PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter is starting to see a trend.
Teams are rarely attempting to go toe-to-toe with his attacking possession side, choosing rather to play a counter attack style, with balls in the air and a cement mixer on the ground.
That’s exactly what the Vancouver Whitecaps did Saturday, Porter said, and it led to a 1-1 draw at JELD-WEN Field. Despite finding little on the offensive end all night, the Whitecaps got a game-tying goal off a corner kick in the 78th minute. It was one moment, and it cost the Portland Timbers 90 minutes of work that Porter felt was more than worth three points.
“We make that play, we win the game, it’s that simple,” Porter said. “We played well enough. If we didn’t play well and we got a draw, I’d be worried. Now my guys are mad because we didn’t win and they want to win, but I’m not worried because we played well tonight. And we were clearly the better team.”
Porter said it was combination of Vancouver’s physical play and a closely monitored game by referee Radu Petrescu, who blew his whistle for 30 total fouls, that led to a choppy game and prevented Portland from getting into a rhythm. The goal the Timbers did score, on a 49th-minute header by Ryan Johnson, came after a series of passes that led to a perfectly placed Diego Valeri cross into the box.
But despite holding a 58-percent possession advantage, Portland managed just three shots on goal.
“They’re just trying to pinch the game, they’re not trying to dominate the game, and they clearly came in here to try to pinch the game and pinch a result,” Porter said. “And fair enough, they did, they got a point. But we make the play on the corner, and it’s a 1-0 game.”
Timbers captain Will Johnson said they were ready for just that type of game and talked about defending set pieces all week. He also said the attack needs to be ready to punish teams willing to sit behind the ball.
“It’s killer. It’s painful, beyond painful,” he said. “And if we keep it up we’re all going to be really hurting, so it’s got to be sorted out quickly. Both ends of the field, we’ve got to start taking a little more responsibility. I think attacking-wise we’re not hungry enough. I think there’s decent service in the run of play as well as on set pieces. Box defending, box attacking, if we execute that well we’ll make the playoffs. If we don’t, we won’t.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.