Once again the Portland Timbers are left to ask “what if” as they saw a number of opportunities go by the board in a 1-0 road loss on Saturday night against the Columbus Crew.
By all accounts, the Timbers should have scored after playing most of the first half around the Crew goal. Portland went into the locker room at halftime sporting a 10-3 advantage on shots but had nothing to show for it.
“It’s kind of been the story for us,” said Timbers defender Eric Brunner, who played two seasons in Columbus before moving to Portland in last year’s Expansion Draft. “We are getting punished by mistakes ... We are working really hard, and it’s just one little thing and we are getting punished for it.”
Portland’s offensive effort was commendable, but it was their finishing that lacked precision.
First, a blast by midfielder Jack Jewsbury from 22 yards out sailed just over the goal early in the second half, marking the best opportunity from a number of long-distance attempts by Portland that missed the target.
The Timbers’ best offensive effort was a beautifully possessed attack by midfielder Darlington Nagbe, who danced his way through several Crew defenders. But the work went unrewarded when his open, 15-foot shot rolled left of the post.
“We did well controlling the first half, and I thought we had a good amount of possession,” Brunner said. “We had some good opportunities. We just need to finish some chances.”
The Timbers also failed to take advantage when Columbus starting goalkeeper William Hesmer was a late scratch from the starting lineup because of an injury suffered on Wednesday against the LA Galaxy. Crew backup 'keeper Andy Gruenebaum was forced to make just three saves.
Columbus were also without their leading goal-scorer, Andrés Mendoza, who picked up an injury against the Galaxy.
“I thought it was a very even game,” Timbers head coach John Spencer said. “It comes down to us making a mistake.”
The offensive miscues Saturday continue to muddy the source of the team’s struggles. While it was the defense that took the blame in a 3-2 loss against rival Seattle on July 10, the defense — which included the addition of Jamaican Lovel Palmer to the starting lineup Saturday after coming over in a midweek trade — has now put together two straight commendable efforts.
Portland won 1-0 against Chicago on the road last weekend. Against Columbus on Saturday, Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins had to make just one save.
A goal-line kick save by Nagbe in the 60th minute, with Perkins out of position, spoiled Columbus’ first legitimate opportunity at a goal. But, for the most part, the Crew’s offense came in spurts. Columbus’ lone tally was initially ruled an own goal when the attempt by Eddie Gaven glanced off the chest of Portland defender Mamadou Danso at the goal line.
The lone tally left Portland winless in seven of eight road matches played this year.
“Well, you’re never happy with their performance when you lose,” Spencer said. “But I think we played well enough to get something from the game.”