PORTLAND, Ore. — There’s nothing quite like a European giant like Ajax coming to town to restore a little humility to an upstart like the Portland Timbers.
Wednesday’s international friendly against the 111-year-old Amsterdam club marked the end of their two-game tour of North America. The Dutch champions concluded their season in front of a sold-out crowd at JELD-WEN Field, beating the Timbers 2-0.
Timbers head coach John Spencer and his coaching staff will quickly return their focus to Sunday’s MLS game against visiting D.C. United (5 pm ET; Direct Kick, MatchDay Live).
Despite Wednesday’s loss, Spencer smiled throughout his press conference and gushed over the quality of the visitor from the Netherlands.
“Seventy million euros of salary cap spent on that team and I think that showed at times,” Spencer said. “It was a good exercise for us. I thought we were too tentative at times. I think we probably showed them too much respect.”
Ajax featured six starters from their recent Eredivisie championship match, including Gregory van der Wiel, Toby Alderweireld, Siem de Jong and Lorenzo Ebecilio. Their precision made life difficult for the Timbers, who were relegated to quick-hitting counterattacks that met with little success. The Timbers Army didn’t rattle Ajax, either.
Still, Spencer said it was a worthwhile exercise for his team. Eighteen players got into the match, including Brian Umony, Peter Lowry and Adam Moffat, who are all coming back off injuries.
“Our biggest concern was injuries because our main concern is the weekend,” Spencer said, spinning forward to the DC match.
He added that he found himself watching and appreciating the quality of the opponent.
“It must have been nice for fans to come and watch a team like that, have a couple of beers and a hot dog,” he said. “I wish I could have done that. It was a great measuring stick for guys who watch Champions League football on television and think, ‘I can do that.’ It was a chance to see them up close. You see how good their technique is, how good their first touch is.
“I thought their movement off the ball at times was exhilarating. I was sitting back in the dugout almost clapping at times. They move and force their own player on the ball to pass the ball, rather than wait for the ball to make their move. The anticipation was fantastic. Great, great players.”
Lowry, who grew up studying Ajax’s style with his father, had a couple of goal-scoring chances. In the first half, Kenny Cooper played a low cross that Lowry got his head onto, but the shot missed wide right.
“I think [my dad] would have enjoyed it if I got a goal, so I’m a little frustrated there,” Lowry said.
It was also a big night for rookie defender Chris Taylor, who made his first appearance with the Timbers’ first team.
“I won’t ever forget it,” said Taylor, a standout at the University of Tulsa. “My first game, playing a team of that quality. … I had a lot of fun.”
Ryan Pore, who started at forward, also had a couple of opportunities to puncture the Ajax defense. At the end of the night, Pore did manage to win a souvenir: He swapped shirts with Ajax midfielder Eyong Enoh after the match.
“Any time you can go out and compete against those guys, it’s fun to do,” he said.