The Portland Timbers let their guard down, plain and simple.
That was the message from head coach Caleb Porter after his team witnessed their 2-0 lead evaporate into a 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire on a disappointing Saturday night at Toyota Park. Two second-half goals from the Fire left the Timbers wanting more despite extending their team-record unbeaten streak to 12 games.
“Even at 2-0, the game isn’t done,” Porter said. “With the way we were playing, there was absolutely no reason for that team to get a goal. They got a goal out of nothing. It wasn’t like they had a flow or anything. It popped up in a moment, and we fell asleep.”
Mike Magee’s goal to make it 2-1 did seem to come against the run of play, with the Timbers controlling action up to that point.
“Well, we went up 2-0, and to be honest with you, it looked like it was going to be three or four,” Porter said. “They caught us on a counter-attack. Going into the game we talked about managing two things: the counter, because we knew we’d be up the field and have the ball, and control the game.”
Magee’s goal was aided by an unfortunate turn of events for the Timbers’ defense. Magee received a through ball from midfielder Alex, but Timbers backup goalkeeper Milos Kocic and defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste appeared to both let Magee go free, allowing for an easy tap-in.
“I think I should have been a little bit better getting the ball, but between two, three players I thought maybe one of them was going to touch me and my hands were ready for it,” Kocic said. “I tried to push it away, but unfortunately it hit Magee in the leg. That’s Magee, you know, it always bounces his way. Unfortunately this time, he bounced the ball in and he scored a goal.”
Still, the Timbers did come away with a point and another notch on their unbeaten streak. And they remained the only team in the league to stay unbeaten on the road.
They did it against a team Porter called transformed after the recent acquisitions of Magee and defender Bakary Soumaré. The Fire came into the game in eighth place in the Eastern Conference but have now snagged points in their last three league games.
“The fact that we can learn a lesson without losing a game, I think it’s a very positive thing,” Porter said. “It’ll make us a better team. Feels like a loss but it isn’t, which is great. A lot of teams have to take losses to learn lessons, and we are learning lessons while getting points. So I think it’s a positive thing.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.