PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s one of the oldest sports clichés in the book. A team coming off a huge win – perhaps one against a bitter rival – always has to be wary of a letdown the next time out.
That’s the situation the Portland Timbers find themselves in after Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Cascadia rivals Seattle.
And while the Timbers’ next game may not have the panache of Sunday’s gritty win over the Sounders, the matchup at Colorado on Saturday (6pm PT, KPDX TV, Timbers Television Network; 750 AM The Game / La Pantera 940) is equally important.
Portland, who sit in eight place in the Western Conference standings, are just three points behind sixth-place Colorado, and playing away from JELD-WEN Field has not been hospitable for the Timbers since they joined MLS last season.
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“We have the ability that I keep harping on, but you have to turn up on the day in Colorado with just the same mentality and desire to try to take on the game and try to win the game,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said. “With young players, as we’ve seen this year, we’ve been inconsistent as a team, which we’re not happy with. But I still feel confident we have the quality to go on a good run and get ourselves back in the mix.”
So with no rivalry to draw motivation from or home crowd urging them on, how do the Timbers prevent themselves from falling into the trap of a letdown?
“It’s always in the back of your mind, and [the Seattle win] doesn’t mean anything if we go out and lose next weekend,” goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. “It’s up to the older guys, the experienced guys, to make sure the attitude is good throughout the week and that we’re focused and that thought is behind us now, the feeling of winning a big game.”
Spencer said there’s also the fact that Portland, a team that has languished around the bottom of the Western Conference, can easily jump right back into the playoff race by stringing a few results together. Saturday’s game in Colorado marks the fourth of an 11-game stretch against conference opponents.
“It’s amazing what a win gives you,” Spencer said. “We get a win with a couple games in hand, and now we’re back in the mix. It’s amazing how people’s mentality change. It shouldn’t surprise me because I’ve been in the game for a long time, but it does surprise me.”
And players and coaches have said there’s a positive vibe running through Timbers camp right now, one they hope only builds.
“Hopefully we can take this confidence into the game this weekend and keep it going,” central defender David Horst said. “You get a couple wins under your belt, and you’re back in the playoff race, you lose a couple games and you’re out of the playoff race. I’ve said before it’s a long season, and we can’t get too high, can’t get too low. We’ve got to keep it steady, keep winning games, keeping zeros and scoring goals.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.