Desperate for a turnaround as their 12-match season-opening road swing continues, the Portland Timbers look for better things Saturday at FC Dallas.
The Timbers (0-4-1) are on this extended tour of MLS since Providence Park is undergoing renovations to increase seating capacity. While Portland also started out with only two points in its first five matches last season before regrouping to make the playoffs and reach the MLS Cup final, there is some urgency to at least take a point in Dallas.
Giovanni Savarese has seen his club allow 15 goals, with Portland’s minus-10 goal difference the worst in MLS. The Timbers are last in the Western Conference, behind Vancouver on goal difference, and it seems likely Savarese will opt for a five-man back line to help stabilize his team.
“It’s tough because you think about all the work you’ve been doing,” Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala told The Oregonian. “When things are not going your way, especially in this period when we are conceding a lot of goals and we’re not playing well, it’s hard. The thing is just to keep faith and not forget that we are good players, that we are good enough to do better than what we are doing right now.”
The Timbers have scored two goals in their last four matches after opening the season with a 3-3 draw at Colorado and have allowed at least two in all five contests. Midfielder Diego Valeri has factored in all four goals Timbers players have scored, netting one and assisting on three.
FC Dallas (3-2-1) is back home after splitting a two-game road trip that concluded with a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia last Saturday. Reto Ziegler staked Dallas to a lead in the 10th minute, but Luchi Gonzalez watched his team crumble late as they conceded both goals after the 84th minute.
The Toros have been solid at home in the early going, taking seven of a possible nine points while conceding just two goals.
“They’re a good team and can rebound and beat any team in the league, so we need to take advantage of this time and get three points,” midfielder Ryan Hollingshead said about playing the struggling Timbers.
FC Dallas is also looking to avenge a 2-1 home loss to Portland in the first round of last year’s postseason in which Valeri had a brace on either side of halftime. The Timbers were also able to hang on despite playing the final 32 minutes without Mabiala after he was shown a direct red card.
The teams played to draws in both regular-season meetings, including a 1-1 deadlock in Dallas as Roland Lamah and Sebastian Blanco traded goals 11 minutes apart around intermission. Portland also finished with 10 men in that game after Lawrence Olum got his second yellow card in the 75th minute.
(Diego Valeri photo courtesy Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)