PORTLAND, Ore. — Had an outsider ventured into JELD-WEN Field after Portland Timbers training on Tuesday, they wouldn’t have guessed they were watching a team currently suffering a distinct downturn in fortunes on the field.
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There was a whole lot of whooping and hollering as several unfortunate players were lined up in the goal, bent over, as the rest of the team set up a kangaroo-court-type, penalty-kick firing line. It was a moment of levity that might seem unexpected from a team that has lost five out of their last six games, the most recent setback being a 2-0 defeat against the expansion Montreal Impact.
"I think we believe in ourselves, we believe in ourselves as a group," Timbers head coach John Spencer said. "We know I need to coach better, the players need to play better. We know what we can do. It's something that we need to try to keep high because eventually we'll come out of this rut."
Optimism was Spencer's approach as he stood in front of a firing line of his own — a throng of media looking for some sort of explanation for the Timbers recent woes.
The Timbers boss stayed on message, which has been prevalent since the team's optimistic start to the season turned sour: There is quality that will eventually shine through the darkness.
"We've got training this week to try to put it right, try to keep spirits high, keep confidence high," said Spencer, who gave the team a break Wednesday before returning to training in preparation for Saturday's home game against the Columbus Crew (7:30 pm PT, Presented by The Home Depot, KPTV Fox 12 | Timbers Television Network, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM).
"I do believe that we've got the quality to get out of this slump we're in. We did last year and came through and were unlucky to miss the playoffs. If we keep our heads and don't panic and don't get too down, we definitely have the quality, quality in abundance, to get out of this."
That was also the approach taken by Timbers owner Merritt Paulson, who tweeted after the Montreal loss, "I don't believe we have a talent issue. We do have issues and those issues need to be addressed."
Asked to address Paulson's comments, Spencer said everyone, from the coaches to the players, have to share the blame.
"He's the owner," Spencer said. "He can say what he wants. Everybody is allowed their opinion, but he's allowed his opinion because he pays for the whole thing that we're doing here. For me, I know there's quality here. We know we need to change the results. It's not what we've wanted or what we expected this year. We know we can play a lot better."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsosccer.com.