Montreal returns to Pacific Northwest for Portland tilt

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Updated: March 8, 2013

Two of Major League Soccer’s youngest
franchises will meet in the second week of the 2013 season as the Portland
Timbers welcome the Montreal Impact to Jeld-Wen Field on Saturday.

Montreal opened its sophomore season in MLS with a 1-0 victory at Seattle
Sounders FC, a surprising result given the club’s 2-13-3 record away from home
last term.

Marco Schallibaum was quite pleased with the performance at the always-
intimidating CenturyLink Field as the first-year MLS coach got off to the best
possible start with the Impact.

“I tip my hat to the team tonight, as we played a really good side and we did
very well defensively,” Schallibaum said after the match. “We had some
difficult moments, but we were ready to battle all game and this win is very
good for the team morale. Not many teams win [at CenturyLink].”

The Impact will return to the Pacific Northwest for another contest complete
with a daunting atmosphere.

Portland, which joined MLS in 2011, managed just 34 points from as many games
last season, but its home form was not the culprit for a second consecutive
playoff absence. The Timbers posted a 7-4-6 record at Jeld-Wen in 2012, and
they continued to prove that the venue is a fortress when they battled back
from two goals down on Sunday to open the new season a point in a 3-3 draw
with Red Bull New York.

Like Montreal, Portland is led by a man who boasted no previous MLS coaching
experience. Caleb Porter assumed the managerial responsibilities during the
offseason after a sensational collegiate spell as head coach at the University
of Akron. On Sunday, he got his first taste of how influential the home crowd
at Jeld-Wen can be.

“A huge part of our comeback had to do with attacking the north end with the
Timbers Army sparking us on,” Porter said. “They were behind us 100 percent,
and they were like a vacuum sucking the ball into the back of the net in the
second half.”

A pair of defensive blunders against New York saw Portland slip into a 3-1 by
halftime, but some superb play from Diego Valeri, who joined the Timbers on
loan as a Designated Player during the offseason, helped get the Rose City
club on level terms.

“He was tremendous,” Porter said of the Argentine. “He is worth every penny.
He’s gifted. He’s capable of pulling a rabbit out of the hat at any given
moment. He’s very clever in tight spaces and he can unlock teams. He’s going
to be a handful this year as well.”

Valeri’s creativity helped Portland maintain its unbeaten record in home
openers and extend the club’s home unbeaten streak to seven games dating back
to Aug. 5, 2012.