ROME (AP) – The Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew have gotten off to rough starts, though each team is doing all it can to remain positive.
Portland hopes to get a lift from its raucous home crowd as Columbus looks to end a four-game winless streak Saturday night.
The Timbers (2-5-1) were unable to build off their April 21 win over Eastern Conference-leading Kansas City last Saturday, falling 2-0 at Montreal. It was their fifth defeat in the last six games, and it also left them short-handed this weekend.
Defender Steve Purdy suffered a concussion last week, and he's out against Columbus.
Portland coach John Spencer said goalkeeper Troy Perkins will be a game-time decision after he suffered a large gash on his nose in a collision with Montreal's Sanna Nyassi.
"It's pretty bad," Perkins said of his cut. "As long as the doctors say (I can play), I'm going to be in there if coach is going to play me. I had a fitting for a mask, and hopefully if I get cleared to play that'll be my protection."
Lovel Palmer, who has shifted from defender to midfielder, said the Timbers can't get down on themselves despite their struggles - no matter who is in the lineup.
"We need to stick together as a team," Palmer said. "We need to show that we're still enjoying the game and we still have that passion for the game. Anytime you start losing that passion, it's time to go. ... Every single game we go out and work hard for the franchise, it just hasn't (always) been good enough for the three points."
Portland, which sits in the West cellar, has been better at home, going 2-2-0 while playing in front of packed crowds. It prepares to face a Crew team that has scored only once while going 1-2-0 on the road.
Columbus (2-4-1) was shut out for the third time this season last Saturday, falling 1-0 to Vancouver. The Crew have gone 0-3-1 in their last four, but midfielder Milovan Mirosevic said they played much better last week.
"It was our best game during the season," Mirosevic said. "Incredibly we lose it. Of course, we're frustrated. Football is like this. They had only one chance, if you can call it a chance. It was a bit of luck."
Defender Josh Williams said the team needs to focus on what's ahead rather than its past struggles.
"It's important we don't look back on it, as far as the loss, but we definitely need to take how we played in that game - our attack, our defense, just our intensity - and match that in Portland," Williams said.
Columbus is dealing with injuries as well and will likely play without Dilly Duka, Carlos Mendes and Olman Vargas due to hamstring injuries. Several other players are also out, including forwards Tommy Heinemann and Aaron Schoenfeld.
Williams said the Crew still can compete at a high level.
"We consider ourselves a pretty deep team," Williams said. "We believe if people go down, someone else can just step right in and do the job."
Meeting for the only time this year, these teams squared off twice in Portland's inaugural season in 2011, each earning a 1-0 home victory.