Last year more than 400 Timbers Army made the trip to Denver to watch the Timbers open their MLS campaign. In the 2011 Colorado away match, the Timbers had their eyes glazed over from the start. On Saturday the Timbers found another similarity between 2012 and 2011.
The story coming out of Saturday, however, is the team’s continued ineptitude on the road. To be sure, a good chunk of the blame falls on the players. They need to be able to motivate themselves to play a hard 90 minutes and grind out results on the road.
It’s hard to imagine, however, that any group of 30 professional soccer players would be so mentally weak as to limp to a two road wins in 24 tries in spite of good coaching. There is no word to describe just how bad that is. Any proclamations of playoff aspirations are a naïve joke until it improves. Ultimately, the coach needs to be accountable.
Over the past fifteen months, we have heard a litany of excuses about the difficulties of playing on the road in this league. Enough. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, the travel is long and sometimes the conditions are far from ideal. But everybody else does it. Since the Timbers joined MLS, only New England has done it worse than the boys in green.
Is this team as talented as elite MLS teams? No. But if the talent on the team were poor, the Timbers wouldn’t take nearly as many results into the 80th minute of games as they do. If the Timbers held every result they took into the last ten minutes, they would be sitting in fifth place in the West, breathing down Vancouver and Seattle’s neck with at least a game in hand on both. No, lack of talent isn’t the problem.
It’s mentality and preparation. In both regards, the coaching staff has to take responsibility for the team’s lack of production. It’s the coaching staff’s job to get the team ready to play. And right now, with regard to away matches, they’re failing fantastically.
Now, I don’t know if it’s inconvenient travel arrangements, poor practice habits, tepid pep talks, or something else. And to be honest, I don’t care. But it needs to be fixed. Now.
Over the past two weeks, there has been plenty of speculation about whether John Spencer will be fired during the season. I’m not sure we’re at that point just yet, but we get a lot closer every time we have to search the bottom of our pints for answers after road matches.
So if you’re wondering about John Spencer’s job status, forget about what the Timbers do at Jeld-Wen Field. Because, odds are, they will continue to do well. The home field advantage is just too great. Instead, everything should ride on what Spencer and his staff can get the team to do on the road. If it doesn’t improve, Spencer should be out.
Saturday was embarrassing. Just like it was last year. And Dallas away last year. And New England away this year. And Kansas City away last year. And all four Los Angeles away dates. And so many others. Enough.
 This won’t be a traditional match report. No narrative, no observations, and no grades. Why? Because they’d all be terrible, and I want to write that as much as you want to read it.
 And that’s just because they’ve played – and lost – one more game.
 Even Vancouver – who didn’t win on the road at all last year – has caught the Timbers in this category.
 It’s for this reason I find it hard to substantially fault Gavin Wilkinson and the rest of the scouting staff for the lack of success. They’re getting players that can put the team in position to be successful; they just don’t have a team that is able to finish it.