Despite start, Portland Timbers aren't panicking: "It's not where you start but where you end"
BEAVERTON, Ore. – Two points in three games; it's not something the Portland Timbers have experienced very often in the last year.
And while the team admitted that Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids, following draws against the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire to start the season, was not ideal, there’s hardly a sense of panic in Timbers camp.
“The group is still confident,” defender Jack Jewsbury said following Tuesday’s session at the team's training facility. “Disappointed not to get more from the first three games, but the reality of it is it’s a long season and we feel like this group has a lot more in it.”
Last year, Portland went a month before getting its first win, notching three draws and a loss in its first four games. What followed their March 9 loss against the Montreal Impact was an extended unbeaten run, providing room for optimism that things will correct themselves. It was the consistency in the Timbers’ performances over the course of the 2013 campaign led the club to securing 57 points and first place in the conference.
“Even if you win games, it’s always staying even and making sure you’re getting good habits and do the right things,” captain Will Johnson said. “Obviously, it’s a results business and we have to do better getting results, but it doesn’t change a whole lot week to week what we do. There’s just more emphasis on getting results because we need to.”
Jewsbury said that head coach Caleb Porter has preached keeping an even keel from the day he took over last year, and he said that mentality has fostered a business-as-usual approach.
“For us, I think it’s a good test,” Jewsbury said. “It tests your character a bit; you see what your team is made up of.”
Note, too, the fluky nature of the Timbers' first three games. Of the four goals they’ve conceded, three have come off penalty kicks. That included two PKs in Colorado, the first trimming Portland down to 10 men after goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was sent off early in the second half, which was ultimately the turning point in the game.
But two goals scored in three games only happened to the Timbers twice last year.
“You can see in the performance it’s there,” Porter said. “We’re not certainly where we need to be, nor is any team at this point. It’s not where you start but where you end, how you finish.”
He also stressed the fact that the group is still absorbing newcomers Gastón Fernandez, Steve Zakuani (who received his first start in a Timbers shirt against Colorado) and Norberto Paparatto. Porter said Zakuani and midfielder Diego Valeri, last year’s MLS Newcomer of the Year, are both still not quite match fit after recovering from offseason surgeries.
Once everybody is on the same page, Porter said he’s expecting the results will follow.
“It’s not like we’re in games wondering how we’re going to win,” he said. “We’re at the end of the games wondering how we lost.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.