Portland Timbers keep digging, but once again find a point for their efforts

Once again, the Portland Timbers dug themselves a hole. And for the second time in three games, they rallied late to come away with a point.

This time it was a stoppage time goal by second-half substitute Rodney Wallace to salvage a 1-1 draw and silence more than 40,000 rival fans Saturday against Cascadia foe Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field. And it was the Timbers’ 20-year-old center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste who encapsulated the team’s highs and lows on the evening.

Jean-Baptiste, who was making just his seventh career start in his second year with the club, lost track of Seattle forward Eddie Johnson on a first-half counter attack, resulting in a 15th-minute goal and 1-0 Seattle lead. But Jean-Baptiste and the rest of Portland’s evolving backline settled in and were the bedrock of a solid second-half attack that kept the Sounders on the back foot after halftime.

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Jean-Baptiste punctuated the resurrection when he picked out Wallace in the box on a perfectly placed chip into the box for the equalizer.

“At first I was a little shaky, but I knew with this team and what we’re capable of that the second half was just going to be us gunning at them,” Jean-Baptiste told MLSsoccer.com. “And that’s exactly what it was. We were a little less fortunate to leave here without three points.”

Portland held nearly 60 percent of the possession in the second half. And Jean-Baptiste didn’t hesitate when asked if he felt the Timbers were the better team in the second half.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “The chances that we created, we had them on their heels in the second half and that’s why we feel we should have left here with more than just a point and one goal. We showed a lot of character once again being down a goal and being able to come back.”

Portland have fallen behind in each of their first three games this season under new head coach Caleb Porter. They rallied from a 3-1 deficit March 3 to steal a point in a 3-3 draw against New York. And last Saturday, Portland fell behind Montreal 2-0 but lost 2-1.

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And in all three games, Portland have won the possession battle and out-shot their opposition by wide margins. On Saturday, they had a 13-7 advantage in that last category.

“The mentality changed even in the last 20 minutes of the second half,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Everyone wanted to get that goal back and possibly get another goal.”

Nobody more than Jean-Baptiste, considering Johnson and the Sounders attack ran circles around Portland’s backline early. He said after the Johnson goal – a result of several defensive mistakes starting with a bad midfield giveaway – they didn’t panic.

“It’s not really redemption, it’s overcoming whatever faults that any player makes in a game,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I lost a runner on that counter attack, and I just knew that if I came back and played well in the second half and did what I needed to do and make the passes I needed to make, it wouldn’t exactly redeem myself, but it was just making the plays that you have to.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.