Timbers-Crew Preview

The Portland Timbers haven’t lost a match in nearly four months,

which includes an extended unbeaten run in MLS.

They’ll play their first league match in two weeks, and first

without three of their top scorers, as they visit the struggling

Columbus Crew on Sunday.

Portland’s last defeat came March 9 against Montreal in its

second match of the season, and it has gone 11-0-8 across all

competitions since. The Timbers (7-1-9) defeated Colorado 3-0 in

their last MLS contest June 23, as Rodney Wallace assisted on goals

by Frederic Piquionne and Will Johnson.

None of the three, though, will be available for Sunday’s match

due to international duty as they prepare for Gold Cup competition.

They also didn’t play in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Mexican side

Monarcas Morelia in an international friendly, as coach Caleb

Porter rested most of the team’s starters.

“The No. 1 priority was to get through the game healthy, to get

guys experience, to keep some guys ticking over and keep them

sharp,” Porter said. “I thought that if you are looking at all of

those things, it was mission accomplished.”

He also was impressed with how Portland carried the play despite

many of the regulars not being in the lineup.

“We were controlling the game and to me that was very pleasing,”

Porter said. “We were possessing the ball.”

The Timbers’ current run includes a 15-match unbeaten streak in

MLS play, and Porter will be looking for his team to extend that

streak against players he coached at Akron, where he won a national

championship in seven years before taking the Portland job after

the 2012 NCAA season.

Porter mentored current Crew players Chad Barson, Ben Speas and

Wil Trapp while with the Zips.

“Basically, I like to say everything about my game is a result

of Coach Porter,” Barson said. “The way we trained at Akron, the

mentality he teaches you how to approach life, how to approach

school, how to approach soccer; it’s really all from him. I see a

lot of him in myself. When I talk, when I play, just everything

really.”

The trio will attempt to put those personal emotions aside as

Columbus (5-8-5) looks to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat after

suffering a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday.

The Crew led 1-0 late on a goal in the 78th minute from Bernardo

Anor before the Galaxy converted a penalty kick in the 85th minute

and another PK in second minute of stoppage time.

Despite the losing streak, team assistant Brian Bliss believes

the Crew are headed in the right direction.

“It’s easy to say we’re not that far off, but we’re not,” Bliss

said. “Most of our games have been decided by one play on either

end of the field. We’ve been playing a decent brand of soccer. We

come out with the right amount of energy, but I think it comes down

to one play in the attacking end or the defensive end. That’s been

the margin of winning or losing.”

Portland has shut out its last three MLS opponents and held

Columbus scoreless in two of three all-time meetings.