LONDON (AP) – John Spencer has many fond memories of assisting coach Dominic Kinnear on the Houston Dynamo's two MLS Cup-winning teams and leading the club's reserve squad to a championship. However, Spencer's allegiance now lies with the expansion Portland Timbers.
Spencer and Houston players Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer make their return to Robertson Stadium on Sunday night when the Timbers and Dynamo meet for the first time.
A Houston assistant for nearly five seasons, Spencer was on Kinnear's staff as the club won its first two titles in 2006 and '07. The 40-year-old Scotsman also coached the Dynamo Reserves - on which Chabala started - to the 2008 reserve club championship.
"To be honest, I still feel very strange watching (Houston) play on the field and on television and not being a part of it," Spencer, named the Timbers' first coach Aug. 10, 2010, told MLS' official website. "They're the first result I look for every weekend - it's going to be a hard thing for me coming (back)."
However, Spencer, as well as Chabala and Palmer - acquired from Houston on July 21 for midfielder Adam Moffat and allocation money - would like nothing more than to beat their former club.
"I think we all circled this game on the calendar when the trade went down," Chabala said. "I mean, you always want to show well and play well."
That's exactly what Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall expects.
"They're going to be flying around and they're going to want it, so we'll have to match them because this is an important game coming down the stretch," he said.
Houston (6-7-10) is still without a road win (0-4-7) following last Saturday's 1-all draw against Philadelphia, but the club appears to be heading in the right direction with four points in its last two matches.
"We've been struggling and hurting ourselves but I think we put a great game together last week (a 3-1 home win over Seattle on July 30) and put another good game together this week on the road," midfielder Brad Davis, among the league's best with 10 assists, told the Dynamo's official website. "We just need to keep riding this high we're on and keep playing the way we're playing, and I think we're going to start to rattle off some wins."
The Timbers (7-10-5) feel the same way. Coming off a 3-0 victory over league-best Los Angeles three days earlier, Portland opened a three-game stretch on the road Aug. 6 with a 1-all draw versus San Jose.
The Timbers trailed sixth-place Chivas USA by three points in the Western Conference heading into Saturday's play, and they are 2-1-2 since an 0-6-1 skid.
"We want to make the playoffs," forward Kenny Cooper said last Saturday after notching his first goal in 15 games.
Dynamo forward Brian Ching should see action despite a minor groin strain, but Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury (hamstring strain) could miss his third straight match.
The clubs' next matchup is Oct. 14 at Jeld-Wen Field.