FRISCO, Texas – Outside of a three-minute stretch toward the beginning of the second half, it appeared the Portland Timbers had erased their defensive woes against a struggling FC Dallas team.
But two quick goals by a pair of FCD defenders sent the Timbers back to Portland empty-handed on a 2-1 loss, despite playing what head coach Caleb Porter called a positive opening 45 minutes.
“Specifically in the first half, we were excellent,” Porter said. “It was maybe our best half of the year in terms of positive play, certainly on the road against a really good team in FC Dallas. We played well because we kept the ball, developed a rhythm, and made them defend and controlled the tempo to dictate the game."
“For some reason at the start of the second half, we stopped doing that,” he added. “Part of that was the first goal was a little fluky. It was three or four little bounces that deflected. We’re having some of that happen this year.”
Porter had laid out a switch in tactics ahead of time that would see the Timbers possess the ball more, press higher and avoid relying too much on the counterattack, which they did until the first goal shifted momentum in Dallas.
Porter referenced a goal against Vancouver last week specifically, comparing it to FC Dallas defender Ryan Hollingshead’s first goal, which was a result of a deflected shot and Hollingshead corralling the rebound. It may have been a perfect series of events for Hollingshead to equalize what was a 1-0 game at the time, but Porter and defender Liam Ridgewell both said it was a turning point.
“You try and react the best you can,” Ridgewell said. “As he shot it, it deflected off Jermaine [Taylor]’s ankle as it went in. That’s football. Sometimes you can’t do anything about those things and just have to take it on the chin and move on.”
The second came in arguably more surprising fashion, considering FC Dallas’ tendencies. Usually a team that struggles from scoring from the corner, Mauro Diaz was able to find a soaring Walker Zimmerman, who again appeared to out-position every Portland defender.
Porter knew the target was going to be Zimmerman, which made it even more frustrating to him to see what ended up being the game-winner get past goalkeeper Jake Gleeson.
“Set pieces are always hard to swallow as a coach because you work on it so much,” Porter said. “You know it’s so important, and a lot of games we’ve won or lost in those moments. We just lost the mark. There was a little bit of a pick on the play, but we have to make those plays.”
The Timbers' road struggles continue, now sporting a 0-4-2 record away from home. But even with the record, Porter isn’t overly concerned, knowing they have still showed promise for great lengths during games.
“The good news is that we’ve been in position,” Porter said of the team’s road struggles. “The bad news is we haven’t been able to put the complete 90 minutes together to get three points. But we need to build on that first half and play that way moving forward.”