Caleb Porter and his staff had a plan heading into a Wednesday night game on the road against Chivas USA.
Considering they had just played in New York four says prior and have a Cascadia showdown looming at home Sunday with the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Portland Timbers head coach knew he would have to test his team’s depth during the three-game stretch.
However you look at it, though, starting eight different players from Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Red Bulls – including handing three players their first start in a Timbers shirt – was a potential gamble nonetheless.
And it paid off in a big way after a 2-0 victory at the StubHub Center thanks to a Fanendo Adi brace on his first two goals in his first start since being signed just two weeks ago. Now, the once-struggling Timbers return home riding their first multi-game winning streak of the season trailing fifth-place Vancouver by just a point in the Western Conference standings.
“It’s good to know that when we rotate our team we get the same high level in terms of performance,” Porter told the media in his postgame comments. “I thought it was a really professional performance. I thought over the course of the two games… I thought every single guy put a shift in, and that’s great. And we’re going to need that to win games moving forward.”
Adi was at the tip of a completely new front four from Saturday’s game, with Michael Nanchoff, in his first Timbers start, on the left, Kalif Alhassan on the right and Gastón Fernández filling the attacking midfielder role.
The midfield was manned by the usual suspects in captain Will Johnson and Diego Chara, who returned after missing two games with a broken hand. But in the back, it was newly signed Danny O'Rourke at right back with center backs Norberto Paparatto and Futty Danso, who both started on the bench last week, lining up alongside left back Jorge Villafaña, who received his first start with the Timbers against the Red Bulls.
And there was little change in the system against a struggling Chivas side.
Even with a host of different players on the field for Portland, Chivas were content to sit back most of the night. It allowed the Timbers a nearly 60-percent possession advantage.
“It’s a little interesting to say the least, but it’s also a positive because they respect us,” Nanchoff said. “They know we’re a possession-orientated team and we’re going to attack them at our finest even if we are on the road, so I take that as a positive.”