Despite the fact that they haven't held a lead yet this season, the Portland Timbers have shown their followers something different so far this season. For the first time in their MLS history, they have some resiliency.
The Timbers 0-1-3 record so far may look bad on paper, but it doesn't fairly resemble their play on the pitch. Four games into their third season as an MLS team, the Timbers don't have a win yet, but for those who have been following the team for the past few seasons, it sure doesn't feel that way.
Three comeback ties, two of which came on the road, is something that the Timbers of old could only have dreamed about. In the John Spencer-era, a goal deficit was as good as a loss, while a two-goal deficit was a sure nail in the coffin situation.
The 2013 Timbers have comeback from two multi-goal deficits already this season, including two very late-game equalizers; both things that are very new to this team.
The major facelift the Timbers went through last offseason seems to be making a difference already, as the team is getting solid contributions from many of their new players.
Will Johnson was the difference maker in Portland's 2-2 draw in Colorado last weekend, scoring both of the Timbers goals (one of which came from the Timbers' first awarded PK in over a year and a half). Johnson, who was named the team captain prior to this season, has helped bring some much-needed leadership and solidarity to the Timbers' midfield.
Other new faces like Diego Valeri and Ryan Johnson have had their highs and lows so far, but each have contributed a goal already, meaning of the six goals scored by Timbers players this season the newcomers have four.
Through four games, the Timbers have netted a total of seven goals. Considering the team only scored 34 total goals last year (in 34 games), the scoring pace has picked up drastically. Another positive: after being shutout twelve times last season, Portland has yet to be shutout so far this season.
While the Timbers scoring potency has improved greatly from the last couple of seasons, it's the defensive side of the ball that has kept them out of the win column thus far. Caleb Porter's defensive group has allowed two goals or more in three of their four games, for a total of eight goals against already. If the team has any hope of really turning the corner this season and making a run at their first playoff birth, their defensive play must improve.
The season is still too young for any judgments to be fairly made, good or bad. But there has been plenty for the Timbers to be happy about thus far, which is something that couldn’t be said in previous seasons. Now it’s time for them to start turning ties into wins and goals against into clean sheets. But first off, they’ll have to start by gaining a lead.
Vince Tushner is on Twitter. Follow him at @SportsVince21