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Porter: Timbers now have 'true team'

by: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER/PORTLAND TIMBERS - New coach Caleb Porter says the Portland Timbers are making progress as their third MLS season approaches.The question Monday for midfielder-defender Jack Jewsbury was not whether the Portland Timbers have accepted new coach Caleb Porter’s possession-based system.

“Everybody has bought into the system and how we’re going to play this year,” Jewsbury said. “It’s more about how we’re going to adapt, because it’s different from some of the things we’ve done in the past. There’s going to be some kinks that need to be worked out. In these first couple of (preseason) games, you hope there’s some bright spots.”

On Tuesday, playing the Colorado Rapids in Tucson, Ariz., the Timbers had many bright spots. They were solid on defense and exciting on offense in a 3-1 win.

“There were a lot of positives,” Porter said. “We wanted some of the things that we’ve been working on in training to carry over into the game. And we wanted to use a game to measure ourselves against another team and see how we stack up.

“We performed pretty well, but we also got a result and that’s not bad either, especially when you’re trying to create a winning culture. If you look at all those factors, there were more positives than negatives.”

Of course, the Timbers have always shined in the preseason, compiling a 6-0-9 record over the previous two years, neither of which saw Portland make the MLS playoffs. Porter understands that preseason results carry only so much weight.

He was taciturn enough to

find problems even with a 3-1 victory.

“You’re not playing for points,” he said. “It’s a bit artificial with the environment. There’s no crowd. You have to take those things into account when evaluating your group. Certainly there are a lot of things we need to correct and work on.”

But Porter believes that this year’s crew has the ability to take good preseason results into the regular season.

“We’re a true team,” he said. “We have a lot of depth. We’re more solid than we were last year, deeper and more experienced.”

The Timbers will play three more times in Tucson, starting Friday against Sporting Kansas City. In all, Portland will have seven preseason games before the March 3 season opener at home against New York.

“It’s an evolution,” Porter said. “I’ve been very patient and expressed to the players that it’s not going to happen overnight. We make progress every day toward being a team that has the identity that we want.

“The nice thing is that we have time. We’ve taken a patient, methodical approach. We’re trying to be ready for March 3, not necessarily right now. There’s going to be some ups and downs. Perhaps there’s going to be some growing pains. For me, it’s about progress.”