With Sunday’s draw, the Timbers improved to 4-1-2 in their past seven matches and also stayed within one point of the Sounders for the top spot in the Western Conference table ahead of the upcoming two-week international window for World Cup qualifiers.

“We’re starting to hit our stride a little bit,” Porter said. “We’re closing out games, we’re defending better and we’ve always been a good attacking team, all year. So, I like the balance of the team and I like the mentality.

“We have a two-week break, we’ll use it to our advantage and we’ll make that final push over in the last six games.”