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“It’s a result that we really needed”: Timbers endure despite injuries

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The Timbers showed on Saturday that earning points before the June break is only improbable, not impossible. And even then, they just might defy the odds.

MLS: Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been about 36 hours since the Portland Timbers earned their first road win of the season in MLS play, and even after that amount of time has passed, it still feels strange that they won. In a game where the Timbers were missing Diego Chara, didn’t start Diego Valeri, and started a goalkeeper who was making his MLS debut, they actually won. And by multiple goals, nonetheless! The old adage remains true: Anything can happen when you play the San Jose Earthquakes.

In all seriousness, it was a heck of an effort by a team that is just trying to make their way to the June break. Eryk Williamson had a phenomenal match. Logan Ketterer — the new goalkeeper from El Paso Locomotive FC in the USL Championship — played very well. Overall it was just a great team win for a team that was down, but — as Saturday’s result showed — not out.

“It’s a result that we really needed,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said. “We needed these three points, especially with so many injuries that we have, and this showed the mentality and the character of the team.”

One of the reasons this match went as well as it did was the proficiency of Eryk Williamson. The Timbers midfielder was asked to play a different role with no Diego Chara. Savarese said they made an effort to use him as a six in front of the back four, and that was a position he thrived in. He notched two assists on the night and was solid defensively, working well as the player who connected the offense and the defense. It was an incredible performance from the 23-year-old player.

“Eryk showed a lot of maturity; because when you change the role of a player and you give them a different assignment, and you have to play a little more defensive, and he delivered the way that he did today. You see that it’s a lot that he has matured during this last year, year and a half,” Savarese said. “Today, it was a great performance by Eryk.”

For Williamson, it was just about helping out wherever he was needed. He’s watched what Chara has done to help on the defensive side of the ball and knew that he would have to channel his inner Godfather to help out the back line.

“Being able to see him for years, it allowed me to kind of adopt some of these tendencies that the team needs,” Williamson said. “Missing Chara was an adjustment tonight, and we may be without him for a few more games so we have to continue to push. I’m going to make sure I can do all I can to help this team win.”

Another guy who did all he could to help his team win just showed up a few days ago. Ketterer was solid between the sticks for the Timbers this weekend. He even had a penalty-kick save on Chris Wondolowski, the all-time leading goalscorer in MLS history. It’s a rarity that anyone accomplishes such a thing in their career, let alone in their first game at the MLS level. But when it came to that penalty, he just kept it cool.

“The most important thing to think about as a goalkeeper is that you’re not expected to make the save, so there’s really nothing that can go wrong,” Ketterer said about his PK save. “All you can do is push as hard as you can and make sure you don’t go off the line early. It was a great moment for me.”

For these final two games before the break, it’s going to be about enduring for the Timbers. They’re going through just about as hard of a start as they’ve ever gone through right now with all these injuries, and so far they’ve already gotten three points. It shows their ability to adapt despite less than ideal circumstances. For Williamson, they just have to keep pushing forward with who they have.

“I think we got to focus on the guys that we have and that we can play in these stretches and beat some of the better teams in this league,” Williamson said. “San Jose is fine right now, and we came in here and got three points. We had a disappointing start to this season, and we have to continue to push and make sure we are top five in the West.”