Caleb Porter says Portland Timbers ahead of 2013 pace

Porter believes Timbers' ability to control matches sets positive trend

PORTLAND, Ore. –Playing the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire to two 1-1 draws to start the 2014 MLS season may not have been what everyone expected.

But looking at it from head coach Caleb Porter’s perspective, the Timbers are actually ahead of where they were last year. The points certainly say he’s right.

“It reminds me a little bit of last year, and we’re even ahead of last year; we lost [the second] game last year,” Porter said following Sunday’s match against the Fire. “It took us a while to get going, and we had slow starts to games, at times, last year. But we’re playing well. That, for me, is the biggest positive.”

After a thrilling season-opening 3-3 draw against the New York Red Bulls a year ago, highlighted by a Timbers rally from 3-1 down, Portland dropped their second game, 2-1, to the Montreal Impact.

What followed next, however, was a franchise-record 15-game unbeaten streak that saw the Timbers surge to the best regular season in the Western Conference. And with the positives Porter pointed to, namely high possession and number of chances created in both games against Philly and Chicago, points to Portland's ability to continue to control matches with purpose.

“The positives are we’ve come from behind to get a point in both games,” he said, referring to two game-tying goals by new forward Gastón Fernández. “Also, in the second half, we’ve played very well both games. Both games, we dominated the game in terms of possession. We had more shots in both games. We’ve come from behind both games. That’s another positive trend.”

Porter went on to say, however, that he wasn’t pleased with his team’s start in Sunday’s matinee, which led to a Fire penalty kick in the first half, and said he “lit a fire under them at halftime.”

 “If you’re dominating the game, then those chances will come,” Timbers left back Michael Harrington said. “Like in the second half, we had so many chances and eventually you’re going to score. We just want to focus on everybody doing their job, playing better as a team and that’ll translate into wins.”