When Portland Timbers defender Mike Chabala last faced his old team, he was left with quite the impression.
More accurately, Chabala was left with a ringing in his head after Houston midfielder Danny Cruz sent him sprawling on a hard tackle.
This year, with Chabala once again set to face the Dynamo on Tuesday at BBVA Compass Stadium (5:30pm PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940 AM), the team he spent six seasons with before a midseason trade last year sent him and Lovel Palmer to Portland, things are likely to go differently.
“I think the one thing that we learned last year is they’re a gritty team, and they work hard,” Chabala said. “If we want to give ourselves the best opportunity we’re going to have to do those things as well.”
If little else has gone right for Portland, who are winless in seven of their last eight games, they have shown more fight this year – especially of late.
The Timbers arguably outfought a notably physical team in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on April 21 to earn their best result of the season.
“As you saw in the Kansas City game, it was a fight before it was even a soccer game,” Chabala said. “Sometimes that’s what you have to do. It’s better to be effective and get a result than play pretty and lose. We need to take more grit with us.”
Houston, ironically, are last in the league in fouls committed. But that’s not fooling the Timbers, who expect a battle on a hot, humid Texas night.
“The Kansas City game especially, I think you saw that in the MLS there are going to be those games that aren’t the prettiest, and it’s a matter of [rolling] up your sleeves and fighting for one another and scratching out a 1-0 win,” said Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury, who moved from the attacking midfield position to right back in Portland’s last game, a scoreless draw against Columbus. “And those games become crucial, especially when you’re on the road more so than at home because you might not get as many chances.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.