After Saturday’s match, the standings will show that the Portland Timbers gained 3 points, but it will show that they didn’t move up in the standings. But leaving the match the Portland Timbers gained more than 3 points. Many will say that the own-goal was lucky and I give them that. Kansas City has proven to be a defensive stalwart, leading the league in shut-outs thus far. And don’t expect Chance Meyers and Julio Cesar to make mistakes that will lead to more own goals. The magic for Portland was not in the goal itself, but in what happened before and after the goal.
From the beginning, Kansas City didn’t care that they were the visitors in one of the most intimidating MLS venues, nor did they show any signs that this was there third match in eight days. They tried to physically impose themselves on the Timbers and the referees as well, vehemently protesting any calls against them. They played with the swagger and confidence of a defending champion. But to their credit, the Portland Timbers stood tall and went toe to toe with a physically aggressive team. Sporting Kansas City knew that nothing was going to come easy. What was most impressive was how Portland played after the goal in the second half. They didn’t close up shop and put 11 men behind the ball nor did they become over confident and feel that they could attack at will. They defended when necessary and attacked when it was prudent. The manner of this win is so important because Portland was riding a 4 game losing streak coming in. Three of those losses had Portland giving up leads in the last 5 minutes of games. There was a sense that Portland’s problem was not so much with their personnel, but the mental state of the team. The way they ended Saturday night’s match can give Portland fans confidence that their team is maturing. And they may have avoided an early season collapse.