All of the anticipation surrounding the sold-out game will be merely window dressing if the Timbers don’t play well and earn their first MLS victory.
“It will be a special atmosphere, but we can’t stand around admiring our fans,” Spencer said after Monday’s practice. “You’ve got to get your head in the game and play well.”
Spencer has seen steady progress on the field since a 3-1 season-opening loss at Colorado on March 19, and additional preparation time has allowed a couple of injured players to re-join the mix. The Portland coach is unwilling to let the hype surrounding the game to swallow up the need for a sharp performance.
“I told the guys this morning, 'Do not think for one minute that we’re going to turn up and the fans are going to win the game for us,’” Spencer said. “The place is going to be packed. The fans can only sing so much. They can only give you that extra lift. We on the field of play need to produce a winning performance and get three points.”
Of course, the game holds special meaning for soccer fans in a city that has waited more than two years for an MLS team to materialize and play its first home game in downtown Portland. It is a fan base that has connected with previous incarnations of the Timbers dating back to 1975 and eager for the next chapter to begin.
Spencer called Monday’s practice at Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District “a nice, lively practice” and said the team must maintain a consistent focus, no matter how electrifying the atmosphere is on Thursday.
“We’re trying to keep an even keel,” Spencer said. “Like I’ve said before, when you win games don’t get too high. When you lose games, don’t get too low. It’s the same mentality. Work hard. Prepare.”