PORTLAND, Ore. – The New England Revolution may be desperate for their first goal of the 2012 season.
The Portland Timbers, their opponents in Saturday’s game at Gillette Stadium (Mar. 24, 1:00 p.m. PT, ROOT SPORTS, 750 AM The Game, La Pantera 940 AM), however, haven’t exactly been an easy mark in that regard.
The Timbers have allowed just 11 attempts on goal and two goals in two games this season. Counting preseason, Portland have only given up five goals in nine games.
WATCH: Team prepares for NE
“We know our roles, what we need to do, pressure the ball sooner, be in good positions when we’re defending,” said Timbers defender Eric Brunner. “I think, organization-wise, we’ve improved a lot.”
Last year, Portland allowed 48 goals in 34 games, a 1.4 goal-per-game average. And one reason for the improvement – at least in the Timbers’ 1-1 tie last Saturday at FC Dallas – is newly acquired Colombian Hanyer Mosquera, or “Mosco,” as he’s known.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound central defender sat out Portland’s opener – a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia – because his International Transfer Certificate didn’t come through on time. But against Dallas he and Brunner, along with fullbacks Lovel Palmer and Rodney Wallace, held FCD to just three shots on goal. And after a first-half goal by forward Blas Pérez, Dallas only managed one scoring opportunity in the second half.
“That’s why we brought him here,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said of Mosquera, a five-year veteran of Colombia’s top professional league. “We saw him play a couple times and could see how dominant he was in the air.”
Against Dallas, Spencer said the job done on Pérez in the second half was particularly strong.
“There’s room for improvement always,” Spencer said. “In the second half [against Dallas], we became a better team when 'Mosco’ and Brunner started dominating their striker. He couldn’t hold the ball up … every ball that came up they were winning it.”
Brunner said he liked the physical nature of play Mosquera brought to the pitch and expects that to carry over to the Revs' home opener. New England have lost their first two games as they struggle to shake off the sting from last season, their worst in team history. That led to the departure of longtime head coach Steve Nicol and the reworking of their roster.
“I’m sure they’re [champing] at the bit to get into the back of the net,” Brunner said. “So we have to be turned on as a team throughout the field and on the backline.”
In other words, they just want to maintain the good start – and the good vibes. Spencer said earning a comeback tie last weekend at FCD was a big confidence-booster.
“Character-wise, to come back against a good team like Dallas on the road, I think it shows a step forward in improvements,” the coach said.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com