PORTLAND, Ore. – John Spencer refused to call the Portland Timbers an expansion team last year, their first in MLS.
On Saturday night, after failing to maintain a lead for the second consecutive week in a 2-1 loss to Chivas USA at JELD-WEN Field, the Timbers head coach wasn’t sparing anyone’s feelings.
“For me, we played like an expansion team tonight,” Spencer said. “We played nervous in front of a big crowd, with not enough guys stepping up and taking responsibility.”
In fact, after their third consecutive loss, the Timbers are behind where they were in their actual expansion season. After five games last season, Portland were sitting on seven points. This season, with heightened expectations after a number of high-level player additions in the offseason, they’re near the bottom of the Western Conference standings with just four points.
HIGHLIGHTS: Portland 1, Chivas USA 2
After Saturday’s loss to Chivas, the 1-3-1 Timbers are winless since opening the season with a 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union.
“Their energy level from the start of the game to the end of the game was better than ours,” Spencer said of Saturday night’s opponents. “This is as poor as we’ve played at JELD-WEN since I’ve been here.”
The last two results have been particularly hard to swallow for Spencer. Last Saturday, Portland watched as Real Salt Lake scored twice in the game’s final four minutes to turn a 2-1 Timbers lead into a 3-2 RSL victory.
And against Chivas USA, the Timbers squandered a 1-0 first-half lead on a goal by Designated Player Kris Boyd. After an aggressive and dominating first half, Portland shied away from the Rojiblancos’ second-half surge. And Alejandro Moreno and Nick LaBrocca made the Timbers pay, each collecting header goals on perfectly placed crossing passes from the wing.
“You’ve got to step up and be a man,” Spencer said. “A few guys need to look at themselves tonight and ask themselves, ‘Am I doing enough on and off the field?’”
The differences between the two halves were shocking.
After creating 10 attempts on goal to Chivas’ three in the first half, the Rojiblancos completely flipped the script. The visitors created 11 chances on goal to Portland’s two. And after dominating with 60 percent of the possession in the first half, Chivas were able to whittle that down to 56 percent by the final whistle.
“Just energy,” said forward Darlington Nagbe who, after a brace against RSL last weekend, was held to two shots on goal on Saturday, all in the first half. “We had a lot of energy in the first, and we didn’t in the second half.”
It won’t get easier, either. Portland will travel next week to face the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy, a team that has been more disappointing than Portland with a 1-4-0 record.
“We need to dig deep,” Boyd said. “We need to be men and stand up, come in early next week and get a good result.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.