PORTLAND, Ore. – To the surprise of nobody, there were some long faces in the Portland Timbers locker room after they squandered a second-half, 4-2 lead Saturday in a 4-4 draw against Cascadia rival the Seattle Sounders.
Had Portland held on for the victory they not only would have jump started their rough start to the 2014 season, but also beaten their neighbor to the north for the fourth consecutive time.
And while head coach Caleb Porter flatly said he was “dejected” after Sounders forward Clint Dempsey netted two late goals, he also said there were some positives to take away.
“The competitor in me is dejected,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “… The coach in me is very encouraged by a lot of the things I saw today.”
First, the bad. Porter chalked up at least three of Seattle’s goals to individual errors on the Timbers defense, including Seattle’s first goal off a corner kick for an unmarked Kenny Cooper.
The Sounders’ second was set up on a poor clearance by center back Norberto Paparatto, leading to a Dempsey’s first goal of the day. Dempsey’s second, off an 85th-minute cross that found the US national team captain in front of an open goal for the easy tap-in, was also due to the failure to mark players in the box.
“For me, the way we played was encouraging, but the mistakes we made in and around our box … that part of the team was very discouraging and concerning,” Porter said. “It’s one thing if your organization is leading to mistakes, and I don’t think that’s the case because I thought overall the way we played allowed us to score four goals and allowed us to dominate large portions of the game and dictate the game.”
Goalkeeper Andrew Weber said both of Dempsey’s goals could have been prevented had the marking of his runs and of the service been better. Dempsey’s third came on an 87th-minute penalty, after Ben Zemanski chopped down DeAndre Yedlin in the box to help complete the comeback.
“If you can’t get the cross off you can’t score, and a couple times today on the goals we didn’t clear the line,” Weber said. “…For the most part guys were sharp, the lines were sharp. We just have to cut out the silly mistakes because I don’t think teams are really creating their chances on us. We’re giving them away, and we need to sort that out.”
Before Seattle’s heroics, there was plenty of good for the Timbers to draw from, especially considering they came into the game with just three goals scored (including one on an opponent’s own goal).
With Kalif Alhassan starting for Gaston Fernandez, Portland’s offensive flow that propelled them to the Western Conference championship of the MLS Cup Playoffs last year appeared to return. And Diego Valeri (who scored his first of the season) and Darlington Nagbe were perhaps the most dangerous players on the field. Even defensive midfielder Diego Chara got in on the fun with a brace, his first goals scored since the 2012 season.
“I thought for the majority of the game we defended well, we attacked very well, I thought we controlled the game, had our foot on the throat at 4-2,” Porter said. “And the way the game was going at 4-2, there was no feeling with what the flow was doing and what you’re feeling, that the game was going to turn. A game turns when players make mistakes around the goal.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.