Playing at home versus on the road seems to make all the difference for both the Columbus Crew and the Portland Timbers.
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The Crew look for their first win as the visiting team and the Timbers try to keep their perfect record at JELD-WEN Field intact when the teams meet Saturday night.
Columbus is 3-0-2 at home this season but hasn’t been able to find the same recipe for success on the road. The Crew dropped to 0-2-2 away from Columbus and saw their seven-game unbeaten streak come to an end with a 3-0 loss at San Jose last Saturday.
"The most important thing on the road is not the physical side – it’s mentally," coach Robert Warzycha told the Crew’s official website. "We have to be stronger mentally to play away games. It’s a long season. To play away from home like we do at home is going to take a lot of time."
Before that loss, Columbus (3-2-4) had allowed just three goals during its 3-0-4 stretch. While Warzycha would have liked to see the streak continue, he knows his team stands to benefit from the loss in the long run.
"It opened everybody’s eyes," he said. "We can’t be that confident, thinking we’re that good. We have to keep working to improve."
The Crew, whose only other loss was a season-opening 3-1 defeat to D.C. on March 19, could be hard-pressed to bounce back in a matchup with a Portland team which owns a 4-0-0 home record.
The Timbers (4-2-3) have averaged 2.25 goals per match at JELD-WEN Field and have recorded consecutive shutouts there, defeating Real Salt Lake 1-0 on April 30 and Philadelphia 1-0 on May 6.
Like Columbus, Portland remains winless on the road and is coming off a 1-1 draw at Seattle last Saturday. Coach John Spencer, though, was pleased with the result.
"This may be the point that gets you into the playoffs," he said.
Midfielder Jack Jewsbury fed defender Mamadou "Futty" Danso for the equalizer in the 65th minute – his second goal in as many weeks.
Jewsbury, acquired from Kansas City in March, has an assist in three straight games and is tied for the team lead with four.
"Jack Jewsbury has been fantastic for us, that is why we brought him here and made him captain. He has lived up to everything and more," Spencer said.
While Portland is surely looking forward to getting back on its home field, maybe no one is more excited for Saturday’s tilt than Eric Brunner. The defender is facing Columbus for the first time since he was left unprotected by the Crew prior to last year’s expansion draft after two years with the club.
"Brunner’s probably one of the best center backs right now," fellow defenseman Jeremy Hall said. "I’m sure Columbus are kicking themselves. He’s going to have a big day against them. He knows those guys, the forwards he’s going to go up against, so we’re happy to have him on our side."