Kenny Cooper battles with Toronto defenders on Saturday.
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Timbers see "definite" improvement despite loss

The Portland Timbers measured progress by their effort on Saturday, but not by the result – their match at Toronto ended with a 2-0 loss. But the overall feeling is certainly more positive than it was after a 3-1 whipping in the opener at Colorado last week.

“I don’t think the best team won the game, but at the end of the day they scored two goals and that’s what matters,” Timbers coach John Spencer said.

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Spencer wouldn’t have offered that analysis after Game 1, when Colorado were clearly the superior team. Against TFC, the Timbers played with more energy, possessed the ball for longer stretches and had numerous chances to create offense out of set pieces. They outshot Toronto 16-11. The problem was a lack of clinical finishing in the final third of the field.

“Just a little lack of quality in the final front,” Spencer said. “Sometimes we would through the ball in there and [Stefan Frei] is a good goalkeeper. He just comes and takes the ball out of the sky.”

[inline_node:332102]Javier Martina scored twice for Toronto FC, converting high quality shots each time. The Timbers defense was a little slow to mark him in those two instances and the Dutchman made them pay.

“Again, just a few mistakes on our part and they capitalized on them,” captain Jack Jewsbury said. “We need to make sure that we try to shore those things up but at the same time I think if we bring that fight and that energy like we did [Saturday], we will be on the other end as well.”

A tender hamstring forced goalkeeper Adin Brown to take a seat at halftime, allowing for the entrance of third-stringer Jake Gleeson to make his MLS debut. The 20-year-old played with poise and made three saves, but he did allow his first goal on Martina’s well-placed shot in the 70th minute.

The Timbers’ afternoon was reflected in a first-half sequence in which Ryan Pore served a ball in to Kenny Cooper – only to have Cooper’s forehead miss it by six inches. Cooper, who came into the game with four goals in six previous matches against Toronto, was kept in check by the Reds’ defense.

“We haven’t got off to the best start but it’s a good group of guys with great character,” Cooper said. “We’ve really got to roll our sleeves up and get that first win.”

The Timbers remain hopeful that their persistence will pay off.

“There were definitely improvements from last week,” Jewsbury said. “Definitely there was some positives to draw on for us, but at the end of the day this is a results-oriented business.”

The 0-2 Timbers could get a shot in the arm when they play in Portland for the first time on Tuesday in a US Open Cup play-in game against Chivas USA. That game, at the University of Portland’s Merlo Field, offers the Timbers crowd its first opportunity to try and pick the team back up.