Winless in their first 5, Timbers now have won 6 straight
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Back on April 8 it seemed nothing was going right for the Portland Timbers.
In his debut season as an MLS coach, Giovanni Savarese's first five matches - all on the road - didn't include a single victory. He was clearly anxious to get back home after a 3-2 loss at Orlando City.
''They've been traveling five games away. At the end we were tired. It was a long trip. The weather from snow to hot and you can see at the end the guys were breaking down all over the place because it has been a long five games away,'' Savarese said at the time. ''But as I said, I take full responsibility for this defeat.''
Portland had collected just two overall points in their first five games. The long road trip to start the season was caused by construction at Providence Park.
But once the Timbers got home, their season turned around quickly. Even dramatically. Since that loss in Florida, they've won six straight, capped by a 3-2 victory at Colorado last weekend. On Saturday, they'll host the LA Galaxy.
The six consecutive wins is a club record, and matches Orlando's streak for the longest this season. It also matches the second-longest winning streak in the league since 2000 - when MLS started recording draws. Sporting Kansas City won seven straight in 2012.
Winning sure makes the job easier for everyone.
''The victories, of course, allow you to be able to correct things in a positive way, and that's very good,'' Savarese said. ''But we have to stay focused that it's one match at a time.''
Savarese coached the New York Cosmos for five seasons before coming to the Timbers in December. He replaced Caleb Porter, who led the team to the 2015 MLS Cup title before unexpectedly parting ways with the Timbers after last season.
Reigning league MVP Diego Valeri, who shares the team lead with five goals this season, said the team doesn't focus on streaks, bad or good.
''We don't think about the past. I think that's key,'' Valeri said. ''Think about the next game and prepare well and perform for 90 minutes and improving on things that will make us better.''
MATCH OF THE WEEK: The Columbus Crew face Toronto FC in a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference championship. The Reds advanced to the MLS Cup final with a 1-0 victory on aggregate.
This season, the Crew haven't been scored on in a club-record 495 minutes, capped by last Sunday's 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City. It was the fifth straight shutout for Crew goalkeeper Zach Steffen.
Meanwhile, the league's reigning champions are struggling with a 3-7-1 record this season, and they're coming off a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas. But they've also been dealing with an unusual number of injuries.
''There's a lot of games left, we have a great team, a team that can win on many days but the reality is we are letting games slip away from us too consistently,'' Reds captain Michael Bradley said. ''We have to respond in a big way now in this next stretch.''
This is the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Crew won the first one 2-0 in Toronto.
It was the Uruguayan midfielder's first three-goal game in MLS.
US SOCCER BECKONS: Philadelphia Union sporting director Earnie Stewart will assume the new role of general manager for the U.S. men's national team, according to various reports.
One of his first duties will be to hire a new coach. Dave Sarachan has been interim coach since Bruce Arena stepped down following the Americans' failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia.
Stewart, who was born in the Netherlands, has been with the Union for the past three seasons after serving as an executive for a pair of Dutch clubs.
A former midfielder, he made 101 appearances for the U.S. team. He also played for D.C. United as well as several Dutch teams.