PORTLAND, Ore. – Through six games this season, the Portland Timbers have amassed 13 points (over 2.1 points per game) and an enviable 4-1-1 record.
While the team faces what head coach Caleb Porter described on Wednesday as “a good measuring stick to see where we're at” in Saturday's opponent Sporting Kansas City, the Timbers have so far impressed with the manner in which they've accumulated those 13 points.
So far this season, the Timbers lead MLS in goals scored with 16, good for an average of 2.67 goals per game. Even more remarkably, those 16 goals have been scored by eight different players, a league high.
Leading the goal-scoring pack are the usual suspects – forward Fanendo Adi and midfielder Diego Valeri – who have each scored five goals this season. Porter notes that this level of production from the team's two most explosive goal-scorers is not only expected, but essential to the team's success.
“You know you're going to get goals out of Valeri and Adi; you need goals out of your big players,” he said, adding: “It's also great to get goals from the two guys you expect the majority of the goals to come from.”
But it's those six other goal-scorers who point to a more cohesive and diverse attack. That players as different as defenders Roy Miller and Lawrence Olum and midfielders Diego Chara and David Guzmán have gotten on the stat sheet this season – and in Miller's case, for the first time in his long MLS career – suggests a greater diversity of goal-scoring opportunities.
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“Going back to when we performed well in ’15 and ’13, those two years in particular, the goals came in different positions and different guys,” said Porter. “It’s great to get [Darlington] Nagbe his first. I think that will open the floodgates, more to come. I know [Sebastian] Blanco is going to continue to chip in. He just needs his first, [which will come]. It’s great to get goals from a number of different positions.
Though Blanco hasn’t scored yet, he’s tied for second on the team in assists (two) and is one of eight different players on the squad who have provided an assist in 2017—also a league high.
This weekend, however, the team will face its sternest test yet with the league's most potent attacking team will meeting one of its stingiest defenses when Sporting Kansas City visits Providence Park on Saturday (7:30p.m. PT, ROOT Sports).
Through its first five matches this season, Sporting Kansas City has yet to lose a game, conceding a mere two goals in that span.
“They come on the road, they grind. It's defense first for sure,” said Porter. “They get behind the ball and they make it difficult for you to break them down and they wait for you to make a mistake.”
But despite all the accolades his team's attack has earned so far this year, Porter still believes that this team is a work in progress. It's one, he says, whose best performances are still ahead of it.
“There's a lot of little areas that we need to improve in even though we're winning games. We don't think everything's perfect – nowhere near,” he said. “We want to be rolling at the end of the year and hitting our stride and we've got a lot of games to do that.”