Battered, bruised Timbers refuse to throw in the towel
Photo courtesy of Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
PORTLAND, Ore. – They’re battered and bruised – and a bit demoralized – but Portland head coach John Spencer and his Timbers aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
The Timbers’ 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo in their team’s home finale Friday night at JELD-WEN Field didn’t mathematically eliminate Portland from capturing a spot in the playoffs, but it made it extremely difficult.
Even if the Timbers win their final two games against D.C. United and Real Salt Lake, they’ll have to get help in the way of losses from the teams ahead of them in the postseason race.
“I’m still telling them that we’re going to try to get maximum points in the next two games,” Spencer said. “Even if we were 20 points out of the playoffs, we’d try to win those games. That’s how we play here. I’m not going to be bleeding other guys into the lineup or anything like that.”
The scenario resulting in a Timbers playoff spot would have to involve losses by New York, Colorado, Columbus or Kansas City in those teams’ final two games.
As for the battered and bruised part, midfielder Sal Zizzo sat out the second half after a knee injury and defender Mike Chabala was knocked unconscious in the 50th minute on a hard tackle by Houston’s Danny Cruz before coming off in the 66th.
The physical play had Portland crying foul by what Spencer felt were the inconsistencies of head referee Baldomero Toledo as he blew his whistle for 30 fouls between the two teams.
Zizzo was receiving treatment for his injury – after he was dispossessed and the Dynamo went on the attack – when Houston’s Andre Hainault redirected a Brad Davis free kick to open the scoring in the 36th minute.
“I was absolutely bemused by his decisions at times,” Spencer said of Toledo.
Chabala said he thought he might have been knocked out briefly after Cruz’s shoulder crashed into the side of his head as the two came together over a loose ball.
But Spencer said he didn’t feel his club shied away from the physical play.
“If you’re not physical and don’t have the desire to close your opponent down and win tackles, you’re not going to win games in this league,” he said.
He ultimately chalked up the loss to a lackluster start they were never able to recover from, especially after Houston knocked in their first goal.
“I think we never came out and started with the zest and enthusiasm and movement that I thought we would, which was a little disappointing,” he said.
Spencer was particularly disappointed for letting down the fans, who completed a season sweep of sellouts. The Timbers Army unveiled a pre-game Tifo display that honored every player with separate banners.
“I’m absolutely sick for them,” Spencer said. “If I was from Portland and I wasn’t the coach of this team, I would be in the Timbers Army having a few beers, having a few tattoos.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @dan_itel.