Portland Timbers 1-2 Sporting Kansas City: Notes From Cascadia

Lifeless first half. Energetic, aggressive second half. Inconsistent play throughout. Rinse. Repeat. This has been the formula for the Portland Timbers during their winless streak which now sits at 6 games after a 2-1 defeat at the hands of once lowly Sporting KC Saturday night at another wasted, loud and sold out Jeld-Wen Field.

Despite coming off an embarrassing debacle at Dallas the previous week where the Timbers were blanked 4-nil and despite coach John Spencer trying to send a message to his players by benching starting forward Kenny Cooper and right back Jeremy Hall, Portland once again came out flat and sluggish and paid for it early.

Twenty minutes into the match, Sporting found themselves up 2-nil. The first goal coming at 15 minutes when CJ Sapong launched a dribbler that rolled past Portland keeper Troy Perkins, who must have been ordering a pizza on his cell phone as it caught him by surprise (a very soft goal in my humble opinion). It left the Timbers shocked at home once again.

Things didn’t improve as 4 minutes later, Sporting scored off a long throw-in when an unmarked Aurélien Collin headed in a goal while the Timbers defenders and goalkeeper stood and watched (soft goal #2, but I’m not bitter).

The rest of the first half saw the stunned Timbers squad pressing and the play got sloppier and less cohesive than before. This actually led to a chorus of boos throughout the home crowd. However, things did improve just before the half as rookie midfielder and #1 overall draft pick Darlington Nagbe scored his first professional goal and did it in “goal of the year” fashion. After receiving a deflection off the keeper during a free kick, Nagbe, who was 30 yards from the goal, volleyed the ball once and launched it midair, a pinpoint shot into the top corner of the goal to cut the lead in half going into halftime. “If Cristiano Ronaldo scores that goal tonight … or Messi, it’s spotted all over the globe in world soccer,” said Spencer. “Everywhere.”

However, despite that great goal and momentum going into the second half, and much improved, energetic play in the second half, the Timbers could not equalize. Actually it took a world class Perkins save in the 51st minute to keep the game from being 3-1 KC. After that the Timbers only could muster a couple of decent chances, the best coming in the 89th minute as Captain Jack Jewsbury picked up a deflection outside the box and launched a shot that sailed a couple feet wide of the net. The whistle soon blew. Game over. Another defeat at home.

Some troubling patterns are occurring with Portland. First, they are now 0-8-3 when conceding the first goal. That has to raise some questions about this team’s mental toughness. Secondly, only 1 point from the last four home games. Unacceptable! This squad needs to take advantage of the great home atmosphere in Portland and play a full 90 with passion and aggression. No exceptions.

As for the lineup tweaks, let’s face it, it’s hard to tweak your lineup when you really have no real depth at any position. New starters Eddie Johnson at forward and Steve Purdy at right back were non-descript and we actually could have used Kenny Cooper’s size on some of those set pieces in the first half. At this point, Spencer, whom I’m sure would be pulling out his hair if he had any left, should just keep his original starters in and let them play out this slump. Maybe a tactical change (4-3-3 with Nagbe moving up front?) would work better than a lineup change? There is no time to sulk as the streaking archrival Sounders head into town next Sunday for a nationally televised game. No better a time for the Timbers to pull out of their funk and match the passion of their coach, and of their city for a full 90 minutes.

5 thoughts on “Portland Timbers 1-2 Sporting Kansas City: Notes From Cascadia”

  1. No surprise on that 0-8-3 record when starting down 1-0. Not only because comebacks in soccer are hard as hell, but because Timbers has not the quality needed to force comebacks. This is a team that must rely on tough defense, counterattacks and set pieces. When the set pieces were ok, and the defense was holding it tight (at home, at least), the results were coming. Not anymore.

    Let’s see if the Timbers can rebound. One win against Sounders could be easily the BEST way to start it…

  2. Nagbe was second overall pick, not first. Vancouver selected Omar S with first pick.

    Cannot disagree with the rest of the article. I now understand why the Timbers’ 5 game home win streak was so unprecedented. I know the boys will eventually emerge the better for all this. Hopefully that process can begin this weekend against Seattle!

  3. I’m waiting for coverage the Rapids 0-0 tie. It was the most boring game ever.

    I have an idea: The MLS should limit teams to 10 ties a season; after that you get zero points for a tie (but the other team still only gets one point if they have not used up their allotment of 10). Actually, maybe you should only be allowed 8 ties. Either way, the tactical implications would be fun to watch; unlike Colorado and Houston yesterday.

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