PORTLAND, Ore. – The drama after a last-second goal gave the Portland Timbers a 1-1 draw in their season opener Saturday against the Philadelphia Union will certainly lead the highlight reels.
But for Timbers players and head coach Caleb Porter, what they’ll see in their dreams is a parade of missed chances – that final touch that was never to be.
The Timbers dominated possession in their usual high-pressing style and outshot Philly 15-10 on a rainy night at Providence Park, but they only managed two shots on target and appeared to be just a half step or partial touch away from where they want to be.
“I think they’re getting close,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “Maybe we’re a touch off, but we’re right there. When I watch the film after every game I’m looking at the moments where we’re pulling off some plays that we’re inches from slipping the ball in at the right weight or the run could have been a bit better. That’ll come, and again I think that will be an ongoing thing. That probably is for every team; you always want more goals.”
There’s little question of whether Portland have enough firepower.
The offseason acquisition of Argentine forward Gaston Fernandez has added to what was already a high-flying group, featuring reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year in midfielder Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and highly touted young striker Maximiliano Urruti. What’s clear now, however, is they’re still searching for something when it comes to bagging goals.
Including their seven preseason games, the Timbers have scored more than one goal just once so far this year.
“I don’t know if it’s timing so much as decision making and heart,” Timbers captain Will Johnson said. “You have to want to score goals. It’s not always going to be a three-man combination tap-in goal. There has to be some plays where there are some scraps. … I think it’s just a desire, and the guys know that. You have to look in the mirror and know what you’re job is.”
Right back Jack Jewsbury echoed Johnson’s sentiment.
“I think it’s one of those things where we have a ton of guys in the attacking third, and they play off each other very well,” Jewsbury said. “You could see that at times tonight. I think everyone is pressing hard and trying hard to sometimes make that goal almost too pretty. For us, sometimes it’s about smacking that ball and creating something out nothing. Nothing to worry about yet; it’s the first game of the year.”
Porter was clearly pleased with what he called his team’s “meddle” and “grit” to find the equalizer on what proved to the last kick of the game, a stoppage time header by Fernandez off a Johnson corner kick.
And he said he hopes Fernandez’s first MLS goal “opens the floodgates.”
“Ultimately, I think there’s more to this team with the front guys; I’m not worried,” he said. “… I’d like to see it a bit more in key moments in the boxes, we’ve got to have more hunger at times. I thought there were plenty of goals in there if we were a little bit hungrier.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.