PORTLAND — In at least one respect, today is an ideal time for the Portland Timbers to play the hottest team in Major League Soccer.
Sure, the Timbers will be taking on the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes without Diego Chara’s energy in the midfield. And there’s a chance that Kalif Alhassan, the team’s most creative offensive player, will miss a second consecutive match with a sore hamstring.
But the Timbers should be glad they don’t have a week of training to dwell on after one of the worst performances in the franchise’s short history — a blah effort in a 3-0 Saturday loss at Colorado.
“We’re still a confident group,” Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury said on Monday. “You just want to throw it out as a bad game and a blip on the radar that you’d like to forget about. I think it’s nice that we have a quick turnaround here. We don’t have to dwell on it for the full week.”
There’s been plenty of soul searching already for a Portland team that was hoping to use an inspiring win over rival Seattle as the start of a win streak. Instead, the Timbers went to Colorado and delivered a distressingly uninspired effort.
“I could have told you probably five minutes into the game when (the Rapids) got their first chance that we didn’t seem to be dialed in,” Timbers assistant coach Amos Magee said.
On Monday it was Magee, not head coach John Spencer, who was given the task of visiting with the media.
Magee said he felt good about the team’s crispness during pregame warmups on Saturday. But he sensed trouble when the Timbers failed to take away chances after high-quality scoring chances that missed for Colorado in the first few minutes of play.
Jewsbury said his message to his teammates after falling quickly behind was that there was still time to rally, as San Jose had done recently at Colorado. But his message didn’t add spark or urgency to the effort.
His last seven games, Jewsbury has played right back. He said it is more challenging to be a vocal leader from that wide position.
“You’re not able to communicate with everyone, especially with guys on the other side of the field,” Jewsbury said. “But we’ve got enough guys who have been around here who can help out in those leadership roles. With Diego (Chara) in the middle, he’s stepped up as one of the leaders of this group.”
Chara won’t be on the field tonight because of a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. So maybe Jewsbury returns to the midfield as the Timbers try to slow down a San Jose side that has 11 wins, three losses and three ties, including a 6-2-1 road record.
Magee said today’s match will be a success for the Timbers if they play with the passion and belief they showed in beating Seattle 10 days ago.
“The best thing we can do is play well from the opining whistle,” Magee said.