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Portland, Ore. • As Kyle Beckerman headed from Miami to Colorado after the 2001 dispersal draft, he prepared to join a team on which he didn't know anyone.

Then he got a phone call.

On the other end was John Spencer, the fiery Scottish striker who had a notable run with Chelsea of the English Premier League in the '90s and was wrapping up his career in the MLS with Colorado.

"It just made me feel really good and welcome to a team that I didn't know," Beckerman said, who hit the game-winner of RSL's 3-2 win Saturday.

Eleven years after Beckerman first heard from Spencer, the coach is in his second year in Portland and leads what is considered one of Major League Soccer's most promising teams.

That phone call was a lesson to the young Beckerman, who said he still tries to emulate various habits of Spencer's, including calling new players.

"I thought that was really neat," Beckerman said, "and something I try and do today when we get new players, to try to be the first to welcome them."

Both Beckerman and Nat Borchers, who played in Colorado from 2003 to 2006, spoke fondly of Spencer this week.

Before joining the expansion Timbers last season, Spencer spent five seasons as an assistant in Houston, buffing his credentials by helping the Dynamo to MLS Cup championships in 2006 and 2007.

But Borchers said it was well before Spencer's coaching days that he realized he was destined for the sidelines.

"You always knew that he was going to be a coach at the professional level," Borchers said. "He was such a good student of the game and so good at telling guys what they needed to do to get better."

Turf toll

After RSL openly expressed concern about playing on turf, and practiced at Juan Diego Catholic High School Friday to prepare, it appeared to struggle early with the fake grass. Passes were off target and players failed to maintain possession.

"It's just something you've got to get used to," Beckerman said. "But for the most part I thought we played well, the passing was good, created a lot of chances. So I think it's a good turf they've got. If there is a good turf, Portland has it."

RSL has now won more road games on turf in the last season-plus (three), than it had in its first six years as a franchise (one).