When the Portland Timbers faced the Houston Dynamo last month on the road, they looked sluggish and overmatched as the Dynamo posted a lopsided 3-1 victory.

What a difference a month makes.

Portland entered Saturday’s rematch with Houston having won its last four games across all competitions and the Timbers’ confidence shined through on the field as they beat the Dynamo (5-6-5, 20 points) 2-0 in front of 21,144 fans at Providence Park.

The Timbers (7-5-4, 25 points) have not lost in their last five games and are now riding a four-game winning streak in MLS play, the longest winning streak in their short MLS history.  

With the win, the Timbers jumped into third place in the Western Conference standings. 

“Overall, what you want as a coach and what you want in a club, certainly the winning clubs have it, is consistency,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “We’ve shown a lot of consistency in our performances, both sides of the ball, home and away, in the last four games, five games if you include the Open Cup.”

The Timbers put together some strong performances in the first two months of the season, but they just couldn’t seem to find the results. Portland quickly found themselves below the red line, unable to string together back-to-back wins and move up the standings. 

“There was something missing,” Porter said. “I don’t know what that was, whether it’s the finishing touch, a little bit of extra hunger, certainly we had some guys out during that time as well, but there was something missing. But the performances weren’t far off at all.”

After losing 3-1 to Houston in May, the Timbers went back on the road and fell 1-0 to Toronto FC. At that point, they were sitting in a tie for last place in the Western Conference standings and things were looking bleak.

But Porter addressed his team after the Toronto game and challenged them to turn things around. 

They haven’t lost a game since. 

“I challenged them that things needed to change, things needed to be better,” Porter said. “They stepped up.”

Portland’s win over Houston Saturday came just four days after they were forced to play a contentious and tiring 120-minute game against the Seattle Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup.

The short turnaround convinced Porter to make a few changes to his starting lineup Saturday, but Portland didn’t miss a beat.

“We have 17, 18 guys that have been in the rotation over the last five games and they’ve all gotten the job done,” Porter said. “We have a group right now that’s very hungry and bought in and they know that I trust them.”

Timbers defender Jorge Villafana sent a beautiful left-footed free kick into the box for Maximiliano Urruti in the 34th minute and Urruti headed-home the game-winning goal.

Then, in the 60th minute, Houston defender David Horst pulled down Timbers center back Norberto Paparatto in the box on a corner kick and referee Baldomero Toledo pointed to the spot. Timbers forward Gaston Fernandez stepped up and put the penalty kick into the back of the net to give Portland the 2-0 lead and put the game out of reach.

“It feels good, obviously,” said Timbers captain Will Johnson about the result. “Confidence is high, guys are playing well. Defense is getting shutouts and the attackers are finding enough goals to win us games.”

Houston had chances to score, but things just seemed to fall Portland’s way.

Dynamo defender Raul Rodriguez put the ball into the net off a corner kick in the 15th minute, but the goal was called back. Replays showed Villafana falling down after making contact with Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark, but the call could have gone either way.

The Dynamo’s best chance to score came in the 84th minute when Clark sent a close-range bicycle kick off the crossbar.

For the most part, though, Portland’s back line, which had immense difficulty in Houston in May, limited the Dynamo’s chances. Houston took just one shot on goal in the game. 

The Timbers have posted an impressive seven clean sheets in 16 games this season. 

The schedule won’t get any easier for the Timbers. They will now head to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy Wednesday as they embark on a stretch of four games in 12 days. 

“We need to continue to perform like we have been in each game,” Porter said. “It doesn’t get any easier.”

— Jamie Goldberg | [email protected]

503-853-3761 | @jamiebgoldberg

– Click Here To Visit Article Source