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For Timbers, it's home field disadvantage

Porter dismayed as team misses first goal in 12 of 17 matches


Under former coach John Spencer, the Portland Timbers were dominant at home and a catastrophe on the road.

This season, under second-year coach Caleb Porter, the Timbers have shown an ability to get results on the road, but time and again other sides have come onto Portland’s home pitch and stolen points.

The Timbers are just 1-2-7 at Providence Park in 2014.

Why are the Timbers struggling so much in Portland? Have the chants of the Timbers Army lost their catchiness? Did the former name of the stadium (Jeld-Wen Field) simply inspire better performances?

Porter says much of the reason is that opposing teams respect Portland so much that they are playing for draws. He also maintains that the Timbers have dominated the majority of the matches, regardless of the result.

“If you’ve watched all the games, we’re still dominating the games,” Porter says. “A lot of it is teams respect us more, so they’re kind of adopting a negative tactic because, obviously, running with us at home is difficult.

“But we haven’t been getting points at home and that’s disappointing. And I take

responsibility.”

Several times this year, Portland has entered a match knowing if they won, they would move above the red line as one of the top five sides in the MLS Western Conference playoff race. Each time the Timbers have had that opportunity, they’ve stumbled.

The match last Friday against Sporting Kansas City was another one of those matches. Once again, the lights shined too brightly for Portland, and the Timbers lost 1-0. Portland (4-5-8, 20 points going into the 8 p.m. Friday match at the Los Angeles Galaxy) has yet to be above the red line this season.

“It’s disappointing,” Porter said. “We wanted to be above the red line, and if we had won we would’ve been in third place. But, that’s the other side of this. With 17 games left, we’re still left with an opportunity (to make the playoffs).”

Portland and Los Angeles (5-3-5, 20 points) are tied for sixth in the MLS West. Vancouver (5-3-7, 22 points) is fifth. The second-place West teams, Colorado and Real Salt Lake, aren’t far away, both with 25 points.

In its first 17 league matches, Portland has conceded the first goal a whopping 12 times. That statistic thoroughly disgusts Porter.

“When you concede early and chase the game, you greatly reduce your chances of winning,” Porter says. “In every league in the world, when you score first, the percentages of winning or tying is extremely high. Your percentages of winning or tying when you concede the first goal are very low. We’ve put ourselves in a position where we’ve conceded the first goal far too many times. And usually it’s out of a play that should never happen.”

To their credit, the Timbers have been able to salvage a draw so many times because they possess a never-say-die attitude. But that isn’t a strategy for success.

“We can’t keep relying on operation coming from behind,” Porter says. “We’ve pulled out a lot of them which is pretty amazing. It shows that this team has spirit. It shows that we have a good attacking group. But you’re going to fall short if you put yourself in that position as many times as we have.

“We need to start getting the first goal. We’ve got to stop conceding the first goal.”