The Portland Timbers didn’t exactly start off the season as planned in their MLS debut.
The Portland Timbers didn’t exactly start off the season as planned in their MLS debut. The 0-2-0, 0 pt, start for the regular season was mostly a result of defensive struggles early on in matches, as the Timbers were outscored a total of five goals to one in their first two match-ups against the Colorado Rapids and Toronto FC.
In the loss at the defending champion Rapids, the Timbers left the first half scratching their heads. All three of the Rapids’ goals were scored in the first 30 minutes of play, with each goal coming from a different player. Only eight minutes passed before Rapids forward Omar Cummings scrapped his way out of the corner and sent a perfect cross kick into the penalty area that was put away by midfielder Larontowics to take an early 1-0 lead.
Colorado didn’t slow down. In the 29th minute, Cummings was back in scoring position, and a beautiful pass from forward Conor Casey gave Cummings a perfect setup and a header shot on frame. The header was deflected by Timbers goalkeeper Adin Brown, but rolled right back to Cummings for the easy put-back. Then just one minute after the second goal, Jamie Smith made a shot for the Rapids from 25 yards out to give them a staggering 3-0 lead after only 30 minutes of play.
Still, nearly 1,000 Timbers fans traveled to Colorado to cheer on their team. Play in the second half became much more aggressive for Portland as goalkeeper Adin Brown was able to make multiple saves. The lone goal for the Timbers would not come until the 80th minute off a free kick sent in by Kenny Cooper. The shot was perfectly sent past the wall of Colorado players and into the far goalpost to save the Timbers from a shutout.
The loss was tough and despite controlling possession for much of the game, ultimately the end of the match came down to allowed shots on goal as the Rapids outgunned the Timbers, taking seven shots on goal compared to the single shot for Portland in the 80th minute. Head coach John Spencer was not thrilled with the Timbers’ play in their debut, but knew it would be a challenge facing the defending MLS champions in Colorado.
“We were a little surprised going down three-nothing,” said Spencer in a post-game interview for the Timbers’ website. “We looked shell-shocked after the second one went in and started playing safe and then gave up a mistake and got punished from 30 yards out for the third goal. Omar Cummings and Conor Casey are two of the best in the league. If you are going to give them chances, they are going to kill you.”
Portland moved on to the next road game, played on March 26 in front of a hostile Toronto crowd in the Reds’ home-opener. Toronto was reeling after a 4-2 loss to Vancouver in their MLS season opener, but they were able to take advantage of Portland’s lack of cohesion on the defensive side of the ball to get their first win.
Only 14 minutes passed before Toronto made the first move, as Maicon Santos sent a perfect pass to Dwayne De Rosario. Rosario was not able to take the shot but was able to get off a pass to newly acquired Dutchman Javier Martina. Martina punched in a low drive past goalkeeper Brown to take a 1-0 lead. In the 70th minute, Martina scored again, this play came off a 60-yard pass from keeper Stefan Frei up field and Martina sent a lob over the head of Timbers replacement goalkeeper Jake Gleeson after Adin Brown left the game with an injury.
Despite Portland trailing early on in their second straight game, the Timbers were again able to maintain possession for most of the Toronto match. Kenny Cooper created scoring opportunities by drawing fouls and the Timbers earned many corner-kick attempts, but were unable to execute. The game ended 2-0 in favor of Toronto, as Portland was unable to take advantage of Toronto finishing with 10 men after Mikael Yourassowsky received back-to-back yellow cards with six minutes remaining.
The slow start is to be expected for a new team that started on the road, but the Timbers aren’t making excuses and are focused on their next game. The Timbers will play Chivas USA tonight at Merlo Field on the University of Portland campus for a U.S. Open Cup match. Portland plays one more away game before making its true MLS home debut on April 14 against the Chicago Fire. Over 20,000 supporters will be watching, as the Timbers look to improve their place in the standings and even out the win column. ?