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May 12, 2011 at 2:21 PM

Portland Timbers coach John Spencer quotes from Thursday

Portland Timbers Logo.jpgA group of Seattle-area reporters had a teleconference earlier this afternoon with Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer. Here is the transcript from that chat:

* * *

(Do you remember the 1995 FA Cup game where Keller saved your PK at the end?) “Yeah, I do remember it quite vividly. It was at Stamford Bridge and I think it was myself and Kasey on the field with the referee, and behind us right along the halfway line there were maybe 25 horses stopping the Chelsea fans and the Millwall fans from going into a riot. So as soon as I put the ball down I took three steps back, ran as quick as I can, hit the shot, it gets saved and I turned and ran as fast as I could up the tunnel. That’s probably what I remember more about the penalty kick more than anything.”

(Bet you don’t anticipate anything like that Saturday?) “Hopefully not, and hopefully we don’t have Kasey Keller saving a PK, either.”

(How do you find the balance between getting excited, but not too excited, for the rivalry?) “I think guys obviously focus on the games just as they come, but as a staff — myself and the coaching staff — we obviously have a longer-term picture than the players do. The players just want to go out and win the first game that’s in front of them. The owner here, Merritt Paulson, is very, very ambitious and he’s given us the financial backing to go out and bring in good players and all the tools necessary to bring success to the club. For us, of course we know it’s a big game. The players know that. The history behind the game excites the players, it excites the staff and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be one of the best atmospheres – probably the second-best atmosphere — in the country second to Jeld-Wen Field when the game kicks off.”

(What have you done to be successful so far as an expansion team?) “After the L.A. game there were a lot of questions marks above our head (and we) weren’t doing that well for an expansion team. Things do change very quickly. I think it’s important that we keep our feet to the ground. There’s another big game this weekend against our fiercest rivals. For me the biggest thing is how are we going to perform on the road? We’ve been tremendous here at home having the backing of our own fans at Jeld-Wen Field and it’s going to be exciting to go to Seattle and see how we handle Seattle as a team and the atmosphere up there.”

(How did you get the group to come together as a team?) “I think you try to bring them together individually and collectively, and try to get the message across to them that it’s a real blue-collar working mentality in Portland as a city. We try to bring that on the practice field and the game field everyday. It’s important that for us to get success we’re going to have to be more than a one-man show. I think everybody has bought into that mentality that they go out there and they might not play well everyday, but they know that they must work hard for each other every single day. I think bringing the training mentality to the games has worked out well so far.”

(Did you model anything from how Seattle had its early success?) “First and foremost, Seattle is our fiercest rival. We know that, but you still can’t hide away from the fact that they’ve done a tremendous job up there from top to bottom. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. So for us and our mentality, what we did take from them is as an expansion team you can have success in your first year. I think that’s probably the one and only thing we did take from them. I feel that being around the league as a player and as an assistant coach and head coach that I knew what type of players we could bring in to be successful in Major League Soccer. Obviously myself and Gavin did a lot of scouting, and overseas scouting, and brought in some players that we felt good merge into Major League Soccer’s mentality in the way they wanted to play. I think we modeled ourselves on the success that Seattle brought to themselves just by hard work on the field and that was the one ingredient from them that’s tremendous to this day: they have a great mentality to work hard on the field.”

(Did Gavin Wilkinson take a bigger role this week with the team due to his history with the rivalry?) “No, not at all. I think anybody that has been involved in soccer in this country at the professional level, and has a good mind for the game in the U.S., will tell you that the Timbers and Sounders have played against each other way back into the 1970s. There is a history here. I think it’s exciting for Major League Soccer to have that history. Gavin has done a tremendous job as a general manager, but no, when it comes to talking to the players it’s down to myself and the staff that does that. As you well know, in big games against fierce rivals, every game is different. It doesn’t matter what team is on form at that time. When you go and play your rivals, form goes out the window. It’s what happens on the day.”

(What do you need to do to transfer home success to your road games?) “I think we have to show the same confidence, the same belief and the same desire on the road as we’ve done at home. I don’t think it has anything to do with the size of the field. I don’t think it has anything to do with the surface we’re playing on. I think it’s just a belief in themselves, that we can perform with the best teams in MLS at home and on the road. I think starting this weekend there’s not a better game to get on the right track and move in the right direction then against the Seattle Sounders.”

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