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Spencer says Timbers lack consistency in first MLS season

PORTLAND, Ore. — Consistency is a facet of the game the Portland Timbers have yet to master, and head coach John Spencer says the only way to build it is through more experience.

During Sunday’s game against the New York Red Bulls, the Timbers were punchless in the first half, and when Jack Jewsbury ended a 230-minute scoring drought after halftime, it was like a dam had burst.

Portland scored three goals in the second half and could have had twice that much with a little luck. Jewsbury clanked a penalty kick off the post, Red Bulls defender Teemu Tainio cleared a ball off the line a bicycle kick and Rodney Wallace missed a diving header by about a foot.

Spencer hopes his club will begin to settle in and find their stride so they can remain competitive with the league’s best squads.

“If you look at teams like the Galaxy, they’ll probably tell you that they don’t play well every week but they’re consistent at a certain level,” he said. “They’re consistently good, and threatening, and scoring goals and consistently good at keeping the ball.”

For the first-year Timbers, the high quality play has ebbed and flowed.

“That comes with experience,” Spencer said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t played at this level [before 2011], and some guys that were in and out of this level. It’s a big ask.”

That inconsistency may help to explain Sunday’s 3-3 tie. It was a wild match in which Portland went down 1-0, then up 3-1, before allowing New York back into the game and settling for one point.

“We didn’t come out the way we wanted to, and we dug ourselves a hole at halftime," Jewsbury said. "How we responded was a positive and something we can build on.”

If Portland can keep that second-half tempo and feeling alive at FC Dallas on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), they feel like they can earn their first road victory. However, they will need to play with the same intensity that they did in the second half of their match with New York.

“We started moving quicker off the ball,” Spencer said. "In the first half the movement off the ball was not good enough to get on it.”

Spencer hopes the Timbers hit the ground running with the same energy and movement on Saturday. But, even after conceding a 95th-minute goal to allow two points to slip away at home, Jewsbury is optimistic and is looking forward to Dallas.

“A win there erases everything that happened this past weekend,” he said.