PORTLAND, Ore. – It’s happened before.
An overmatched team in the early rounds of competitions like the CONCACAF Champions League or U.S. Open Cup surprising more talented competition and coming away with an upset victory. And the Portland Timbers weren’t about to let that happen to them Tuesday in their CCL Group 5 matchup with Alpha United, a team from Guyana on the northeast coast of South America.
Mission accomplished, after running away with an easy, 6-0 victory at Providence Park.
“Sometimes these types of games are tricky because you know you’re the superior team,” Portland head coach Caleb Porter said in his postgame comments. “And it’s human nature to just do enough to get by, so you have to fight almost that natural tendency to cruise and coast. In soccer you see it time and again, teams that should win don’t come out with the right mentality and they’re not focused, they get burned for a goal … one moment can change the game, and you see teams lose these types of games even though you never should.”
This one was never in doubt as Timbers veteran Jack Jewsbury, who has been with the team since its inaugural MLS season in 2011, opened the scoring in the 11th minute for his first goal since 2012. And they didn’t look back, getting a brace from center back Norberto Paparatto and goals from Gastón Fernández, Michael Nanchoff and Fanendo Adi.
Jewsbury said they drew inspiration from a sluggish first half the first time around against Alpha, when they went into halftime with only a 2-1 lead in an eventual 4-1 victory in Georgetown, Guyana.
“We knew it was important,” Jewsbury told the media after the game. “… We expected to win the game, that’s for sure, and we knew at the end of the day that we’re the better team. But a lot of times these are some tricky games because mentally you have to make sure you’re up for it even though you’re supposed to win.”
Things also went according to plan as far as squad rotation, with Porter fielding a lineup that was similar to last week's CCL win over Olimpia, such as top scorers Maximiliano Urruti, Fernández and second-half substitutes Adi.
“I don’t know if it could have gone any better,” Porter said.
Facing the first of their final five league matches Saturday away to Toronto FC, Porter said such an overwhelming victory can be a boost to the entire team. He said that was the case with their last CCL victory, a week ago against Honduran side CD Olimpia, when they followed that up with a 3-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, putting them in the fifth and final MLS Cup Playoff position in the Western Conference.
“Winning is habit, so is losing,” Porter said. “You start winning. You start scoring goals. You get guys unlocked. … That continues to build confidence.”
Portland can win their group with a win, draw or even in some scenarios, a loss in the finale Oct. 21 against Olimpia.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.