When Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer was asked this week how he would prevent his side from becoming overconfident after beating Sporting Kansas City, his answer was very frank.
“I don’t think we should be on a tremendous high,” Spencer said. “It’s not like we’ve won seven out of the last seven. For me, we’ve still got to have that fresh in our minds, the last four games or five [games]. For whatever reason, whatever excuse we had, we never won those games. So for me, I don’t think I’ll forget those last six weeks in a hurry. Probably it will stick with me for a long, long time.”
Preview: Timbers talk Impact
And thus was born the theme of the Timbers week of training leading up to Saturday’s road game (11am PT, KPDX TV, Timbers Television Network, 750AM The Game / La Pantera 940 AM) against the Montreal Impact: Never forget.
Because before Portland’s scrappy 1-0 victory over SKC, ending their seven-game winning streak to start the season, the Timbers had lost four straight, gone winless in their last five and were flirting with the worst record in MLS. Getting too high was the last thing anybody in Timbers camp considered.
“Whenever you’re coming off a good performance you’ve got to make sure you continue to work harder and harder and get the most out of everyone,” Timbers midfielder and captain Jack Jewsbury said. “Obviously, it’s one win and we can’t get too excited about it. But at the same time we have to build on what we did good, and continue to work on things that maybe we can do better as well.”
And with just one win coming into Saturday’s game that will be played under the dome at the venerable Stade Olympique, the Timbers can certainly relate to Montreal’s struggles. The 1-5-2 Impact’s lone win came April 7 against Toronto, the team with MLS’ worst record.
Portland knows just how teams can respond with their backs against the wall.
“If we play well enough, look after our performance, look after the ball and play to our strengths, I think we can trouble any team in the league,” Spencer said. “On any given day any team can do that.”
One thing that Portland will be ready for is a physical game, for which their primer came against Kansas City. In that game, the two teams combined for 28 fouls and five yellow cards and clashed in a number of small skirmishes.
Montreal leads the league in both fouls and yellow cards. And Portland and Montreal played to a scoreless tie in a preseason slugfest that Spencer said was “too aggressive at times.”
“They’re a physical team, so I guess we can say they’re almost somewhat similar to Kansas,” defender Lovel Palmer said. “They’re physical, so we’re going to have to go in there and match their intensity.”
Against Kansas City, Portland fielded a lineup that saw Palmer move from the back line to the defensive midfielder position. There was no indication this week about whether Spencer will maintain that formation going forward.
“The difference was that some guys who were put on the field played to their potential and played to their maximum,” Spencer said of the Kansas City game. “And that’s what happens when you do that, you put good teams under pressure and you win games.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.