Not just talent: Porter sees "right mentality" from "hungry" Timbers in LA

CARSON, Calif. – With Sunday’s 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy, the Portland Timbers grabbed three points on the road on their first opportunity of 2017, and it’s a historic moment for a number of reasons.

It takes going back to 2005, long before the Timbers joined MLS, to find the last time this club won their road opener. After failing to win a single league on the road in 2016, it’s a positive statement that the Timbers are moving in the right direction.

“It feels great,” said midfielder Darlington Nagbe. “You always want to start off and get a win and now we’re 2-0.

“You get that first win on the road after last year, [where] we didn’t get a road win, it feels good. All the guys worked hard and put in a hard fight.”

Their 2-0 start to the season is also an MLS first for the Timbers, who own two wins with very different feels to them. In Week 1, it was the jubilant 5-1 home-opening blowout of expansion side Minnesota United. On Sunday, Portland ground out a tight road result against an LA side which continued to look dangerous even after going down to 10 men in the first half.

This Timbers team will still be tested, but it’s undoubtedly a promising start.

“It’s a long year,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “There’s a lot of areas that you have to improve in. It’s great to be able to come on the road and get a result; that was an area we couldn’t solve last year. It’s great to get our first clean sheet and show that we can buckle down, even when we don’t get the second goal to put the game away.

“The improvement takeaway is we have to be better in scoring that second goal, because we had plenty of chances to do it. We’ll look at that on the film and try to correct that. We had far too many looks to not put the game away.”

The Timbers made good work of their chances in their home opener, and they managed six shots on target against the shorthanded Galaxy, including a long Fanendo Adi run that looked like a sure goal only to be denied by a great hustle play by a recovering Rafael Garcia.

Finishing off those sorts of chances could go a long way toward getting a positive result at home on Saturday night, when the resurgent Houston Dynamo – who also find themselves 2-0 – visit Providence Park. Perhaps that’s why Porter stopped short of calling this his best Timbers group yet.

“I think it’s a very good team,” said the fifth-year boss. “But being a good team doesn’t mean anything unless you show up every game for 90 straight minutes.

“In this league if you don’t show up, and if you don’t dig deep, and if you’re not hungry, it doesn’t matter how good a team you are on paper. What I’m seeing the last two games is a team that’s very hungry, a team that has the right mentality, and a team that’s not taking anything for granted.”

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