By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- After getting a weekend off, the Timbers now enter a two-week stretch that will see them play four league matches and a US Open Cup match.
Portland enters this Saturday’s match at Chicago on a 11-game unbeaten streak in league play.
“(The) group is very confident,” Jack Jewsbury said. We know we have a tough few weeks coming up. This weekend, we had a good opportunity to recharge, get a few days off. But now it’s time to come back to work and really get our mind right.”
The club currently finds itself in the thick of the Western Conference race, lying in third place with 22 points.
“You always want to be aware of where you stand,” head coach Caleb Porter said. “The way I look at the next four games, we’ve got the Fire and then we’ve got three very important Western Conference games where we are playing against three teams that are in the top five. So it’s important that we keep moving up the table.”
While the Timbers will be hosting current Western Conference leader, FC Dallas, the team is doing its best not to look beyond the Fire, who currently sit with the third-fewest points in MLS. For the first time all season, however, the Fire are coming off consecutive games without a loss.
“We definitely keep in an eye on what goes on around us in the conference, in the league,” Jewsbury said. “But at the end of the day, it is one game at a time and I think we’ve done very well when we’ve done that.”
A draw or win on Saturday would give the Timbers an eight-game unbeaten streak on the road, stretching back to 2012. The eight-game streak would match the fifth-longest road unbeaten streak in MLS history with the DC United of 2006. FC Dallas holds the MLS record for longest road unbeaten streak with 12 straight away wins or draws in 2010.
PIQUIONNE OPENS THE FLOODGATES
Frederic Piquionne’s four goals were the major story after last week’s 5-1 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads in the 3rd round of the US Open Cup. The goals were Piquionne’s first tallies since arriving in Portland during the preseason.
“We knew he was capable of scoring goals, we saw his quality in training,” Porter said. “It was a matter of time for him to get a goal and to get on a run. We’re real happy that he’s gotten his goals and hopefully he didn’t use them all up in that one game.”
Getting the Martinique international on the scoresheet for the first time this season was important for the Timbers as they will be without Ryan Johnson for Saturday’s game. Johnson is out on international duty with his native Jamaica.
“With Ryan Johnson out with the Jamaican National Team, Freddy is going to be the guy,” Porter said. “We’re focused on Chicago, and Piquionne will be in there for that game.”
Piquionne became the first MLS-era Timber to score three or more goals in a competitive match and became just the second player since the club’s founding in 1975 to tally four goals in a single match.
“For a striker it’s a lot about confidence and getting into a rhythm and get in a flow,” Porter said. “I think he’s opened the floodgates now and we’re hoping we see an even more confident player in the Chicago game.”
INTERNATIONAL CALL-UPS LEAVE TIMBERS SHORT-HANDED
Portland will be missing four starters for the Chicago match, due to international call-ups. Johnson and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts will be in uniform for Jamaica’s World Cup qualifiers, while Futty Danso is heading home to Gambia, as the Scorpions take on Ivory Coast in a World Cup Qualifier.
Rodney Wallace, who is enjoying the best season of his career, will miss the next three Timbers games while playing for Costa Rica. Despite the loss of four key players, the Timbers feel confident with the depth of their team.
“As a team we feel very confident about where we’re at and whoever steps into the field knows their role,” Jewsbury said.
While Portland hasn’t revealed what their starting lineup will be for Saturday’s game, Milos Kocic is certainly the frontrunner to start at goalkeeper in place of Ricketts. Kocic was in the net for the Timbers 5-1 victory over the Wilmington Hammerheads and started 27 games for Toronto FC in 2012.