Timbers huddle, Timbers vs. Union, 3.12.12
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

New spirit on display in Portland's two comeback results

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two games into their second MLS season, two comebacks for the Portland Timbers.

In their season opener at JELD-WEN Field, Portland fell behind 1-0 against Philadelphia last Monday before going on to win 3-1. After going down 1-0 against FC Dallas on Saturday in Frisco, they finished with a 1-1 tie. All four of their goals have come in the second half of games.

“We dominated for a long period of time in the second half,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said of Saturday’s game at FC Dallas Stadium. “The difference between the first half and the second half was that we started to believe in ourselves. We started to play a little more uptempo.”

Last year, the Timbers were 0-7-1 when trailing at halftime. In the first half against Dallas, Portland were out-shot 5-1 but finished the match with a 12-6 shot advantage.

It was a goal six minutes into the second half by forward Darlington Nagbe, a halftime substitute, that leveled the match.

“Everyone came out with a lot of energy,” Nagbe said. “It’s as simple as that. The first half, we didn’t have as much energy. When we play with energy, we play well as a team. We had more energy the second half. Guys were buzzing around a little bit more after the first 30 minutes. We just came out there with more energy with them and we controlled the game.”

Another good sign

After earning a point on the road against Dallas, Spencer said his side has played two playoff-caliber teams and earned two positive results. What he didn’t note was that it took Portland three road games last year before earning their first points away from JELD-WEN, a 1-1 tie against the New England Revolution on April 2.

“It has been a good start to the season,” Spencer said. “We played two quality teams, and if our guys believe in themselves as much as me and my coaches do, we’ll make it to playoffs.”

Midfielder Eric Alexander, who faced Portland twice last year as an FCD player before joining the Timbers in an August trade, said there’s a different feel in the locker room this year.

“The focus is a little higher [than last year] as well as our belief in each other,” he said. “We have a talented group of guys who can get it done on the road. There are still better games to come.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at dcitel@hotmail.com.