Whether it’s John Spencer or Gavin Wilkinson (above) writing the lyrics, the Portland Timbers continue to sing the same tune on the road.
The latest ditty was a 1-0 defeat Wednesday afternoon to Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center, keeping the Timbers winless in nine games away from JELD-WEN Field and without a goal on the road since April 14. The culprit is a familiar one, as well: a lack of offensive production resulting in just two shots on goal.
“I think in the first half we lacked a little bit of energy, we lacked imagination, we lacked creativity,” said Wilkinson, the Timbers interim head coach, who now has two losses in two games to his name since taking over for the deposed Spencer. “Our ball speed was a little bit poor and individual areas cost us the goal. I think our shape was by and large a lot better going into the second half. We picked up the tempo a little bit and we started to press a lot higher.”
And while the Timbers left the pitch empty handed, the performance was certainly better than the club’s previous two games on the road, both 3-0 decisions after being dominated in almost every statistical category by the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake. Against Chivas, the Timbers held a slight possession advantage (50.4 percent) and 86-percent passing accuracy.
HIGHLIGHTS: CHV 1, POR 0
“It's disappointing, another road loss,” midfielder Eric Alexander said. “I thought we could have had a couple goals in the second half and some breakdowns gave them a goal early.”
And Portland did show signs of life in the second half, with their first real threat against goalkeeper Dan Kennedy coming in the form of a 52nd-minute header by midfielder Darlington Nagbe. Alexander had a right-footed blast in the 69th minute that required the work of Kennedy, and striker Kris Boyd had a good look at the equalizer in the 85th minute when his left-footed chip of a long Steven Smith pass went wide right.
“I thought in the second half we totally dominated the game and at least should have come away with a point, but it's not to be,” Boyd said.
The road gauntlet only gets more daunting, however, with a Saturday meeting with FC Dallas (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online) and a steamy Texas atmosphere awaiting. The Timbers have yet to win there, playing to a 1-1 draw March 17 earlier this season and losing 4-0 there last year.
“I think the only change that we really want is the three points,” Boyd said. “It's a difficult place to be going to play football, but it's up to us to go and be in control of the ball and play the game at our speed. Hopefully we can go there this time and get the three points. We went early in the season and they took the lead in the first half and in the second half we had most of the play, but it's up to us to take our chances.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.