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Caleb Porter: Ties keep Timbers' spirit level

The Portland Timbers lead Major League Soccer in draws with 10 this season.

Coach Caleb Porter says that while Portland never plays for a draw, tying can keep the locker room more even-keeled than the ups-and-downs that come from winning and losing.

“There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat,” Porter says. “Some teams have eight losses, but they have a few more wins. What I like about our group is we haven’t lost much. In some ways, I’d rather lose less even though we get more ties.

"When you tie, you stay a little more level. Your locker room is a little easier to manage. By not losing, even though we maybe haven’t won as much as some teams, we haven’t lost as much. Because of that, we’ve kept our spirit better.”

 Leave aside midfielder Will Johnson’s six goals — tied for the club lead with Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe.

The 5-10, 160-pound 26-year-old has brought heart, soul and fire to Portland, all of which make the Timbers' captain more than deserving of his second MLS All-Star selection.

However, Johnson, who also was an All-Star in 2009, and many other players on the Timbers and around the league are deserving, as well.

“It’s never going to be a perfect process, picking an All-Star team,” Johnson says.

The Portland locker room has been very supportive of Johnson since his selection was announced for the MLS stars' game against AS Roma, Wednesday in Kansas City.

“The guys have been great,” he says. “Everyone has congratulated me. I’ve been grateful for that. They’re all standup guys.

“It’s a big honor,” Johnson says, of being named for the game. “We’re all, on some level, trying to further this league to be one of the best in the world. To be given that responsibility in an All-Star game, it means a lot to me.”

 The Timbers' defense has been beyond outstanding this season, conceding 20 goals in 21 games going into Saturday's 8 p.m. match with Vancouver at Jeld-Wen Field.

“The best way to defend is to have the ball,” Porter says. “We take pressure off our defending by having the ball.”

Once the Timbers lose possession, they employ one of two approaches to defending. In their attacking third of the pitch, the Timbers defend against the ball, trying to win it back. In their defensive third, they fall back, defending the goal and searching for an opportunity to counter-attack.

“Some teams defend the goal. We defend the ball — especially in the front half,” Porter says. “In the back half, we defend more of the goal, and we drop and get in a real tight block.

"So we almost play with two different styles. In the front half, we’re defending and pressing. In the back half, we’re sitting and countering. Whichever half we’re in, we take on that mode of play.”