SEATTLE—Coming into Sunday's road matchup with the Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field, the Portland Timbers hadn’t managed to bag a victory away from the friendly confines of Providence Park in 2016.
They still haven’t, thanks to Clint Dempsey and the Sounders, who tagged Portland with a 3-1 defeat in their Cascadia Cup match. Dempsey tagged the Timbers for two-second half goals, with Cristian Roldan adding the other, rendering substitute Fanendo Adi’s stoppage time tally for Portland a moot point.
Timbers coach Caleb Porter notably opted to start Jack McInerney up top over Adi, who is usually deployed as the team’s starting target forward.
“Obviously there’s reasons [Adi] didn’t start and he was a late scratch,” Porter said. “But that’s something that I’ll handle privately. I keep those things internal.”
Despite the opportunity, McInerney will want to put Sunday’s contest in his personal rear-view mirror as soon as possible. The 24-year-old had a point-blank 1-on-1 look at an equalizing goal in the 67th minute off a feed from midfielder Diego Valeri, but was thwarted by a heroic save from Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
“That’s a goal,” Porter said. “He knows it [and] feels bad about it but strikers miss chances like that. Dempsey missed one as well, an easy one. Even the best players miss those sometimes, but you’ve got to keep working with these guys and keep putting them in positions. And a lot of it is psychological.”
With a similar focus on the mental aspects of the game, Porter said he felt his team’s play didn’t necessarily merit the one-sided result.
“A lot closer than 3-1,” Porter said. “I know because I watched the game, and you look at the stats we were right there: 16-17 on shots.
“You know, ironically we played much better in the second half but we end up giving up three goals in the second half. So, it’s not what everybody wants to hear. Ultimately it’s 3-1, right? But for me, it’s a lot closer game and it could have been different.”
The defeat cost Portland (8-10-8, 32 points) ground in the Western Conference playoff race, as the Sounders pulled within two points of the Timbers following their victory. Portland will get a quick chance at redeeming the disappointing result – the sides will meet again next Sunday at Providence Park (5pm ET; ESPN | MLS LIVE in Canada) in a marquee matchup for Heineken Rivalry Week.