PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Timbers head coach John Spencer is running out of ways to explain his team’s losses.
Before the latest defeat — a 3-2 heartbreaker against rival Seattle Sounders on Sunday at JELD-WEN Field — the culprit was allowing early goals and having to chase.
But the Timbers found a new way to lose in their latest installment, having gone up 1-0 and then 2-1 before allowing game-tying and eventually winning goals.
“If you don’t defend, you’re not going to win games,” said a dejected Spencer in the postgame press conference. “I thought we did enough to win, scoring two goals at home.”
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It was as if Portland’s defense wilted as soon the offense staked them to a lead.
After an own-goal by Seattle’s Jeff Parke, set up with stellar work by Timbers forwards Kalif Alhassan and Jorge Perlaza, the Sounders answered 11 minutes later on a free kick by Fredy Montero from 20 feet beyond the goal box that sailed over the Timbers defensive wall and past a diving Troy Perkins in net.
“I thought it was a great free kick, to be honest with you,” Spencer said. “He put it right where he had to for it to be a goal.”
And then, after Perlaza scored to put the Timbers ahead 2-1 in the 69th minute, Seattle answered just five minutes later. It was Montero again off a nifty touch pass by Mauro Rosales.
“You can’t let runners go free and expect other guys to pick them up,” explained Spencer
That’s exactly what happened when reserve midfielder Lamar Neagle got free in the box, leading to defender Eric Brunner being forced to take him down with a tackle. That led to Osvaldo Alonso’s game-winning penalty kick.
“You’ve got to finish the game off,” Spencer said.
As it is, the main thing Spencer will likely dwell on in the days leading up to Portland’s next match in Chicago is his team’s eight-game winless streak.
“Right now, I’m just trying to swallow a pill that’s 10 times bigger than it should be,” he said.