KeyBank Match-up of the Match: Timbers Run of Form vs. Any Given Matchday in MLS

Timbers great play of late against unpredictability of competitive MLS league

With three shutouts in a row, and 272 minutes of not allowing a goal, to say that the Portland Timbers are on a particularly solid run of form would be a slight understatement. The timing of this four-game unbeaten streak could not be more fortuitous as they stay in the hunt for the playoffs tied on points with New York Red Bulls at 36—though NY holds the upper hand at the moment on goal differential.

To get to this point, the Timbers have had a number of recent developments. The addition of Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer on the backline has been a revelation both in terms of solidifying the defense (See: Aforementioned shutout streak), as well as providing well-timed attacking runs to both overload the midfield and provide overlapping service into the box.

Kenny Cooper, who linked up with Chabala last week for a goal against New England, has also been threatening of late and his play up top with Darlington Nagbe at forward caused all kinds of problems for the Revs. Diego Chara has been electric, Jack Jewsbury solid, Sal Zizzo and Kalif Alhassan both lightning quick. The list could go on.

But it is in this great run of form of late and maintaining it that brings us to the challenges ahead and Robbie Earle’s KeyBank Match-up of the Match.
 

Robbie Earle's
KeyBank Match-up of the Match
Timbers Run of Form vs. Any Given MatchDay
 

 

At training earlier this week, Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins was asked about playing San Jose on Wednesday and his thoughts on what to look for. His succinct answer, “Don’t count them out.”

Though currently on the outside looking in in regards to the playoffs, the Earthquakes are a team who were one win away from playing for the MLS Cup last season. Moreover, Timbers head coach John Spencer is keenly aware of their ever-dangerous goals-scoring threat in Chris Wondolowski having coached him back during their respective times with the Houston Dynamo. San Jose has numerous tools to cause all kinds of problems for Portland this week and look to play the spoiler in the Timbers’ playoff push.

But beyond that, given the intense competition and parity in MLS, any team is capable of winning on any given matchday. Teams that seem favored can stumble and teams who’ve been stuck can rise. Look to the Timbers exciting win over the Galaxy at home in August as an example. On paper, the Galaxy were (and still are) loaded. And yet the Timbers came out to play thrilling excellent football to win handily 3-0. It was that same quality effectiveness that worked so well for Portland in the win against New England.

So while the Timbers recent run of form coupled with the always vibrant home field environment will make for a potent combination, it will be essential that the Timbers stay focused on this match and what got them here, not look too forward into Saturday’s important playoff implications tilt with New York, and continue to play to their strengths. Do that, and their ability to overcome the unpredictable will go hand in hand with picking up an important three points.