I feel like these articles are beginning to sound like a broken record. Yet again, the Portland Timbers squandered another lead at home to finish in a 2-2 draw with a lowly, but newly revamped, Toronto squad. The schizophrenic nature of this team continues at home where Portland hasn’t won a match since May. The only good thing I can say about these home games is at least they’ve been entertaining. Frustrating, heartbreaking at times, yet definitely exciting games at JELD-WEN so far this season.
Coach John Spencer changed things up this week inserting four new starters in the lineup including newly acquired defenders/midfielders Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer on the back line as well as forward Eddie Johnson replacing an injured Jorge Perlaza. David Horst replaced Eric Brunner at the Center Back spot. After a shaky start these changes began to pay off. In the 10th minute Palmer fed a nice ball to Eddie Johnson whose shot was deflected by Reds goalie Stefan Frei and bounced off the crossbar. In the 22nd minute, Toronto had a shot go off the post only then to see the Timbers counter and have Diego Chara find a wide open Eddie Johnson who blasted a goal in from the top of the box. Fast forward to the 57th minute and Diego Chara was again a part of the action getting dragged down in the box and drawing a PK from the head referee. Captain Jack Jewsbury put home the penalty kick and it was 2-nil Timbers and things were looking great.
Yet as we seen so many times in Portland lately, the Timbers mental lapses create opportunities for their opponents and Toronto came back to tie on goals by Peri Marosevic and Danny Koevermans in the 71st and 81st minutes. As reported on www.portlandtimbers.com following the game John Spencer had this to say about his teams troubles holding leads at home:
“Everybody is trying to drive forward and get that goal and get a log of timber. At times you’ve got to try to put your foot on the ball, knock it back, keep the ball, get them to run instead of trying to go and score. You don’t need to score the third one and the fourth one when you’re 2-nil up. I think its inexperience and a lack of maturing, not as people, but as professional soccer players.”
I think that’s a great point but it’s something that should have been corrected at this point in the season. Things don’t get any easier with the Galaxy coming into town on Wednesday and the next three games on the road. Portland needs to find a way to keep their focus for a full 90 and steal 3 points from Los Angeles in their next match.
Thus are the growing pains of an expansion team and as the playoffs seem to be slipping further and further away, Timbers fans can take heed in knowing that some of the pieces are in place for the future (Chara, Nagbe, Alhassan, Pelraza). The troubles on defense may just well be a problem that will not get resolved this season. And the Timbers Army must know that no lead, even at home, is safe for their squad.