BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Portland Timbers season hit a high note – for a lot of reasons – with their 4-1 rout of rival Seattle Sounders on June 28.
It was, obviously, a big win over a Cascadia foe. It was their fifth win in a six-game stretch of league games. And it put them in shouting distance of the top spot in the Western Conference after languishing around the bottom of the table just a month previous.
Since then, success has been harder to come by – with just one win in their five, with some disappointing losses on the road. But after a scoreless draw at the San Jose Earthquakes, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter is hoping to now start another solid run of form for the season’s stretch run beginning Friday night at home against the Chicago Fire.
“Last game I felt was a step in the right direction; gained a lot of confidence defensively, should have won, obviously didn’t fall, but obviously we’ll take the point,” Porter said this week. “We stopped the bleeding a little bit on the road.”
Portland currently hold the fifth spot in the West, four points above the first team (Real Salt Lake) outside the red line and six points below first-place Vancouver Whitecaps. The Timbers have six of their remaining 11 games at home, games that are, Porter said, extremely important.
“For me, this is three points, it has to be,” Porter said of Friday’s match.
Porter said his goal for their last six home games is 18 points, a total he feels would put them in a good position to land a return to the postseason after missing out last year.
“We really have to start to push onto the next gear and really start to make a push,” Timbers captain Will Johnson said. “We really need to take these 11 games and use them as real good indicators of where we’re at, and see if we can get to peak form down the stretch, because that’s what we’re going to need.”
Just how the Timbers go about doing that is a question, however, now that they’ve undergone some lineup changes.
In comes Argentine attacker Lucas Melano – who has already had two appearances, both off the bench, since his Designated Player acquisition two weeks ago.
Porter has seven players who have started chunks of games in the front-four attacking positions this year now to choose from.
“I would prefer to start to settle into a consistent lineup because it’s the time of year where typically you go all in with a group and put out your best lineup,” he said. “I don’t know that it will be easy for me to do that, because we have a lot of good players and there are some tough decisions, but I’m not losing sleep with those decisions, because I know we’ve got good players to put in.”
Dan Itel coves the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.