PORTLAND, Ore. – Philadelphia Union coach Peter Nowak knew Monday evening at JELD-WEN Field wasn’t going to be an easy proposition. Between the rain, the turf, and the crowd – not to mention the guys in green – Portland has already established itself as one of the more daunting road dates on the MLS schedule.
The result for his rebuilt Union was a tough 3-1 loss, highlighted by a furious second half comeback from the home team.
“After that first goal we scored, I think we – instead of dropping a little bit too far, I thought we should have gone a bit more forward and tried to pressure a little bit harder,” Nowak explained afterward. “This part was too easy, and you know, if we hold off for another five, 10 minutes, I think maybe it’s a different game.”
But the way it played out, Philadelphia’s 51st-minute goal – courtesy of a Gabriel Gomez free kick – seemed to light a fire under the Timbers that the Union simply couldn’t extinguish. Whether it was the lightning-quick attacks down either flank, Kris Boyd’s diagonal runs across the box, or second balls that always seemed to find Diego Chara or Jack Jewsbury, everything about the game’s final 40 minutes just seemed out of Philly’s grasp.
In short, it was fairly close to a coach’s nightmare.
First it was Philly’s young ‘keeper, Zac MacMath, spilling a header for the equalizer. Then it was veteran central defensive duo Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes getting skinned by Boyd – a goal that brought the capacity crowd to a fever pitch – for the go-ahead.
And finally it was Kalif Alhassan capping a man of the match performance with a “Did he mean it?” cross that somehow ended up in the back of the net.
Just like that the Timbers saw 1-0 for turn into 3-1 against.
“It seemed like it was going 100 miles an hour,” said attacker Freddy Adu, who was limited by Portland’s aggressive pressure and his own side’s inability to string passes together. “We did a pretty good job, especially in the first half, of weathering the storm and playing our game. But at the end of the day, we’ve just got to forget about it, come back and work on getting better for the next game.”
Nowak echoed his playmaker’s thoughts.
“There’s 33 weeks in front of us to be sure that the players understand each other better and better every single week,” Nowak said. “We’ll learn from everything that happens today.”
They’ll have to learn quickly. The Union face a short week, so they’re not afforded much time to dissect just what went wrong
“We wish to do it in four days, because in four days we have another game,” Nowak said. “It’s gonna take time.”
FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS