Steven Horst

Highlighting the Timbers' stretch run

It's a time for tension to make the 2012 roster, but not everyone feels it
Sept. 28, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

With four games left on their schedule, the Portland Timbers are out of the MLS playoff hunt, but they still have plenty to play for starting with the Cascadia Cup.

The Timbers return to action Saturday night when they play host to DC United at Jeld-Wen Field at 7:30 p.m.

The two teams have played through very different seasons: DC (15-10-5, 50 points) is tied for third place in the Eastern Conference and has won its last three games, while the Timbers (7-15-8, 29 points) will be seeking their first win in nearly a month.

Portland last scored a W and collected three points in the overall standings on Aug. 31, with a 1-0 victory over Colorado.

While they haven't won since August, the Timbers have shown the kind of resilience that might make supporters hopeful for a significant turnaround next season, which is even showcased in the MLS Power Rankings. Tuesday, the Timbers were ranked No. 15 of the 19 teams, having escaped the bottom spot where they were located in August. DC, despite being in the playoff race, is ranked No. 11.

After Saturday, Portland closes the season at Seattle, Oct. 7, at Vancouver, Oct. 21, and at home against San Jose, Oct. 27.

The team's players head into Saturday's game with three themes: stay poised to win the Cascadia Cup (Seattle and Vancouver play Saturday), get a win, and expose themselves to the coaching staff as the offseason approaches. It's a different view for each player.

Portland's roster is filled with young players - 20 of the 32 players on the current roster are 25 or younger - and want to grab valuable playing time as the offseason approaches.

Jack Jewsbury, one of the team's most experienced players, said that while keeping an eye on maintaining a roster spot for next season is part of the stretch run, getting a win is the more valuable element and the energy the younger players have shown is helpful to that.

"It's a good thing to have those players that you can look at and say 'hey in a few years they going to be some of the best players in the league," he said, "but in this business it's also about right now, and what we've been doing as of late, the way we've been dominating games, is good to see."

David Horst, one of the team's older players at age 26, said the tension that might surround a team of younger players hasn't materialized.

"When you get too much tension on a team, guys start getting after each other a little bit, but I haven't seen much of that at all with this team," he said. "Despite out record, the team's had great chemistry. I've seen teams that when they have a season like we're having they fall apart completely, but our team hasn't.

"It's definitely a positive. A lot of guys have matured, their games have matured ... it makes every single one of us better for next year."

Assistant coach Sean McAuley said this week that the level of experience isn't going to be that much of a factor in determinining the lineup for Saturday.

"I don't care whose name is on the back of the shirt," he said, "I care about what's on the front of the shirt and that the guys we have on the field are giving their maximum effort so we can get the result we want."

 

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