Caleb Porter has said he always expects to get three points – no matter the opponent or venue.
After playing FC Dallas to a 1-1 draw on their home field, Porter said his Portland Timbers should have come away with all three points. And his argument stemmed from a late penalty called on Timbers defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste for tangling in the box with Dallas forward Blas Pérez, leading to a 77th-minute penalty kick by Kenny Cooper.
“It's hard to win a game when you're playing against 12 men,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “For me, that's just unfair, completely unfair. I'm not going to criticize anyone specifically, but that's just unacceptable, an off-the-ball call where two guys get tangled.
"I mean, there were 20 other plays in the game that were just like that exact one that could have been called in both boxes. Again, I think it's just an absolute travesty.”
The call in question came as Jean-Baptiste and Pérez jostled for position on a run into the area on a Cooper cross. Cooper’s service came behind Pérez, but head official Juan Guzman felt there was enough contact off the ball to warrant the call.
Porter and Jean-Baptiste felt otherwise.
“It was a rough game out there,” Jean-Baptiste said. “We were battling. He was holding onto me. I was holding on to him. He was hungry to score. I was hungry to keep our clean sheet and leave here with three points. The referee felt I [dragged] him down. I felt like he was tugging on me, I was tugging on him and it was really going both ways.”
The call came seven minutes after Portland broke open a well-played, back-and-forth showdown between the two hottest teams in MLS. Timbers forward Darlington Nagbe got on the end of a cross by second-half substitute Rodney Wallace for the 70th-minute goal that would have given the Timbers their second road win of the season.
Porter felt the call marred an otherwise stellar night of soccer.
“You've got two teams trying to attack and trying to win,” he said. “It's great for the game, great for the league and it's entertaining. But for the game to be decided on that type of call. I just think that can't happen at this level.
“I'm held accountable for doing my job, and these guys need to be held accountable for doing their job as well. I haven't complained all year, and there have been some other calls, but this one for me was over the top.”
Despite the team’s disdain from coming away with a point, it’s still a remarkable contrast from where the team was last year. The Timbers are the only MLS team to still be unbeaten on the road, having tied in three games and won one, a year after winning just one road game all season.
They are the first team to come away with a point from FC Dallas Stadium. And Portland – along with Dallas – are unbeaten in their last eight games overall.
“It says a lot about the team and the guys and the whole organization that we’re not just satisfied with just getting a point on the road, and we believe in ourselves that we’re good enough to win games on the road no matter who we’re playing,” Nagbe told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match.
“It’s just a matter of time that these leads are going to start turning into wins for us, and we’re going to get into the playoffs that way.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.