PORTLAND — If the Portland Timbers are going to climb to new heights in 2013, they need to win matches like Saturday’s at Colorado.
The Rapids are a depleted team, a club that at this point looks like it will struggle to be a factor in the Western Conference playoff chase as the season wears on.
The Timbers, by contrast, are rested and relatively healthy as they go in search of their first victory of the season — one that could set a new tone for a franchise that in its first two Major League Soccer seasons was a pushover on the road.
Nowhere has Portland been worse than at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. In three visits, the Timbers have been outscored 9-1 and haven’t put up any kind of a fight.
Of course, both rosters are significantly different than last season, so that history shouldn’t factor into this match. Nor should the mile-high altitude. At least that’s the way team captain Will Johnson sees it.
“I don’t see it being a factor,” Johnson said. “When we had a good team in Salt Lake, everybody liked to say that the altitude was a big factor. We just believed it was because we were a good team.”
Coach Caleb Porter said he doesn’t know what formation the Rapids will play, but that the Timbers understand Colorado’s philosophy and are prepared.
Johnson said that facing an opposing lineup with many second-team players creates different challenges.
“Now we’re going in there where a lot of guys are fighting for jobs (and) have got this opportunity to make a statement in the league in a first-team game instead of a reserve team game,” Johnson said. “You just have to be ready for anything, because you don’t know how they’re going to play. Young guys always have a lot of energy. They’re reckless at times, but that recklessness can be good. They can make some plays just be sheer enthusiasm and youth. … We’ll be wary of that.”
At the same time, the Timbers must contain their own enthusiasm. Porter said that too much exuberance has been a factor in his team falling behind in the first half of its first three matches.
“I think we’ve come into games looking to attack and get numbers forward, which is a good thing,” the coach said. “But in some ways I think we’re a bit opened up (defensively) because we’re getting too many numbers forward.
“We’ve really talked about keeping our shape and our balance early in games until the opponent softens up and we get a grip on the game.”
NOTES — Porter described Darlington Nagbe’s availability as a game-time decision. Nagbe missed some training time this week, but is not listed on the injury list. … Central defender David Horst will make the trip and be available in a reserve role, and likely play in Sunday’s Reserve League match between the clubs.