PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers continued their hot start to the 2017 MLS regular-season Saturday night with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over the Houston Dynamo. Down 2-1 at halftime, the Timbers scored three unanswered goals in the final 45 minutes to remain atop the Western Conference.
Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri, who bagged his sixth career brace in the game and second in three games, believes the team’s ability to win is a result of their focus on how they want to play the game.
“We’re trying to win games in a [certain] way,” he said. “We’re fighting for that, and we’re working for that. That made me happy because we want to dominate games with the ball and putting pressure [on the opposing team]. I’m really happy about the way we won.”
Defender Zarek Valentin, who found out he was going to start only a few hours before the game after a stomach flu sidelined fellow defender Marco Farfan and who assisted on Valeri's game-tying goal, feels the team’s win showed a lot of character.
“We have a lot of great pieces,” said Valentin. “It’s nice to not be able to rely on just one person to find a goal. We have a lot of guys that can come in and contribute and put the ball in the back of the net. It’s fantastic. It shows how lethal our attack is.”
Portland has scored 10 goals to start the year, coming from five different players. It is the most the club has scored in the first three matches of the season in all eras of the club (since 1975), passing the previous mark of seven set in 2005.
“I think it shows the heart they have," said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter of the team's win. "The hunger they have. The fight they have. And it’s every single player on the pitch. Every single player.
"I thought we just played with a real edge, a real ruthlessness that I’ve been wanting to see and we showed that. So I’m real pleased with obviously that second half and to be honest with you the entire game we were pretty good."
Forward Fanendo Adi, who scored in his seventh straight match at Providence Park going back to the 2016 season, also thinks that the team’s ability to support each other is going a long way to keeping their strong start running smoothly. Held off the score sheet in the first half, Adi kept working hard and found a goal in the 88th minute.
“[Diego] Chara told me two, three times, ‘Adi, don’t worry. The chances will come,’” said Adi after the match. “That’s the unity that I talk about on the pitch. You have other players telling you that the chances are going to come, don’t worry. We’re trying to motivate each other going into the game.”
Couple that team self-belief with a few other intangibles and the club could be set to continue their strong play.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” said Valeri of their recent success. “There’s not only one reason. It’s a little bit of luck and we’re a strong team. We’re defending, in my view, much better without the ball. We have quality, and we have depth to be honest.
“Everybody is adapting quickly, and obviously, we expect to be a strong team.”
Though the team's start to the season has been solid, Porter knows there's much more work to be done in the months ahead.
"The whole season is what matters . . . We want to have a good start, a good middle and a good finish to the end of season. We are going to take every game as it comes. I told the guys before the game I’m probably going to use the word hunger probably 10,000 times this year because for me as good as we are we have maintain that hunger and we have to show up every single day.
"I thought they left it all out on the field today and that’s what it takes to win in this league. You can’t take a night off. It comes down to winning on the field that day and fighting, as simple as it sounds that’s the difference. And I love our team’s mentality so far this year.”