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Mind-set fuels Timbers' winning ways

Coach's vision and consistency breed success in players


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Defender Jack Jewsbury says the Portland Timbers success stems from consistency in training this season under first-year coach Caleb Porter.Defender Jack Jewsbury and his teammates kept their mouths shut.

“Some people probably would’ve laughed at us,” he says.

They probably aren’t laughing now.

Jewsbury says the Timbers didn’t want to talk about one of their goals: to post the best regular-season record in MLS.

“From the get-go, this staff and this group has had high aspirations,” he says.

Halfway through the season, the Timbers are in a race for No. 1, with 30 points in 17 games. Real Salt Lake also is at 30 through 17 matches. FC Dallas has 29 points in 16 games, and Eastern Conference leader Montreal has 29 points through 14 outings.

How have the Timbers, who finished with 34 points last season, turned things around so dramatically?

Consistency in training, is a big reason, Jewsbury says.

“It carries over into the game,” he says. “This team has an unbelievable mentality of what we’re going to do, whether it’s home or on the road, what our roles are.”

Defender Ryan Miller credits first-year coach Caleb Porter from NCAA powerhouse University of Akron.

“He brings a winning philosophy,” Miller says. “He knows how to put in the right players who fit his system, how to tweak the system to get the most out of guys. He’s a winner. You see it everywhere he goes.”

Porter says technical director Gavin Wilkinson “is as much a part of this as I am. He’s been instrumental. He had a vision, along with (owner) Merritt (Paulson) of how they wanted the club to go, the standards and brand of soccer they wanted.

“I was hired to execute the blueprint.”

The roster depth built by Wilkinson has helped the Timbers get through a busy stretch, and Miller says everyone in the locker room “feels valuable.”

That breeds even more confidence, Miller says, noting that “the (reserve) guys who have come in have done well. I wouldn’t call it a surprise, because we expect to win, but it’s been nice.”

Portland takes a 15-game MLS unbeaten streak into the July 7 game at Columbus.

“This team believes they’re the best in the league,” Porter says, “and can be a realistic contender for trophies.”