Timbers-FC Dallas Preview

The Associated Press

Experience may be a big reason why Caleb Porter isn't panicking about the Portland Timbers' slow start.

Oscar Pareja certainly isn't celebrating FC Dallas' best start in six years.

The Timbers will try to overcome Donovan Ricketts' absence in order to avoid another four-game winless stretch to start a season Saturday night against surging Dallas.

Portland (0-1-2) started last season with a four-game winless streak (0-1-3) before going on to finish atop the Western Conference in Porter's rookie season on the bench.

That's probably why he's not too worried about the Timbers' struggles in 2014.

"You can see in the performance it's there," Porter told the team's official website. "We're not certainly where we need to be, nor is any team at this point. It's not where you start but where you end, how you finish.

"It's not like we're in games wondering how we're going to win. We're at the end of the games wondering how we lost."

That's precisely where the Timbers were last weekend. They gave up a pair of second-half penalty kicks in a 2-0 loss to Colorado, losing Ricketts to a red card that led to the first.

Ricketts, the two-time and reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, is suspended against Dallas, but the league added another game to his ban and fined him an undisclosed amount for endangering the safety of an opponent with a serious foul.

Journeyman backup Andrew Weber is expected to take his place, though he's played only nine games over seven seasons. He stopped the second penalty kick last weekend, only to be beaten by the rebound.

"We've got the same confidence in Andrew that we do with Donovan," captain Will Johnson told the league's official website. "I think it's more of a communication thing in the beginning, getting that message across, getting guys where he wants them on different set piece situations and things like that, every goalie is a little bit different."

Portland has been outscored 11-2 while going 0-2-2 in four league games at Dallas (2-0-1).

FCD is trying to start a season unbeaten in four games for the first time since going 2-0-2 in 2008. The club has scored six goals in a pair of home victories but, like Porter, Pareja is focused on the long term.

"I don't think too much about what is that record or if we have a good start or how can we win," Pareja told the league's official website. "I want to see this team growing into the team that we all want. Hopefully, the results can join us."

Dallas is trying to build on its best performance yet after beating Chivas USA 3-1 last Saturday on second-half goals from Fabian Castillo, Je-Vaughn Watson and Michel.

Still, it's defender Matt Hedges who has emerged as one of the most vital members of the team early on, earning the captain's armband from Pareja.

"He's leading us. That kid is leading us," Pareja said. "I'm going to send a little message here: I think he's ready to go and help us in the national team. He's a great leader."