But three points proved elusive following a frustrating 1-0 home defeat Sunday afternoon.
“I think we played a good game overall. Dominated,” said Portland captain Diego Valeri, who had the best chance for a Timbers goal with a header that went of the post in the 16th minute. “We missed all our chances...and they just defended so deep.”
Bunkering down worked well for D.C., forcing the Timbers to take a bevy of shots from outside the box, a recurring problem for Portland.
“I think a lot of (shots) were from 30 yards out and we trust our goalkeeper with shots from that far and I thought we defended our box fairly well,” United’s Wayne Rooney said. “I think if you’re going to defend deep, you’re going to concede shots, especially from distance and overall I think we defended the box well.”
“That’s the most difficult thing to improve in soccer, right?” Valeri said about capitalizing on opportunities. “If someone has that secret, they’d probably win every championship so it’s hard to improve it. The only way is to be more calm, to be more precise...but on the rest we did really well.”
In the end, an own goal in the 25th minute sealed Portland’s fate. Ulises Segura sent a cross inside the six-yard box that Timbers defender Bill Tuiloma tried to intercept. Instead, he slid and hit the ball into the back of his own net.
“I think it’s just communication,” Tuiloma said about the own goal. “Everything just happened quick and...it was my choice and I made my choice to go near post and unfortunately it went into the back of our net. It is what it is and now I’ve got to look forward to Wednesday, so I can’t get my head down and be all bonded on it.”
It could have easily been a 2-0 game, as D.C. advocated for a second goal. Rooney launched a corner kick that went off Paul Arriola’s back and then off Timbers keeper Steve Clark. As the ball rolled to the goal, Eryk Williamson cleared the ball off the line, but replays showed that the ball may have crossed the line before Williamson could clear the ball.
“The one thing I don’t understand is VAR was brought in for these situations and I don’t understand how you have, and quite clearly it’s a goal, but we don’t get it,” Rooney said. “I don’t know. Maybe more cameras are needed on the goal line as well as across the pitch.”
The officials were asked about the decision by a pool reporter after the match and said a clear error was not made utilizing the "available angles."
Regardless, D.C. leaves Portland with three more points, keeping them at fifth in the East with 45 points. It was a scrappy win for a team fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
“I think we know we’re not the best football team in the league and we like to make games a bit scruffy at times and work hard and dig in and try and get three points,” Rooney said. “That’s how we’ve won most of our games this season, so we all need to work together to do that.
“It’ll be tough of course, but if we do that, we might give ourselves a good chance.”