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First MLS start is mixed bag of emotions for Portland's Dike

When the final whistle blew on the Portland Timbers’ 3-2 loss Sunday to the New York Red Bulls, Bright Dike didn’t know what to think.

The second-year forward was given his first MLS start, and on top of that scored his first goal of the season eight minutes into the contest.

But then, with his team enjoying a 2-0 lead, Dike’s dream come true turned into a nightmare. New York responded with three unanswered goals to keep the Timbers winless on the road in 12 games, spoiling Dike’s moment in the sun.

“It’s like the biggest mixed feeling ever,” Dike told MLSsoccer.com. “I don’t think I’ve ever been that happy at the beginning of the game and that frustrated at the end of a game. You’re up 2-0 and then we let it slip and lose the game 3-2.”

The play right out of the gate from the big striker out of Notre Dame paced a dominant first 35 minutes from the Timbers. It didn’t take long before Dike rewarded interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson’s decision to start him when he collected a perfectly-placed cross from midfielder Sal Zizzo and chipped it in top-shelf past Red Bulls goalkeeper Bill Gaudette.

GOAL: Dike gets first of season

“Most of the credit goes to [Zizzo],” Dike said. “He did a really good job of finding me in the box, and I did my best to get a clean touch on it away from where the goalie was.”

Midfielder Darlington Nagbe doubled the lead in the 32nd minute, putting the Western Conference’s worst team in position to end New York’s home unbeaten streak. And even as New York stormed back – tying the game at 2-2 before the end of the first half on goals by former Timbers forward Kenny Cooper and Tim Cahill – Portland had a number of golden opportunities to add on.

Dike, Nagbe and midfielder Diego Chara all had clean shot attempts, but stellar work from Gaudette kept the Timbers stuck on two goals. Dike had two of the Timbers' 12 total shots.

“I think this was possibly our best road performance in a year and a half,” interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson said. “We came out, we had numerous chances. Their keeper came up with three phenomenal saves.”

But Dike said that despite his first goal of the season and the team’s second consecutive two-goal performance on the road coming off a 2-2 tie Wednesday against Toronto FC, it’s hard to look on the bright side of things. He said the frustration of squandering a two-goal lead to extend the team’s winless streak to seven games is hard to get past.

“I think we brought energy, especially in the first 20 minutes,” Dike said. “So hopefully we can take the positives from that and learn from our mistakes and maybe control the game a little better once we’re up and weather the storm.

"We’re in a situation where we have not much more to lose. You have to be trying, keep trying our best to do better and get out of this rut and take the positives out of each and every game. But it was definitely a frustrating game.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at dcitel@hotmail.com.