Timbers point to new target for 2012 season

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

BEAVERTON, Ore. — A win on Wednesday afternoon in Carson, Calif., would go a long way toward helping the Portland Timbers turn a page.

Beating Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center would take away some of the sting left over from last week, a six-day stretch that started with the dismissal of John Spencer and ended with a 5-3 loss to the L.A. Galaxy. It would also be the first victory of 2012 away from Jeld-Wen Field, and make talk of playoff contention seem more than a pipe dream.

Gavin Wilkinson, the general manager and interim head coach, has set 45 points as the team’s target. That means Portland (5 wins, 9 losses, 4 ties) must get points from most of its remaining 16 Major League Soccer games. Wilkinson is not positive 45 points will be enough to qualify for the playoffs, but figures that anything less will not cut it.

Goalkeeper Troy Perkins, among the veterans on the roster who Wilkinson has called an important leader, approves of having a specific target.

“We have to have things to reach for and attain,” Perkins said. “For me, I would have said more (points). Why not? What to we have to lose? It’s a fantastic thing to do and it’s something that we should have done earlier.”

After reviewing Saturday’s loss to the Galaxy, both Perkins and Wilkinson pointed to avoidable breakdowns against a high-quality opponent in explaining how L.A. scored five goals.

“We need to stay a tight group. Everyone needs to understand their jobs a little bit better,” Wilkinson said. Going forward, “players are going to be held a little bit more accountable.”

On Monday, Wilkinson said that he inserted Brent Richards on Saturday because the rookie from Camas has earned a chance through his commitment in training. Also, Richards has a knack for putting free kicks and corner kicks on target.

“He was coming into a

no-loss scenario. We’re down a couple of goals,” Wilkinson said. “He’s a player that has tremendous finishing ability. He’s a player we felt could be successful at set pieces in the air.”

Though he did not score in his MLS debut, Richards was around the goal for a series of crosses.

He also joined a long list of players who have been fooled by a David Beckham pass. Richards made a mistake by not tracking an overlapping Galaxy defender, allowing Beckham to place a pass into open space. Seconds later, Robbie Keane clipped Sean Franklin’s cross into the goal to put L.A. up 5-2.

Richards acknowledged the error in post-match interviews.

Wilkinson said it is important for young players recognize their errors, but not dwell on them.

“He made some fundamental errors, but I think you’re going to do that (as a rookie),” Wilkinson said. “You couldn’t question his effort.

“We’ve (told him), ‘It’s all part of the process. Get over it quickly and move forward.’ ”

Notes

n Wednesday’s match kicks off at 1 p.m. as Chivas hosts a day for kids. It will be live on Root Sports.

n The Timbers added to their coaching staff on Monday, announcing the hiring of Sean McAuley as an assistant coach. McAuley has been the youth academy director for England’s Sheffield Wednesday for six seasons. Wilkinson has known McAuley since they were teammates in 2002 with the Timbers’ second-division team. Wilkinson said that McAuley’s ability to develop young players fits the Timbers’ long-range vision to develop their home-grown talent. McAuley should join the team soon.

n Aston Villa has announced the 25-man squad that will travel to America for three matches, including next Tuesday’s visit to Portland. The club’s top goal-scorer from the 2011-12 season and England national team member Darren Bent, and French midfielder Charles N’Zogbia, are among those making the trip.

n From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 27, the Timbers Army Northern Alliance will hold a blood drive for the American Red Cross at Clark County Indoor Soccer, 16311 NE 15th St.