PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Timbers defender Eric Brunner has been a hero for his team this year. He just picked a bad day to become the goat.
In the 81st minute on Sunday, with the score even at two apiece, Brunner allowed Seattle Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle to get free in the box, resulting in a tackle that got him ejected and led to the game-winning goal on an Osvaldo Alonso penalty kick.
The 3-2 loss in front of a frothing crowd Sunday at JELD-WEN Field is one that’s likely to stick with Timbers players and fans for some time: It pushes Portland’s winless streak to seven matches.
“It’s never a good feeling when the guy you’re guarding gets through a hole like that and you give up a PK for their game-winning goal,” Brunner said.
Brunner was the hero in Portland’s last victory, a 1-0 victory over Columbus on May 22 in which he scored on a free-kick header to beat his former team. But there was no such serendipity against Seattle, as Portland’s defense folded each time they took a lead. Seattle answered with goals when Portland went ahead 1-0 and then 2-1.
“I think from our standpoint, we need to be turned on the entire time,” Brunner said of the Timbers' apparent lapses on defense. “And that way, you don’t allow certain situations to happen.”
The biggest lapse came with the game tied 2-2. Neagle, a reserve who came on in the 66th minute, somehow got behind Portland’s defense with the ball. Brunner tried to take it away from behind, but forced Neagle to the ground in the process.
“I tried to reach around, and I thought I got the ball first,” Brunner said. “I came in and watched the replay and I thought I did. At the same time, you can’t let them get behind us like that and make the referee to make the call.”
Brunner said it was a shame his team couldn’t match the intensity of a sold-out crowd that unveiled an elaborately constructed tifo before the match and buffeted the Timbers throughout with constant chanting and cheering.
“We need to thrive on that and be smart and solid and home,” he said. “We had a good home stand at the beginning of the season, and we need to get back to that.”