BY MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore.- When a team is on a long unbeaten streak, they usually need some luck to keep their run alive. The Portland Timbers, however, didn’t need any luck as they steamrolled past the visiting Colorado Rapids at Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday.
Led by the play of Rodney Wallace and Will Johnson, the Timbers blew by Colorado, 3-0, and moved into a tie at the top of the league standings with Real Salt Lake. The win gives the club a 15-game unbeaten streak and gave the Timbers their sixth consecutive home shutout.
Will Johnson’s classy finish moments before halftime gave the Timbers a two-goal advantage heading into the break. After Rodney Wallace beat a double team, he found a streaking Johnson, who chipped the ball to his left foot and blasted the ball by a helpless Irwin. Johnson’s goal was the sixth of the season, three more than his previous high for a season.
And while the goal might not top his MLS Goal of the Year in 2008, the strike showcased another side of the Canadian International’s game.
“I just chipped it up on the air and volleyed it with the left, you don’t know if you are capable of something like that until you try it,” Johnson said. “It’s part of expressing yourself as a player, trying things like that. Sometimes they come off, most times they don’t, but when they do, it’s a nice thing.”
Johnson was a constant attacking presence for Portland and had a hand in their first goal. His quick restart set up Wallace, who delivered a cross that found the head of Frederic Piquionne. Piquionne’s goal was his first goal in a MLS game and the 100th since the Timbers joined MLS. In his last five starts, across all competitions, the former West Ham striker has delivered five goals and four assists
Despite having not played a competitive match in a month, due to being called up and then not playing for the Costa Rican National Team, Wallace showed no signs of rust and was a constant threat against Marvell Wynne. His three assists gave him five for the season, which is a new career high for the winger.
The game continues Wallace’s impressive season that has seen the Maryland product emerge into a constant threat for the club.
“It’s nice to have him back. He’s having a breakout year. It goes without saying that we are a better team when he is on the field,” Johnson said.
According to Wallace, the game marked the first time in his playing career that he was able to get three assists in a single match.
“It was definitely a special game for me, something I will always remember,” Wallace said.
Ryan Johnson, who came into the game as a second-half sub, delivered the final scoreline with a calm finish just before the final whistle.
For the Rapids, the loss was their third in eight days and leaves them in seventh place in the Western Conference standings. Colorado outshot the Timbers (18-to-6), but rarely challenged Donovan Ricketts.
Portland’s defense was able to muster its seventh shutout of the season and has given up the second-fewest goals in MLS this season. While the flare at the attacking end has gotten notice, the defense has rounded into one of the league’s best, conceding just two goals in their five June matches.
“The defenders and our goalkeeper never get enough credit,” Will Johnson said. “Caleb mentioned it during the week, we are slowly turning into a great defensive team. Defensively, we’ve been excellent.”
The 15-game streak is the longest ever achieved by a team managed by a first-year coach. Despite that, the former Akron coach is quick to downplay the accomplishments that have been bestowed upon him.
“I’m not a miracle worker. I don’t walk on water. I just coach teams and try to do the best I can to help them win games,” Porter said.
Next up for the Rapids is a third consecutive road match as they travel to Canada to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Montreal Impact.
Portland, meanwhile, will match up with FC Dallas Wednesday night in a US Open Cup Quarterfinal match. The game will mark the end of a stretch that will see Portland play six total matches in an 18-day span. The club’s next league match isn’t until a July 7th match at the Columbus Crew. And despite not losing a match since the second weekend in March, Porter doesn’t believe the Timbers have played their best yet.
“It feels great, but as I told the guys we have a long way to go” Porter said. “What’s scary about this team is that we are just scratching the surface of what this team can be.”