Portland Timbers hope to rebound on road after disappointing results in back-to-back gamesThe Oregonian — Jamie Goldberg The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.
May 18--When Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter first scanned his club's 2017 MLS schedule earlier this year, he immediately noticed the stretch of games from April 29 to May 27.
It was just one of just two times in the 2017 season that Portland was scheduled to play four of five games in a row on the road, and three of the five teams that the Timbers were set to face during that span had made runs in the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
"We knew this stretch would be difficult with four of five on the road," Porter said.
The stretch of games has turned out to be just as difficult for the Timbers as Porter predicted.
After earning a solid draw at FC Dallas on April 29, the Timbers had their worst performance of the season at San Jose on May 6 as they lost 3-0. Portland then conceded 70 percent of possession as it played Atlanta United to a disappointing draw in their lone home game of the stretch last week. After a draw and a loss in their last two games, the Timbers (5-3-3, 18 points) dropped from first to fourth place in the Western Conference standings.
Now, the Timbers must go on the road for back-to-back games and try to pick up wins as they look to rebound from the recent poor results.
"In the last couple of games, we couldn't do what we wanted," Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri said. "We need to take care of the ball a little bit more to be more dominating in the game and to be more in control. Then, obviously, we need to (take advantage) of our chances."
Things won't get easier for the Timbers as they make a long trip to face the Montreal Impact Saturday before traveling to Seattle on May 27. But the club is expected to get a boost in its attack in the next two games.
After missing two-straight matches with a hamstring injury, Timbers left winger Darlington Nagbe is expected to return to the lineup in Montreal Saturday. Barring a surprise injury or change, the Timbers could start their top 11 for the first time since opening day when they play the Impact.
"Our possession will go up 10-20 percent immediately with one player on the field," Porter said. "Darlington will help our possession a lot and that helps you control the game with the ball. That's going to really be a nice boost for our team. We're starting to get the spokes in the wheel back together."
With their top group back on the field, Porter is hoping that his club can put in a complete 90-minute performance on both sides of the ball in Montreal.
The Timbers, who are tied for the league-lead in goals with 21 this season, have netted just one goal in the last two games as they've dealt with injuries in the attack. Portland, which has conceded 16 goals this season, had a poor defensive outing in San Jose, but put in a much better performance on defense against Atlanta last week.
"Moving into this game, can we defend like we did last game and connect better once we win the ball so we're not defending quite as much?" Porter said. "If we do that, I think we're going to have a positive result."
-- Jamie Goldberg -- email@example.com
503-853-3761 -- @jamiebgoldberg
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