Despite a six-game winless streak – which included five straight losses before a 1-1 tie at home against Dallas in their last game Aug. 5 – the Timbers have had a run of positive performances, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Combine that with a Toronto team missing a host of regulars due to injury and international absences, and Portland interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson is hoping to come up trumps.
WATCH: Jewsbury talks about team's prep for TFC
“The camaraderie, how connected they are, both on the field and in the locker room, and that’s been very, very good,” Wilkinson said after training in Toronto on Tuesday. “So what I’m looking at is that same mentality on the field against Toronto.”
In Portland’s last two games – against Dallas and a 1-0 loss to Chivas USA on July 28 – the Timbers both out-possessed and out-shot their opponents. Wilkinson said it’s given the group a renewed sense of confidence amidst what has been a disappointing season that has left them in the cellar of the Western Conference with 20 points from 22 games.
“I think guys are excited to get out here,” captain and midfielder Jack Jewsbury said. “We’ve had a couple positive performances. Maybe the results didn’t go exactly the way we would have liked, but the fight and effort was there. So now we’re looking to come on the road and bring that performance and hopefully get our first win here in Toronto.”
Toronto, meanwhile, have lost two straight and are in last place in the Eastern Conference with 19 points from 22 games.
Of course, that’s no guarantee.
“It’s just a matter of how we approach the game,” Jewsbury said. “I think the mentality has been right in training the last week-and-a-half, so now it’s just a matter of implementing that in the game.”
If the Timbers do pull out a win, it will end a horrendous stretch away from JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers are winless in 10 road games, which includes eight losses, and haven’t picked up a point since May 15 in Houston.
“All you can do is make sure all the preparation and the mentality is right,” Wilkinson said. “It’s manifested itself over a year and half now, and it’s become a habit. And habits need to be broken when they’re not good ones. We are trying to break this habit, and it starts with all the individual pieces, everybody taking a sense of responsibility, a sense of ownership and trying to correct it.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.