The Portland Timbers are cruising along the path to history.
On Saturday, the Vancouver Whitecaps will try to prevent them from getting there.
The Timbers (10-3-7, 37 points) will try to extend their Major League Soccer unbeaten streak to a club-record 16 games as they host the Whitecaps (8-9-6, 30 points) for an evening tilt at Providence Park. With a win, the Timbers will surpass the club mark they first established in 2013. Portland is also approaching the league-record 19-game unbeaten streak set by Dallas in 2010.
“Everyone is buying into what we’re preaching,” Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella told reporters. “Everyone is fighting each game and we’re taking each game just as seriously as the last one. We’re just going to try and keep it rolling.”
The Timbers are thriving under new coach Giovanni Savarese, who was hired after Caleb Porter resigned in the offseason. Porter guided the Timbers to the 2015 MLS Cup.
According to forward Samuel Armenteros, the team’s ability to close out wins has been the key to its success.
“It’s about how you finish off and how you do after 50, 60, 70 minutes,” he told reporters. “That’s where we show a lot of character. We’ve been proving this throughout the season. I’ve seen this team take steps in those later minutes where we get strong in the second half and take over games.”
Meanwhile, an Oregon native could play a prominent role for the Whitecaps in their pursuit to end Portland’s streak. Striker Erik Hurtado, who hails from Beaverton, has been on a roll lately after being used sparingly for most of the season. He came off the bench and tied the game in the 87th minute as the Whitecaps played to a road draw with New York FC last Saturday in league play. Then he scored in a second-half substitute role in Vancouver’s home draw with Toronto in Canadian championship action Wednesday.
“Scoring goals gives strikers confidence,” Hurtado, taken fifth overall by Vancouver in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, told reporters. “I have some confidence going on right now.”
For the second straight league game, Caps coach Carl Robinson is, quite justifiably, touting the opposition as the favorite.
“I’m sure we will be the underdog again,” he said. “They are a good team in good form at the moment.”
—Field Level Media