That would be a big challenge, given the multiple scoring threats on a Timbers side that rang up 16 goals in six matches before Sporting shut down the Supporters' Shield leaders 1-0 last weekend. Still, Portland have some regrouping to do ahead of this coming weekend's home match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"You keep your composure," manager Caleb Porter told reporters after the match, which saw the Timbers held scoreless for the first time in 22 matches at Providence Park. "You find a bit of quality. You score off a set piece. You’ve got to find that precision in the final third. There’s no magic formula how you do that. More width obviously. You get more width then maybe you find more gaps central. I just didn’t think we found quite enough."
Sporting made life difficult for the first 75 minutes – though the Timbers knocked hard late and almost pulled off a late equalizer, but for Tim Melia's fingertip save in the 79th minute against Darlington Nagbe – with a swarming high press, an organized defensive shape and the positional awareness to draw 22 fouls.
"It was a very choppy game," forward Fanendo Adi said. "They came to interrupt, destroy and just commit fouls. We had a lot of fouls, but they weren’t called. Credit to them. That was their game plan, and they executed it. Of course for us we wanted to play, but we didn’t have the opportunity to play. We needed to adjust a little bit in the second half, but it was still choppy up and down. We’ll learn from it. We believe the next game is going to be pretty much the same, but it’s good we had the test today.”
Porter also expects the Whitecaps to try the same thing in this weekend's Cascadia Cup match.
"We have another opponent coming up next week that is going to be similar from the standpoint of they want to chop up the rhythm," he said. "They want to get a lot of body contact all the time. Every team is different. Every opponent is different. Every game is different. We have to find ways to win games when we are not able to get rhythm. When we are not able to get as much control as we want. But that’s a very good team.
"This game will help us. We will learn from it and, like I said, we have a chance next weekend to show that we’ve learned some lessons in this type of soccer game.”
One key lesson, he said, is maintaining composure when the match gets emotional.
"We've got to find ways to wins games when things aren’t going our way," Porter said. "Part of that is putting the game on our terms. Part of that is finding a way to win, no matter what. Part of that is managing the emotions of what’s happening in the game and keeping your composure."
And despite the loss, the Timbers still believe in the style of play that still has them atop the league and Western Conference standings.
"Besides the result, we are confident in our quality and unity," midfielder Diego Valeri said. "Obviously it wasn’t the result we want, but it’s a long season. We’re going to fight. We have a long way to work.”