Club begins to gel as schedule brings two San Jose matches

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Ryan Johnson scores the first of his goals in last week's  2-0 Portland Timbers win at home over the Houston Dynamo.When the Portland Timbers won 2-0 against the Houston Dynamo and celebrated their first victory of the season, it was proof of everything coach Caleb Porter has been saying for weeks: The side was playing well even if the results had not showed it.

“It’s big,” Porter says. “It reinforces the hard work we’ve done in training, and it reinforces that we have a very good team.”

Still, it is just one victory. And while it put the Timbers (1-1-3, six points) back in the thick of things in the MLS Western Conference, Portland will have to duplicate the performance if it wants to be a playoff contender.

“We have to do it again and again and again,” Porter says. “We have 29 games left. It doesn’t matter unless we keep doing it.”

Throughout the first five matches, the Timbers have grown more cohesive.

“We’re starting to realize each other’s tendencies more and more,” midfielder Jack Jewsbury says. “Through the early part of the season, you’re going to see some of those growing pains. But, as you saw (Saturday), the whole team played well.”

At times during the first four matches, it felt to many of the players as if the club was not being rewarded.

“We’ve worked really hard to progress quickly with a lot of new players in the club,” defender Michael Harrington says. “We felt like we’ve been progressing quicker than the results have shown, and we’re all just elated that it came to fruition (on Saturday), and we got those three points.”

Says striker Ryan Johnson: “We worked really hard just to get the ties.”

During the next two weeks, Portland will face the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday at home and on April 21 in San Jose. The Earthquakes had the league’s best regular-season record last year, and striker Chris Wondolowski tied the MLS record for goals scored (27).

“They’re a good side,” Harrington says. “We’re going to have to focus on (Wondolowski) and shut him down. We’re excited for the challenge of pushing us up (in the standings) and bumping them down.”

Porter says that playing the Earthquakes back-to-back won’t affect how the Timbers prepare.

Every game “we’re getting better at something,” Timbers striker Darlington Nagbe says.

Jewsbury says the Timbers mostly need to be more consistent.

“Consistency is something you continue to get throughout the year,” he says.

Johnson says that would translate into more wins.

“We’re up there at the top of the league with shots, we’re up there with possession, we’re up there with crosses,” he says. “All those little detail things, we’re at the top of the league. As long as we keep doing those things and keep knowing our identity as a team, we’ll do fine.”

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