Portland Timbers pledge to attack "patiently" as usual despite aggregate lead … – MLSsoccer.com
FRISCO, Texas – The Portland Timbers arrived at Toyota Stadium on a cold, wind-blown Saturday afternoon for their first and only training session here before the deciding leg of the Western Conference Championship of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Players and coaches filed off their charter bus bundled tightly in green and gold team garb, quickly walked around the stadium’s main pitch before a brisk and light session on one of the facility’s training fields. All said, about an hour’s time passed before they hustled back onto the bus and returned to the team hotel.
The biting cold aside, they’ve been here before: The Timbers were one of the league’s most successful road teams in 2015, finishing tied for the most wins and racking up a 7-8-2 record.
No need to overthink it.
“We’re going to keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said this week. “I know [the press] want me to come up with these great answers this week, but I’m going to come up with the same answers that I’ve been saying for the last seven games.
“Nothing is going to change.”
If that is in fact true, the Timbers will be celebrating their first trip to MLS Cup come Sunday night. That statement alone is the reason for Portland’s road success, having won their last four matches away from their Providence Park home and six of their last seven overall. That includes a 5-2 drubbing of the LA Galaxy on Oct. 18 at StubHub Center, and a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Nov. 8 to clinch that conference semifinal series.
For Porter, it’s as simple as maintaining the same approach, wherever the game may be.
“There’s this fallacy sometimes that you’re either playing a defensive game or an attacking game, and good teams play a balanced game,” Porter said after Saturday’s training session. “And that’s what we’ve been doing, and that’s what we’re going to do in this game. We’re certainly not going to sit back, and we’re certainly not going to be reckless going forward.”
That would fly in the fact of conventional wisdom of coming into this game showing a bit more conservatism than normal to protect a two-goal advantage. Porter said they only need to look at their last game at Toyota Park – a 4-1 FC Dallas win on July 25 – as a reminder of why conventional wisdom would be incorrect, and what happens when they don’t play their game.
“They are an attacking team, and they can create a lot at home, and we know they are a good team,” said midfielder Diego Valeri, who is set to return to the lineup after sitting out Leg 1 due to yellow-card accumulation. “If we think too much on that two-goal lead, we’ve made a mistake. We have to think in the 90 minutes and in that 90 minutes to dominate the game with the ball.”
That’s been more the norm for Portland of late, riding a proactive style to a seven-game unbeaten streak in which they’ve scored 17 goals while conceding just six. Even that 4-1 loss to Dallas was an outlier, having lost just once in their previous five matches against them with three wins in that span. Since Porter took over ahead of the 2013 season, Portland are 5-2-2 against Dallas.
“They’re going to be looking for a 2-0 win, no mystery there,” Porter said. “But to do that they have to keep us from scoring, and if we do score, then they need three to push overtime, and if we score two they need five. So the worst thing we could do is sit back and try to hang on. We’re going to look to score goals, but we’re not going to do it in a reckless way, we’ll do it in a very patient way and again it’s just exactly what we’ve been doing home and away.”
That’s not to say, however, that Portland are overconfident despite their run of form, history and goal advantage.
“It’s psychology 101, right?” Porter said. “The guys are professional. You don’t need to be worried about overconfidence at this level. I think it’s something that’s played up really more than it is a reality. The guys know very well what Dallas is capable of, what they’ve done at home. We know firsthand; we’ve felt it.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.