PORTLAND — The Portland Timbers are about halfway through their 2010 soccer season.
But for their fans, time is running out.
After games today and Sunday at PGE Park, the Timbers will have only five home matches left on their schedule, with three of those coming during one week in late August.
So the team and its fans will be looking to make something special of this weekend’s matches at 7 p.m. today against the Miami FC Blues and at 6 p.m. Sunday against Mexico’s Club Deportivo Atlas.
Today’s match is a U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2 Pro League battle. Miami defeated Portland last month in Florida. The Timbers (5-5-5) are tied for third in the league’s USL Conference. Miami (2-4-8) sits fifth in the NASL Conference.
Sunday’s match is an exhibition against one of Mexico’s oldest clubs.
The back-to-back games mean the Timbers likely will use significantly different lineups each night.
“At this level, it’s just too hard on guys to play 90 (minutes) and 90 back to back and expect them to last a season,” Timbers assistant coach Amos Magee said.
The Timbers haven’t played for a week, a much-welcomed break that allowed the team to put in some serious training time. Magee said the focus was on improved finishing work around the goal.
“We continue to work on breaking teams down and converting chances on goal,” he said.
Rookie Bright Dike (Dee-kay) scored five goals over a recent three-game stretch, providing a needed boost from a forward line that has struggled to score this season. Magee said Dike’s recent success has raised the quality of play from other forwards in training sessions.
The Timbers also hope for a boost from the return of several players from injuries. One example is midfielder Johan Claesson, a regular in the 2009 lineup who has missed much of this season. Magee said Claesson will see action in at least one of the weekend matches.
Magee noted that this weekend might provide a chance to give players on the mend and others who are pushing for playing time a chance to get a taste of game action. But the assistant coach said he and head coach/general manager Gavin Wilkinson don’t downplay the significance of exhibition results.
“You can use exhibition games as a way to jump start your season,” Magee said.
He noted that the reverse happened earlier this year, when a poor outing in a 3-1 loss to Costa Rican club Puntarenas FC started a skid of four losses in five games.
Atlas’ roster includes recent Mexico national team call-up defender Edgar Pacheco and Mexico U-17 national team standout Cesar Ibañez, who made his professional debut at the age of 16. Long-time Mexico national team striker Daniel Osorno also plays for Atlas.
• The first 2,000 fans today receive a Nike drawstring bag. Tickets start at $12 in advance for today’s match and at $15 for Sunday’s Atlas game. Tickets are available at the PGE Park box office, area Ticketmaster locations, online at www.ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 800-745-3000.
• The Timbers exhibition match against the English Premier League’s Manchester City will kickoff at 7 p.m. on July 17 at Merlo Field on the University of Portland campus. Gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets for the match against Manchester City are available exclusively to Timbers full-season ticket holders. Prorated season tickets are available by calling 503-553-5555.
• Manchester City will start a preseason tour of the United States with a nine-day training camp in Portland. The club features several top international players who competed in the FIFA 2010 World Cup. The club this week launched a website catered to fans in the United States, www.mcfc.com.
• Prior to the Sunday match against Atlas, the Timbers’ U-23s, will play their Premier Development League regular-season home finale against the Vancouver Whitecaps Residency at 2 p.m. The Timbers U23s are unbeaten and Camas’ Brent Richards is one of their top scorers. Tickets are $5 and are available at the PGE Park box office.