Portland Timbers rue defensive fragility: "We’re making some mistakes that we can’t make"

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two trends have already begun to emerge just two games into Caleb Porter’s leadership of the Portland Timbers.

One is good. The other, not so much.

Porter’s possession attack is exactly as advertised. The Timbers have been dangerous offensively, resulting in 40 shots, four goals and dominating passing and possession numbers.

The defense, however, has left a lot to be desired.

Whether it’s been clear mistakes, fluky bounces or just plain bad luck, Portland have allowed their opponents to capitalize on their few opportunities.

READ: Frustrations mounting, but Portland Timbers still see light at end of the tunnel

It’s all added up to a squandered opportunity, earning just one point in a two-game home stand to open the season after a 3-3 draw March 3 with New York and a 2-1 loss Saturday to Montreal.

“We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we need to correct some things,” Porter said. “Because we were good enough to win that game if we don’t make – again, I sound like a broken record these last couple weeks – but if we don’t make those critical mistakes that we’ve been making. It’s disappointing to dominate like we did and not get a result.”

It was easy to point to the culprit against New York. Two mistakes by French center back Mikael Silvestre, who arrived in Portland from Paris just three days before the game, led to goals. New York’s third goal was due to an unmarked man on a cross.

Against Montreal, the first goal came when Portland failed to clear their lines following a set piece, resulting in a Hassoun Camara bicycle kick goal.

READ: Portland Timbers defender Mikael Silvestre moves on from tough MLS debut

The second goal came on a poorly defended counterattack.

Even more frustrating for Porter, both were aspects of the game that he made his players well aware of in the week of training.

“We’re making some mistakes that we can’t make if we want to win games and eventually be a club that’s making the playoffs,” Porter said.

He said now it’s just a matter of getting back to the training field to work out the problems, something Portland did Monday at their training facility in preparation for their first Cascadia rivalry match of the new season on Saturday in Seattle.

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In addition to Silvestre adjusting to his new team, Portland have been without two regulars on the backline, central defenders David Horst and Hanyer Mosquera, due to injury. Mosquera has resumed training, but Porter said he’ll have to return to full fitness before he re-enters the starting lineup.

Porter also pointed to the fact that it is very early in the season and at least one thing is going right.

“This was never going to happen overnight, the evolution of the club,” Porter said. “We can’t get too low here, but we also have to wake up and there are some things that we have to sort out.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.