Timbers Beat: Road to the postseason

Staring down the final stretch of the 2007 regular season the Portland Timbers have a chance to repeat what few teams in the league have done, win a second USL First Division Regular-Season Championship. But to do so, they’ll need to find success on the road against some improving clubs.
 
After stringing together a franchise-record seven game winning streak, the Timbers have suffered a flat tire on their road to capturing the 2007 regular-season title going 0-2-1 in their last three games and have gone 294 minutes without scoring a goal in a league match. But like any flat tire, it’s nothing a small amount of work and the right tools can’t fix.
 
Portland has the right tools to push it into the playoffs and possibly capture the club’s second USL First Division regular-season championship. The signing of Matt Taylor adds another offensive threat for Portland and paired with either Bryan Jordan or Chris Bagley will cause headaches for most backlines in the USL First Division. Until the recent skid, the Timbers have found a way to put balls into the back of the net as the team is tied for third in the league in goals scored.
 
The backline continues to play well and by far has allowed the fewest goals in the league – just 13 in 19 games. They lead the league with 10 team shutouts. And as the end of the season draws near and injuries and suspensions become factors, the Timbers will need to rely upon durable players such as Cameron Knowles and versatile position players like Shaun Higgins to maintain their position at the top of the table.
 
Josh Wicks has played well in the net but it will be a team effort in shutting down the opposition as the Timbers face six of the last nine matches away from PGE Park where Portland has posted a 4-4-0 record this season.
 
Looking at the remaining games on the 2007 schedule, the Timbers face a grueling travel schedule that has them making their annual visits to Vancouver, Miami and Puerto Rico, who at the moment, are all playoff-bound teams. Portland is also scheduled to play a struggling Minnesota Thunder club three times, including twice on the road, in a span of two weeks.
 
In total, the Timbers will make two trips to the Southeast in consecutive weekends at the end of August, including a stand-alone trip to face the Carolina RailHawks on Sept. 2.
 
The road to the 2007 postseason and even the regular-season title will indeed have to be won on the road. The Timbers have positioned themselves well for the final run. But to hold onto first place in the USL First Division they’ll need to rely on the right tools which have taken them from the bottom of the table last season to a playoff contending team and take advantage of three final home matches at PGE Park.
 
Posted by Marc Kostic