Portland Timbers in search of "stronger mentality" in defense

PORTLAND, Ore. – Following back-to-back clean sheets, the Portland Timbers allowed five goals in two matches heading into Sunday’s derby against the Seattle Sounders.

Then, the Timbers again dropped points because of defensive miscues in a 2-2 draw vs. their rival. The first, when Joevin Jones was able to pounce on a botched clearance by Alvas Powell. Jake Gleeson saved the shot but, unable to hold onto the ball, it spilled right back to Jones for the slotted finish.

Despite playing the second half down a man, Seattle still found an equalizer in the final minutes to rob Portland of all three points when Clint Dempsey scored.

“This has now become a pattern,” Porter said following the match. “We’re in winning position and we don’t show a strong enough mentality. We will always play pretty well because we’ve got a good enough team and we are organized. We’ve got our fans behind us. But to be a winning team we have to have a stronger mentality.”

Added Gleeson: “We’ve got to clear our lines better. It’s the last two minutes of the game and we’re giving the ball away in our defensive half. Just clear your lines and get the line up. That’s what we needed to do, but we didn’t do it."

Part of Portland's problem comes down to the fact that they have been dealing with several losses on the backline, where seven defenders have made five or more starts over 18 games.

Perhaps no player has been missed more so than captain Liam Ridgewell, who brings organization and leadership to the field. Porter hopes Ridgewell will regain his health soon to help put these mentality issues behind the club, but the recent addition of Larrys Mabiala could also aid the Timbers in that regard.

Nonetheless, Portland know they need to start making mental adjustments to close out games.

“It’s there. We know we can do it," said Gleeson. "It’s getting back into it and finding a way to win the game.”