PORTLAND — Sporting Kansas City is the talk of Major League Soccer, its unblemished record of seven wins in seven games is one of the best starts to a season in the league’s history.
But the talk in the Portland Timbers camp isn’t about today’s opportunity to end Kansas City’s shining start. The discussion in the Portland camp is about the Timbers stepping up to their own challenges.
Which today is to turn in a full 90-minute effort at Jeld-Wen Field.
“The most important thing for us is to concentrate for the 90 minutes. We know that if we do that we’ve got a good chance of winning the game,” Timbers striker Kris Boyd said.
Concentration lapses are the team’s primary explanation for the current four-game losing streak. In its last three matches, Portland has led only to lose late.
“I don’t think we’re keyed in for 90 minutes,” defender Mike Chabala said. “I think when we take plays off, that’s when we get hurt. I think it’s one mistake that leads to another mistake. When you compound six or seven of those in a row, then it makes a big problem.”
The Timbers, of course, want to halt their losing streak before it takes a significant gouge out of their schedule.
Chabala emphasized that this is not the time to panic.
He recalled that the 2007 season in Houston started with a similar slump and ended with a championship. Chabala vividly recalls the game that turned the tide, a win over rival Dallas that included some big saves and a coulee of nice breaks.
“It was some luck going our way,” Chabala said of that match, which he watched from the Dynamo bench.
He and his teammates need to create their own good fortune, Chabala said.
“A special play from Darlington (Nagbe), a big-time save from Troy (Perkins). Something that will spark this team,” Chabala said. “I think once that ignites this is an electric team that will take off and have a 10-game run. It’s within us.”
In his eighth professional season, Chabala considers himself one of the veterans who must help lead this young Timbers team beyond it’s rocky start to the season. Part of that is doing his own job well. Part of it is holding teammates accountable, he said.
“It’s just stepping up and taking responsibility — each and every one of us,” Chabala said.
As a defender, Chabala said the Timbers need to get serious about shutting out opponents. If the Timbers get a 1-0 lead, that should hold up for a victory.
“The first 60-70 minutes of games, we’ve dominated most of the games, but lost them,” Boyd said. “We need to cut out some of the mistakes.”
That means putting more effort into defending as a match moves into the last quarter hour, Chabala said.
“As a defensive player, you’ve got to focus on (defending) those last minutes more than you focus on the attack,” Chabala said.
One other thing, Chabala said. Like last season when Los Angeles was on a roll entering Jeld-Wen Field, the Timbers need to defend their home turf.
“I think this group needs to start putting a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” he said. “Take a little bit of pride in this stadium and our home-field advantage.”