The long, winding road is nearing an end for the Portland Timbers, who play the penultimate match of their season-opening 12-game trek Wednesday night when they face the Houston Dynamo.
Portland (3-1-6) embarked on its MLS-wide odyssey out of necessity as Providence Park is undergoing renovations to expand seating capacity. The Timbers started their journey in wretched fashion with just one point in their first six contests, but even after Friday night’s 1-0 defeat to Cascadia rival Vancouver snapped a three-match winning streak, it is clear Giovanni Savarese’s side has found its bearings.
Portland outshot Vancouver 28-12 and earned 12 corner kicks, two of which resulted in quality chances in the first half. Diego Valeri had a prime opportunity for an equalizer in the 72nd minute when Sebastian Blanco squared to him in the penalty area, but he put his effort right at Whitecaps keeper Maxime Crepeau.
“I thought we had very good moments,” Savarese said. “I thought the guys worked very hard, we had chances, we attacked, I felt we dominated the match, but credit to them, they defended very well and the goalkeeper made some spectacular saves.
“If we play the way we play today, not many times are we going to lose.”
This is the first time the Timbers are playing on a short turnaround during their road swing, having had at least six days between matches during each of the first 10 contests.
Houston (6-1-2) continues to lurk just off the pace of the Western Conference leaders, entering in fourth place despite playing just nine matches. The Dynamo were denied a third consecutive victory Saturday at Seattle, getting shut out for the first time this year in a 1-0 defeat.
Like Portland, Houston conceded early and never recovered as a poor clearance off a corner kick resulted in a 20-yard volley by Seattle’s Cristian Roldan in the fifth minute for the game’s only goal. Alberth Elis spurned a gilt-edged opportunity for an equalizer in the 25th minute, bouncing his unmarked downward header from six yards over the bar. Houston had 11 shots for the match, but only one was on target.
The loss also ended a six-match streak in which Elis had either a goal or an assist. His next assist will make him the fifth player in club history with at least 20 goals and 20 assists along with Brian Ching, Will Bruin, Brad Davis and Ricardo Clark.
The home team won both matches last year, with the Dynamo storming to a 4-1 victory in the most recent contest as Elis and Alejandro Funemayor bracketed a brace by Mauro Manotas. Houston is unbeaten at home versus Portland, amassing four wins and four draws while outscoring the Timbers 15-7.