After a US Open Cup Loss, Timbers Look Towards the MLS
Needless to say, the Portland Timbers‘ sophomore season in the MLS has not gone according to plan. After a hot start on opening night against the Philadelphia Union to the tune of a 3-1 victory in front of a raucous JELD-WEN crowd, the Timbers were only able to put together two other victories in two-and-a-half months, bringing their season record to 3-5-4.
After suffering through the rest of March and April, Portland seemed to be hitting their stride once again as they trounced through may without a loss in MLS play, a month that also included a 2-1 victory over the Chicago fire at home; that was until the amateur team Cal FC came to play.
Trying to advance in US Open Cup play, the Timbers suffered a heart-breaking and confidence shattering loss to Cal FC, an amateur team reveling at the shot just to play a top-tier MLS team like the Timbers.
Though the Timbers had more than enough opportunities to convert a depressing loss into a clash with rival Seattle, they could not find an ounce of luck as Cal FC forward and former Real Salt Lake player Artur Aghasyan chipped a shot just out of the range of Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins in the 5th minute of extra time.
The Timbers failed to make the most of the numerous opportunities they had, one of which included a penalty shot that sailed over the goalposts and gave Cal FC another breath of life.
Confidence rattled, here are 5 things that can get the Timbers back on track as they seek their first MLS playoff appearance:
Keep Momentum From MLS May Going
Regardless of the US Open Cup result, the Timbers must realize that they were making great strides in the MLS prior to losing to Cal FC. The momentum was pulsating through every player and was giving hope to a fan-base that has been so crucial to their team’s success.
Realizing that they still have not been defeated in an entire month in MLS play will be crucial for the Timbers. Though the US Open Cup result does sting a little, those are still not the players or teams that you will be facing for the rest of the season.
Look back on the motivation and confidence that was building throughout MLS play in May, translate that to future actions, and all should be fine at JELD-WEN.
Beat the LA Galaxy
Beating one of the perennially best teams in any league is often times a great remedy after losing a game such as the Timbers did to Cal FC, and they will get just that chance on June 17th as they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Galaxy.
Though the Galaxy have surely not had the year they were anticipating either (they currently sit in last in the Western Conference, two spots behind Portland – most likely due to all the national teams gearing up for action), anytime you can notch a win against the Galaxy is a big victory for any MLS club.
A win against the Galaxy keeps Portland’s undefeated MLS streak alive and propels them into the next part of the MLS season on a great foot.
Handle the Seattle Sounders FC at Home
If all goes well (or not) against the Los Angeles Galaxy, a win against Portland’s rival Seattle would shoot their confidence right through the roof, especially when the win would be in front of jam-packed JELD-WEN field.
The Sounders, coming off a 5-1 victory in their US Open Cup match, are once again flying high atop the best in the MLS and are looking to finally take the MLS Cup Trophy back home to Seattle.
All the more reason for the Timbers and the Timber’s Army to feel ravenous at this upcoming opportunity to knock Seattle off their high-horse.
Not only would this give Portland clever bragging rights all along the Northwest, it would give them added momentum heading towards the mid-season MLS mark.
Use JELD-WEN to Their Advantage
So far, JELD-WEN field has proven very beneficial to a young Timbers squad. The club has collected all three of its wins at home, and will look to the intense atmosphere provide just as big a home-field advantage throughout the rest of the season.
Although they will be away for two of their three games in June, using JELD-WEN as an advantage to their play will be crucial in forgetting what happened against Cal FC.
If the fans are able to disregard this game as a fluke and a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, then Timbers nation will be able to rally once again.
If, however, Timbers nation dwells on this loss and harps on the team, the Timbers may start to slide more than anticipated.
JELD-WEN must stay active and boisterous, not only to uphold its reputation as one of the best sporting venues, but also because the Timbers need that energy to
Win the month of June
I know it is probably getting a little redundant right now, but it is so crucial to Portland’s success that it needs to be mentioned again but in a different light.
The Timbers must find a way to not only tie AT LEAST two games in the month of June, they must come away with AT LEAST two wins in order to get back on track and wash the bad taste of Cal FC out of their mouths.
Winning two games would put Portland right back in the thick of things and prove to the MLS nation that the way they started off the season and their game against Cal FC does not characterize who they are as a team.
Whether those wins come against Chicago and Seattle, LA and Seattle, or Seattle and LA is another completely different monster (though I believe they have the best chance at beating LA and Seattle, especially with the game against Seattle being played in JELD-WEN.
Fret not Timbers fans, there is still much soccer to be played. While the lost against Cal FC was a heart-breaker, it does not define who Portland is as a soccer team and program.
Achieving one, two, three, or all of these goals would be more than enough to mitigate the harm the US Open Cup has caused Portland’s confidence.
As the MLS season progresses, look for the Timbers to continue the trend of playing well against MLS teams and resurrect themselves as they look towards their first MLS playoff appearance.
And, Timbers fans, always remember…Rose City ‘Til I Die