It was a tough loss to swallow all the way around for Caleb Porter and the Portland Timbers.
Not only did they lose to bitter rivals Seattle Sounders, by a 2-1 count, Sunday afternoon at a rocking CenturyLink Field, but they lost match in which the Timbers head coach felt his team overwhelmingly outplayed the hosts.
To top it off, Porter said the game was “poorly managed” by head referee Alan Kelly – heightened by a penalty kick given late in the first half that led to Seattle's second goal and a 2-0 lead for the hosts.
“Our plan was to come in and go toe-to-toe, and I thought we did that, and I thought we were far and away the better team,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “I thought the official was very poor. I’ll stick with the theme of coaches complaining this week, but the reality is I call a spade a spade, and the official was very poor today.”
Porter said there could have been multiple fouls called on the play that led to Seattle’s first goal – a bad giveaway by the Timbers in the box that Obafemi Martins pounced on in the sixth minute. The penalty came under objection as well after Martins ran over Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey in the box as he came off his line to intercept a long ball in the 41st minute.
Most of all, Porter was frustrated by the inconsistency of fouls called.
“We’re coaches, and we’re all ambassadors for MLS and want the game to grow, and I thought the game was very poorly managed by the official,” he said. “And he’s an experienced guy, but he seemed to be sleepwalking through the game. It wasn’t anything where he was biased toward one team or another, nothing unethical, I just thought he was very poor. Just like coaches have poor games and players have poor games, I thought he had a poor game.
“It seemed like he wasn’t ready for the intensity, wasn’t ready for the magnitude of the game and kind of strolled around and didn’t seem like there was any consistency in the foul recognition.”
Porter added that he hoped the Professional Referee Organization (PRO), which oversees refereeing in MLS, took note of the game.
“We’re all under pressure to perform, and the official needs to be under pressure as well, and I hope [PRO general manager] Peter Walton is watching this game,” Porter said. “We’ve come up with this great organization, PRO, and I hope that we’re evolving and growing these officials and we’re not turning a blind eye to poor performances because in this game with two good teams, rivalry game, a lot at stake, we need a better referee.”
What made the result even harder for Porter to swallow was how well he felt his team played. Portland outshot Seattle 20-6 (6-3 on target) and controlled the possession for large stretches after the Sounders netted the opener.
A Jack Jewsbury goal off a corner kick in the 58th minute was all Portland could manage to convert, however.
“They had nothing,” Porter said. “In fact, I think back on the game and I can’t even remember not one time where they broke us down. Their high-powered, big-budget team had trouble. They couldn’t create much on us, and they get out of this game with three points off of a poor first goal, I think with a couple fouls, and a PK.
“We can’t get frustrated, there are some things that happened in this game that we felt hard done by, but we need to continue our positive play.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.