PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland head coach John Spencer admitted that playing Club América on Thursday night was akin to his young squad facing Manchester United.
Regardless of allowing another early goal, Spencer said, once the initial shock of playing such a quality club wore off, his team of mostly reserves played well in a 1-0 friendly loss at JELD-WEN Field.
“I was really proud of the guys," he said. “I thought we played some great football. At times, our final ball into the box let us down, but we created some opportunities.”
Club América, based in Mexico City, are one of the most successful clubs in the country, having won 33 total championships in various tournaments, and feature top international player Ángel Reyna.
Reyna’s goal in the 16th minute continued Portland’s struggles early in matches. The Timbers conceded twice in the first 20 minutes of their last regular-season match, a 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City.
“[América] know how to keep the ball, [and are] very dynamic,” said Timbers midfielder Rodrigo López, who grew up in the youth academy of Mexico's other top club, CD Guadalajara. “I think they came at us a little bit for the first couple minutes.”
Perhaps the aspect of the match that will be remembered most was the overwhelming number of Águilas supporters who all but drowned out a relatively subdued Timbers Army.
“It’s extraordinary,” said América head coach Carlos Reinoso through an interpreter. “It was beautiful to watch the fan base of this team, and it was very impressive to see how many people turned out to watch this game.”
Spencer is pleased with the friendly and thinks it will have many beneficial implications moving forward for his squad.
“The difference in performance, confidence-wise, from the Ajax game [Portland’s last friendly] was night and day, really,” he added. “Young guys getting an opportunity to play the biggest club in Mexico — I thought it was a great experience for everybody."
Now the Timbers are set to move on to a match that counts — in a big way.
Portland turn their full attention to bitter Cascadia rivals, the Seattle Sounders, in a nationally televised match on Sunday afternoon (4 pm ET, ESPN) at JELD-WEN Field. Portland tied the Sounders 1-1 up in Seattle on May 14, but now the Timbers come into the match reeling, winless in their last six matches and seven if you include Thursday’s result.
With this friendly behind them, the Timbers will need to come out and perform well if they expect to turn their recent slump around.