BY MIKE DONOVAN
In Portland’s first two seasons in the MLS, the Timbers longest unbeaten run was five games. But just one-third of the way into head coach Caleb Porter’s first season, his squad is rewriting the record book.
The club has already doubled their longest unbeaten streak in MLS having gone ten matches in a row without a defeat. Portland’s streak is also the longest in MLS this season.
Six times during the streak the Timbers have fallen behind, yet the club continues to get results.
“This team continues to do things that amaze me,” Porter said. “We’ve gone ten games without a loss, and throughout those ten games we’ve come from behind, some games by two goals.”
The streak has lifted the Timbers into the upper echelons of the Western Conference, an unfamiliar place for a club that failed to make the postseason in its first two seasons in MLS. After an offseason marked change, both with the coach and players on the field, 2013 has seen a team that has taken on a never-say-die attitude.
“We have a pretty special aura in our team right now,” Porter said. ”This team just has that kind of never quit, refuse to lose (mentality). And you hope you can harness it in a team, and some teams never have it, this team has it.”
For a team that has had road struggles since debuting in 2011, the streak has been a revelation. More than half of the games (six) during the streak have been played away from Jeld-Wen Field. In fact, the six road results already best last season’s mark when Portland lost 12 of their 17 away matches.
Porter has also been impresses that his club is able to continue the streak on days when they are not firing on all cylinders.
“In the end, we’re getting results on days where we’re not at our best. That’s what you want,” Porter said. “That’s the mark of a good team. That’s the mark of a winning team.”
VALENCIA GETS A BOOST
Despite playing just 54 minutes of league action this season, Jose Adolfo Valencia has provided two plays that have helped the Timbers have their successful start.
The first was his cross against the New York Red Bulls that resulted in a Jamison Olave own goal and salvaged a draw in the club’s season opener. The second occurred Saturday when Valencia put home his first career MLS goal that gave Portland a tie against Cascadia rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps.
While Valencia has made just four appearances for the club, Porter says that is only because Valencia is type of player to insert when the club is “chasing games” and Portland hasn’t needed to chase many games this season.
“He gets rewarded for his hard work that he’s done at training,” Porter said. ”We understand his talent. We are very excited about his future.”
The son of former MetroStar Adolfo Valencia, Valencia (whose nickname is El Trencito) is just 21-years old and has recovered nicely from knee surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season. His game-tying goal against the Whitecaps was the first of what Porter hopes, is many for the Colombian.
“It gives us even more optimism for his future at the club,” Porter said.
McKENZIE SIGNS WITH TIMBERS
Portland announced Wednesday that the club had reached agreement with former Chivas USA player, Rauwshan McKenzie. McKenzie provides the club with much-needed centerback after injuries, suspensions, and international callups have left the Timbers reeling at the position.
McKenzie was originally drafted by Kansas City in 2008 and has played 31 league matches for three different MLS clubs. To make room for McKenzie on the roster, the club released Ryan Kawulok. Kawulok, who played his college soccer at the University of Portland, played in 14 reserve matches for the club, but never featured in a league match.