The trio of Portland Timbers facing their former team on Sunday wasn’t greeted very kindly.
Timbers head coach John Spencer (pictured above, right), a Dynamo assistant for more than four seasons, along with defenders Lovel Palmer and Mike Chabala, who both came to Portland in a July 21 trade, were stymied by their former teammates in a 2-1 defeat at Robertson Stadium.
“It was different. I think it took me a few minutes to realize that I was on the green team,” Chabala said. “I don’t mean that as far as giving the ball away, but I’m looking over at guys I’ve played with for over five-and-half-years, and I’m going, ‘Whoa, I’m going the other way.’ I say that jokingly, but in all seriousness, it was a new feeling.”
Instead, it was a former Timbers player who showed his old team what they’re missing.
Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat, the other side of the Palmer-Chabala trade, blasted a shot from 40 yards out into the top of the goal to draw first blood.
Moffat was even booked after flattening Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury as they both contested for a ball in the air.
“When you are out there against your old teammates, you want to get stuck in,” Moffat said. “I had a couple challenges to let them know I was there as well. It was a good strike that went in. I was happy and delighted, but like I said, it was the three points that mattered.”
Spencer, Chabala and Palmer all have deep connections to Houston; the latter pair had spent the best part of their MLS careers in Dynamo orange. Chabala spent his first six years in MLS with Houston, and Palmer joined the Dynamo last year after playing professionally in Jamaica.
But Spencer’s motivations had special meaning, sparked by the desire of the student to defeat the master.
Spencer equated his relationship to Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear as that of brothers. Spencer was part of Houston’s back-to-back MLS Cup championship teams in 2006 and ’07, making Sunday’s result especially disappointing.
“I think it’s a very difficult place to come and play,” Spencer said. “Not just with the climate, but Robertson Stadium is a real fortress and they make it very difficult for the opposing players. … Tonight, I don’t think we were out-played; I think we matched them stride for stride, and I was really disappointed.”
But there’s no time to nurse wounds. With a shot at the playoffs fading, the Timbers now travel straight to Kansas City to face Jewsbury's former team on Wednesday.