BEAVERTON, Ore. – There’s no question the Portland Timbers have been navigating uncharted waters since the arrival of new head coach Caleb Porter, an offseason roster makeover and the start of the 2013 season.
But the last MLS team without a road loss? No, with three draws in three road games, these are certainly not your 2012 Portland Timbers.
“What’s even more impressive is we’re not happy with the draws,” Porter said after a sun-drenched session Tuesday at the team’s training facility following Sunday’s 1-1 draw in San Jose. “That means that you genuinely have belief in your group. These guys, no matter if we’re home or away or who we’re playing, they believe we can get a result.”
Sure, it’s early – just seven games into the season. But in the context of last season’s well-publicized road struggles – finishing the season with a 1-12-5 record away from JELD-WEN Field – the comparison is glaring. Last year’s team didn’t record their third point on the road until a 2-2 tie at Toronto on Aug. 15, nearly a month after former head coach John Spencer was fired.
And they haven’t exactly taken points off three slouches so far this season.
Portland have tied Seattle, Colorado – their first-ever point in the Mile High City – and defending Supporters’ Shield winner San Jose in the second of a back-to-back meeting between the two teams. And if weren’t for a stoppage time goal by Earthquakes sub Adam Jahn, Portland would be talking about their first road victory of the season, a feat they didn’t accomplish until Oct. 21 last year.
“We knew it would be really difficult to go into San Jose and get another win, knowing how motivated they would be, knowing how they play and knowing that they’re a good team and good at home,” Porter said. “In the end, the perspective is positive that we get a point, but we were a minute away from getting three points. So when you’re so close, it makes it a little tougher.”
Now Portland, tied with Chivas USA for fourth place in the Western Conference standings with 10 points from seven games, put their new-found identity as road warriors on the line in a Saturday showdown at Sporting Kansas City, the first-place team in the East. The Timbers will hold their final training session in the Rose City on Wednesday before departing for Kansas City on Thursday.
“We genuinely believe that if we play well then we will have a chance to win,” Porter said. “This group believes we have the talent and the methodology to put ourselves in position to get results.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.