PORTLAND, Ore. - It’s been a busy past seven days for the Portland Timbers. First came the 4-2 CONCACAF Champions League victory over Honduras’ CD Olimpia last Tuesday at Providence Park. Then came Saturday’s massive 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS play to jump back over the red line and into MLS Cup Playoff position.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter rotated much of the lineup to keep players fresh for the key results in a compressed schedule. It also means that for Tuesday’s home CCL match against Guyana’s Alpha United (7pm PT, FOX Sports 1, TICKETS), Porter will once again have strong options from which to choose from for his matchday 18.
“I think the key is having depth, which we have, and I think another key is the compartmentalizing of each game,” said Porter. “I think when you follow a rhythm that we’ve followed the last week, where you’ve got guys who’ve really bought into the league and guys who are bought into the Champions League, then you stay on track physically because now we come back with a group that’s fresh.”
“Also, they’re mentally eager and they’ve played a part in these games,” he added. “I think that always helps from a mental and physical standpoint.”
For the players, the recent strong play against Olimpia helps provide a blueprint heading into Tuesday’s game.
“We’re just looking to take the same performance as we had last Tuesday to go out there and get three points,” said Portland defender Danny O’Rourke. “And not only get three points but just have fun out there. We’re putting ourselves in a position to go on to the next part of the tournament next year.”
Currently tied on points with Olimpia at six apiece with a game in hand, the Timbers have the advantage at the top of the standings thanks to their win over Los Leones last week. For Alpha United, they come to the Rose City following a 4,700 mile trip from Guyana having already been eliminated from the tournament after losing all three of their group stage matches by a combined score of 11-1.
A win against The Hammer —regardless of the amount of goals scored for Portland—would mean that Portland could draw, or even lose by one against Olimpia in their final Group 5 game next month in Honduras to advance to the CCL quarterfinals.
However, putting all the various tiebreakers and scenarios aside, Porter believes it comes down to focusing on the task at hand: beating Alpha Tuesday at Providence Park.
“First and foremost, we can’t play the last game yet,” said Porter. “We’ve got to play this next game [against Alpha] and we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to make sure we get three points.”