PORTLAND, Ore. – Gavin Wilkinson keeps talking about ticking off boxes – a checklist of sorts.
And on Friday night at JELD-WEN Field, with Portland’s 1-0 win over Colorado, two more boxes were checked off.
Win two consecutive games for the first time in 2012: check.
Earn the first shutout in nine games under Wilkinson and the first since May 15: check.
It comes on the heels of scoring multiple goals on the road in consecutive games, accomplished two weeks ago, and a victory last Saturday over Cascadia rival Vancouver that ended an eight-game winless streak.
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 1, Colorado 0
“As a group we’re trying to find out what we can do and what we’re all about; we’re trying to tick a lot boxes,” Wilkinson said after the victory. “And for me it was very, very important that we kept a clean sheet tonight for Donovan [Ricketts] and the back four to actually have something to build off.”
Ricketts recorded four saves for his first clean sheet in four games wearing a Timbers jersey, weathering a second-half storm as the Rapids searched for an equalizer.
“I think we just play for each other, we cover each other, we play hard,” Ricketts said. “Sometimes it’s not pretty, but we keep communicating, keep talking and we just look after each other.”
The entire backline – especially center backs David Horst and Hanyer Mosquera – drew high praise from Wilkinson.
Mosquera had 18 clearances, two blocks and one tackle won, while Horst had 14 clearances, five interceptions and one tackle won.
“Horst and Mosquera, I thought, were first class,” Wilkinson said. “They challenged for everything, their understanding was fantastic, they played with urgency, they played with a lot of maturity.”
Both Horst and left back Steven Smith were on the field when Portland last met the Rapids, a game that ended in a 3-0 Timbers loss under a flurry of 14 Rapids shots. Wilkinson said that should have been all the motivation needed.
“I can’t get in the head of every single player, but if that was me and we just conceded three goals in Colorado it would certainly be a motivating factor to show we can compete, we can do well in this league and we can do well in Colorado,” he said.
That’s the next box for Wilkinson, winning on the road. And it just so happens that chance comes Wednesday against Colorado in Commerce City.
“It’s a box we need to tick, we need to show we are maturing and developing as a team and can we get the job done on the road,” he said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.