PORTLAND, Ore. – As Ryan Johnson can attest, playing the Montreal Impact can be a frustrating prospect.
While chances on goal seemingly come at will, the goals do not. And after Montreal’s 2-1 victory Saturday night over the Portland Timbers – coming on the heels of a first road victory over another Cascadia foe last weekend in Seattle – the Impact have allowed 34 shot attempts but just one goal in their first two games of 2013.
At least Johnson, the Portland striker, was able to break through with an 80th-minute tally. But that didn’t add any comfort for the Timbers as 18 of their 19 shot attempts went begging.
“We’re doing the right things, and it’s just about the ball falling in the goal the way we want it to and just being a little bit tighter defensively,” Johnson said. “But we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, creating the chances. They just need to start falling a little bit more in our favor, but as long as we keep doing what we’re doing and creating the chances we’ll be fine.”
Less than a week after Portland fired off 21 shots in a 3-3 tie against New York, the Timbers were once again the dominant attacking team against Montreal. Six of the Timbers' shots were on goal, they easily won the possession battle and they had five corners.
About the only offensive category Portland didn’t hold an advantage in was goals.
“We just have to be a little bit sharper around the goal when it comes to those final passes,” Johnson said.
Johnson did battle all night with Montreal’s big center backs, Matteo Ferrari and Alessandro Nesta, But Portland’s attack was stymied. Dynamic midfielder Diego Valeri had a notable struggle, getting off six shots but putting none on goal, mostly lacking that threatening touch.
“As time goes on – it’s still early in the season and everyone is still getting accustomed to one another – we’ll be fine, I’m not worried about it,” Johnson said. “We just need to remember in the back of our minds that we’re doing the right things.”
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter’s frustrations lay in two aspects of the game.
He said his club’s offensive numbers were no surprise and they prepared for Montreal to show a very stiff, organized defensive front. He also said they were prepared for the Impact’s counter attack and set pieces on the defensive end.
Montreal’s first goal came on a set piece, their second on a counter attack as they took a 2-0 lead before Johnson’s late strike.
“It’s not surprising we had as much of the ball as we did, we knew that would be the case,” Porter said. “I’m surprised we had  shots and only had one goal. And I’m disappointed we gave up two goals on [nine] shots. I’m disappointed they hit us basically the two ways we prepared for them to hit us. And we didn’t do a good enough job in managing those two things.”
Of course, the Impact earned some praise as well. It’s not a mistake that they have six points from two games.
“I have to credit Montreal with how organized they were,” Porter said. “They weren’t easy to break down.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.