PORTLAND — As the Portland Timbers try to prevent their second Major League Soccer season from heading south, they will be trying to score some goals while heading in that direction.
So far this season, all seven of the goals the Timbers have accumulated at Jeld-Wen Field have come while the home team was attacking toward the enclosed north end of the stadium. Their chance for success today against the visiting Columbus Crew will improve if they can score while attacking away from the boisterous Timbers Army.
Timbers coach John Spencer joked on Friday that maybe there is a magnet to the ball at the north end, but he downplayed the significance of the direction his team is playing.
“It’s not like you kick away from (the Timbers Army) and they don’t make any noise,” Spencer said. “I don’t think it makes a massive difference to us.”
Team captain Jack Jewsbury said playing toward the Army is energizing, and that guys enjoy celebrating goals with the Army. But that shouldn’t impact the play, Jewsbury said.
When Portland wins a pregame coin toss, Jewsbury said he chooses the direction preferred by goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Spencer pooh-poohed the idea that direction matters.
“If you make too big deal about it, then opposing teams will come in and try to get us to shoot against the (south) goal in the second half,” the coach said.
Still, the noise created by the chanting, singing, Timbers Army can disrupt communication between a goalkeeper and defenders, which gives an offense an edge.
“Communication wise, it’s probably harder for a keeper and for their back four to hear each other,” Jewsbury said. “I don’t know if there’s any more to it than that.”
In terms of communication, the message from Spencer on Friday was that it’s time to show Portland fans the entertaining style of soccer they deserve. No matter which end of the field the Timbers are facing, their coach said he wants them to attack from the flanks more than through the middle of the field, generating crosses into the penalty area and by challenging defenders one on one.
“We want to try to win the game with a little bit of flair and a little bit of style,” Spencer said. “That’s what the fans have been missing a little bit from last year.”