Despite holding a 2-1 lead and a numerical advantage over their Cascadia rivals for more than 45 minutes, Portland were gutted by a last-gasp Clint Dempsey goal that leaves the Timbers soul-searching, and facing the realities of a 2-5-3 record over the past months.
“We’ve had some tough [losses] recently in this stretch,” Porter said in his postgame remarks. “I’m looking more big-picture than today. I’m looking at the trend and the pattern, and knowing what it takes to be a winning team. When I say winning team, it’s not just about winning a game. It’s about winning something at the end of the year.
“This team has the potential to do that,” he added. “My belief in their ability to do that hasn’t wavered.”
After successive defensive miscues allowed Seattle to get on the board first, the Timbers equalized in the 45th minute when Darlington Nagbe was taken down in the box to earn both a penalty kick (dispatched by Fanendo Adi) and a man advantage via a straight red card, issued to Brad Evans for the denial of a goalscoring opportunity.
When Dairon Asprilla scored Portland’s first goal of a corner kick of the season four minutes into stoppage time, the rout appeared to be on. But it was undone by a sequence of mistakes Porter would enumerate postgame.
“In that second half there were three things we wanted to do,” he said. “No. 1: Keep the ball. We didn’t do that.
“Two,” Porter continued, “we didn’t want to foul because we knew every foul would be a set piece. We lacked discipline. We fouled far too much. We didn’t get burned on a set piece, but we could have. Time and time again. [Seattle had] a chance to get their bigs up and that wasn’t what we wanted to have happen.”
The third, and probably most important thing: kill off the game the third goal.
In the regular-season series between Portland and Seattle, Sunday marked only the second time in seven matches at Providence Park that the Timbers have failed to post three or more goals against the Sounders, a streak that dates back to the 2013 season.
“This is a pivotal moment,” Porter said, suggesting that’s Sunday’s draw might be the silver lining that galvanizes a team he feels is capable winning Portland a second MLS Cup in three years.
“This is either a turning point,” he added, “where we finally decide – after the guys look in the mirror and look at the second half and realize that it’s not good enough – it can be a turning point, a stepping stone. Or it’s a stumbling block. It’s one of two things. But we’ve got to sort it out if we are going to win.”