Resurgent Timbers visit struggling Earthquakes

The Portland Timbers got off to a rocky start this season, going winless in their first five matches of 2018.

Then they finally played a couple of home games.

The Timbers beat Minnesota United in their home debut and followed that with a 3-0 win over previously undefeated New York City FC on April 22.

Now, after a week off, it’s back to the road as Portland plays at the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday in San Jose, Calif.

The Timbers (2-3-2) righted the ship at home, but coach Giovanni Savarese advised caution against a San Jose team that hasn’t won since the first game of the season.

“It’s important to understand that the New York City game is part of the past,” Savarese told mlssoccer.com. “It’s gone. Now, we have to be able to practice in a very professional way, being strong mentally, preparing ourselves the best possible way to understand that we’re going to play against a team that is difficult; a team that has some interesting players; a team that hasn’t been lucky in some games; a team that is desperate in looking for that win after so many matches.”

Portland is just 1-4-4 all time at Avaya Stadium, where the Timbers will seek their first road win since early September.

The Earthquakes (1-4-2) opened 2018 with a 3-2 home win over Minnesota United but have a loss to NYCFC and a draw with Houston at Avaya Stadium since then.

San Jose is coming off a 2-1 loss, their second straight, at Columbus on Saturday after surrendering an 84th-minute goal.

The Earthquakes are off to their worst start to a season in seven years.

“We have scored every game now,” Danny Hoesen, who scored the Quakes’ lone goal against the Crew, told Pro Soccer USA following the loss at Columbus. “It’s unfortunate that we concede goals, and most of the time it’s by our own mistakes. I don’t think there are a lot of teams that break us down, like combine around us and score. I think most of the time it’s one of us making a mistake.”

San Jose has used six different players on the back line in its back-to-back losses.

“We have to continue with the same concepts in general, but we are playing a new opponent with different strengths next week,” first-year coach Mikael Stahre said, according to the MLS website. “Now we will be playing at home after two tough away games against Orlando and Columbus in which we got two defeats. That is hard for the moment, but we have a great group of guys and a great mentality so hopefully we can work harder together and hopefully win really soon.”

Saturday is the beginning of a critical stretch for the Earthquakes, who are already five points below the playoff cutline in the Western Conference. Four of their next five matches are against conference foes, and they don’t play at home again until June 9.