Frustrated Timbers Keep Looking For Elusive Win

Portland hopes to end their worst-ever start in Houston
by Ray Marcham   |   Friday, April 25, 2014

Green Logs - a column on the Portland Timbers & the Portland soccer scene

The Portland Timbers have entered territory that they have never ventured into before.

It’s not where they wanted to be, either. Not even close.

No Timbers side has ever started a season without a win after 7 matches. Not in the old NASL, WSA/WSL, A-League or USL.

That the frustrations of the team and its supporters are likely at a level not seen in a couple of years, since the dying days of the John Spencer era, is no surprise. The lack of a win so far in 2014, following the massively successful season in 2013, makes things even more perplexing.

It was no surprise that maybe the most frustrating loss of the season came against the club that had the Timbers figured out last season. Real Salt Lake dominated possession at times, relied on Nick Rimando to make spectacular saves on shots by Darlington Nagbe and Maxi Urruti that may have been goals against other keepers, and finally got the goal they needed from Ned Grabavoy in the 78th minute.

There were positives, of course. The defense played much better, more opportunities were created and Donovan Ricketts was back. There were even some impact subs, as Gastón Fernández and Michael Nanchoff both helped give the Timbers an energy boost after they came in. Overall, it may have been the best match the Timbers had played so far in 2014.

But the RSL match also highlighted a big issue that Portland has to deal with: While more opportunities were created, and, yes, Rimando was fantastic at times, there were also plenty of chances that were wasted. Much of the frustration has been aimed at Urruti, who had a number of chances and didn’t convert.

Maybe more than anything else, the missed scoring opportunities have been hurting the Timbers at the worst times. The home draws with Philadelphia, Chicago and Chivas USA were filled with shots that just went wide, passes that just missed and, at times, were stopped by some incredible saves. Even in the draw with Seattle, with 4 goals scored, there were chances to extend the lead and those haunted the Timbers when the Sounders came back late.

While shots sometimes aren’t the most reliable stat to look at, the number of shots on goal for the Timbers (28) being so much lower than their overall shot total (94) is a bit concerning. There are also those 24 offside calls, the 2nd most in MLS behind DC United’s 27.

Some of that frustration came out into the open after the match, and it was the captain who expressed it.

“It’s all about results and we’ve got to step up and make plays,” Will Johnson said in a post-match statement. “They’re plays out there that are there to be made. We have to face the reality that we have to be better.”

Caleb Porter was just as frustrated, but believed it was a matter of time before that elusive win would happen.

“We’re not not getting results because we’re a bad team, we’re just not making a few plays here or there,” he said on Saturday night. “You can see our team’s organized, you can see they have a good chemistry, you can see with the flow of the game that we’re playing well enough to win games. It’s going to come.”

Maybe, just maybe, Sunday’s match at Houston will see those plays being made. The Dynamo are coming off of a 4-0 loss to New York at Red Bull Arena, giving up a hat trick to Bradley Wright-Phillips in the process. Houston has gone winless in their last 5 matches (4 losses and a draw) after starting the season with 2 straight wins. In two of those losses, including Wednesday’s loss, the Dynamo have given up 4 goals.

So, it’s not quite a “should-win” match for the Timbers on Sunday, but it can be called “winnable”. A road match, yes, but against a club that’s on a bad stretch, as well. Houston, much like Portland, has been struggling to convert their chances into goals. Whichever side figures out how to convert chances into goals likely will leave BBVA Compass Stadium with 3 badly needed points.

Portland needs those points more. They just need to make the most of their chances.

NEXT UP: April 27 – Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo, BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas. 3:00 p.m. EST, UniMas, KPTV (Oregon/SW Washington).


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Cascadia native and a fan for as long as he can remember, Ray was brought up on the old NASL. Learned to love MLS. Wanted to play like Clive Charles. Then like Tony Adams. Only dreams, of course.