PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter has been downright optimistic – if not surprisingly so – as his team suffered through a three-game winless streak coming into their Sunday afternoon showdown with Eastern Conference front-runners New York Red Bulls.
His team, despite producing just three goals in those three games, had been proactive in the attack and largely outplayed their opponents when it came to shots and chance creation. They just lacked that finishing touch to produce optimal results.
But against the Red Bulls – after a 2-0 loss in front of their home crowd at Providence Park – Porter was singing a completely different tune.
“Very disappointed,” Porter said in the opening of his postgame press conference. “Very disappointed.”
Porter pointed to a poor start to the game that resulted in the Timbers ultimately conceding the two goals right before halftime as reason for the defeat, saying it was a first half that produced just results for the game.
The Timbers did find plenty of chances in the second half as they attempted to spark a rally – save for once again the finishing touch – firing off 12 of their 17 shots after the break. But Porter said his team never “deserved” to be ahead in the game after allowing Felipe to fire off a long-distance goal unhindered and then a Damien Perrinelle header in front of goal right before halftime.
“First half, not good, not good,” Porter said. “I need some time to look at the tape, need some time to think about it, need some time to talk to my players as well about it because I can’t understand why in that first half we came out the way we did. And it’s very disappointing.”
Even after the loss Portland remain in the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot, as they lead seventh-place San Jose Earthquakes by just a point and eighth place Real Salt Lake by three. To top it off, Portland face a road meeting with red-hot Columbus Crew SC in their next outing, have three of their next four against teams in playoff positions with the fourth game comes against surging RSL.
“We’re not thinking about that at all,” said striker Fanendo Adi, who started on the bench in place of Maximiliano Urruti before coming on in the second half. “We are very sure and confident in ourselves that we can make the playoffs, we just need to win our next game. We’re just going to go back into training and prepare very well and iron things out and go onto the next and try to win.”
The loss came on a night in which the Timbers honored more than 35 team alumni in a pregame brunch and halftime ceremony as part of the team’s 40th anniversary celebrations, making the lackluster performance even harder to take, center back Nat Borchers said.
“I felt like we were the away team, to be honest with you,” Borchers said. “It was strange. … We just didn’t come out with enough energy, with enough bite and we just made bad decisions. I think this is something that’s tough to swallow because it’s at home and we had a lot of our old-time guys that used to play for this club, guys that were here for the 40th anniversary of this club, and we needed to step up and play better for them. They deserved a better match from us, and we owe them an apology for sure.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.