Spencer: Match against TFC is must-win for Timbers

After break from league play, Portland buckle down for playoff push

PORTLAND, Ore. — The exhibition matches are over. The All-Star Game has been played. Now it’s time for the Portland Timbers to get back down to business.

Head coach John Spencer said as much during the week of preparation for Saturday’s home match against Toronto FC, the last-place team from the Eastern Conference (8:00 pm PT, ROOT SPORTS750 AM The GameLa Pantera 940 AM).

“I think it’s possibly bigger than the opening game of the season,” Spencer said. “We need to get three points. You can’t duck away from the fact that games are ticking down, whether it be at home or on the road. We need to win games. We know that. And it’s time to start putting in real 90-minute performances like we did in June.”

Portland’s match on Tuesday against Independiente was the team’s fourth and final friendly match. And the festivities associated with Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury’s first MLS All-Star appearance ended in a 4-0 loss Wednesday against Manchester United.

Now, with 15 games remaining and the Timbers sitting in eight place in the Western Conference, any run at the playoffs needs to start now.

The sense of the club’s urgency for a postseason run became clear when defenders Lovel Palmer and Mike Chabala were brought to help the back line in a trade last week, but once again the Timbers allowed a late goal in a 1-0 loss last weekend to the Columbus Crew, stalling any momentum gained by a 1-0 road win against Chicago on July 16.

“I don’t think we deserved to lose the game, but the reality is that we did lose the game,” Spencer said referring to a dominating first half that went unrewarded and an own goal that led to the Columbus victory. “It makes these two games coming up really massive games.”

After TFC, a team going through similar struggles but with only three victories this season, the Timbers will play host on August 3 to the LA Galaxy, a team widely considered to be the class of MLS, before heading out for three straight road games.

“We haven’t been at home for a long period of time,” Spencer said. “So it will be nice to get back.”

He said the exhibition victory on Tuesday against one of Argentina’s most successful clubs reminded him and the team what it’s like to win at home. The win was Portland’s first at home — in any competition — since they beat Columbus on May 21.

“It was nice to hear the singing again,” Spencer said of the Timbers Army serenade as the team walked victorious into the locker room. “Well, they always sing, but it was nice to see the smiles on their faces again.”