Winless start drags on with FC Dallas loss, but Portland Timbers unworried: "We're playing well"

The Portland Timbers’ last two losses have certainly come in strange fashion. Perhaps that's why there appears to be little worry among the team.

The latest odd result – following last week’s 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids from two penalty kicks in two minutes that cut them down to 10 men – saw a player from each team shown straight red in Saturday night’s 2-1 loss to FC Dallas.

Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said he might feel differently had they not performed up to their standards, but that’s not the case.

“It would be easy to get down and frustrated and start worrying, but we’re not going to do that because we know we have a good team and we know what we’re capable of,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “It seems like I keep saying that, but at the end of the day, if we weren’t playing well I’d be worried. But we’re playing well.”

There’s no questioning the fact that things haven’t exactly gone as expected for the team that advanced to the Western Conference championship series of the MLS Cup playoffs just four months ago.

With March now in the books, the Timbers are winless in four games – six dating back to last season – have lost two straight and scored just two goals.
The Timbers' lone tally at Toyota Stadium came off an FC Dallas own goal.

“We had opportunities to win the game ourselves, and again we didn’t convert,” Timbers captain and midfielder Will Johnson said. “So that’s where the frustration comes from. … But if we start to turn ourselves and let the frustrations of the losses build up, that’s where you run into trouble.”

For the second straight game, Portland were beat at their own possession game, with FCD holding 56 percent. The Timbers outshot their opponent, 15-9, but only three of those were on goal. Still, the Timbers did create some dangerous sequences, and Porter said he felt like they were the better side in the second half.

Portland’s equalizer, following a first-half stoppage-time goal by Blas Perez, came in the 66th minute when forward Maximiliano Urruti’s pass for Kalif Alhassan deflected off the foot of Dallas center back Matt Hedges and into the net.

The Timbers almost went ahead in the 71st minute when Alhassan’s through pass to midfielder Diego Valeri, whose shot was saved by FCD goalkeeper Chris Seitz.

But in the end, it was FCD playmaker Mauro Diaz who made the game-changing play on an 84th-minute strike.

“That second half, I thought we gave it everything we had,” Porter said. “We obviously fought hard to get the goal back. Credit again to the guys, the mentality they had. We had chances to go 2-1. But at the end of the day I credit Mauro Diaz. He pulled off a play. Players win games, and that play was the difference in the game.”

Not helping their cause was the loss of forward Darlington Nagbe, who came off at halftime after pulling up lame, and the absence of Michael Harrington, the team’s backline leader whose 1,710-minute consecutive minutes streak came to an end on a 39th-minute red card.

Harrington said it was an innocent pushing exchange with Je-Vaughn Watson that led to the dual ejections.  

“I probably do something like that in a match every game that I’ve ever played in my career,” Harrington said. “It’s a physical game that we play. We’re not swimming or anything like that. It’s going to get physical, guys are going to get shoving sometimes and like I said it wasn’t like we were fighting or anything or like it was a serious scuffle. I was pretty shocked by it.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.