Postgame: Another Tough One, Timbers Lose to Montreal 1-0
In what’s becoming an ugly pattern for the Portland Timbers, the team dominated possession, controlled the pace of the match, and created a plethora of threatening opportunities but once again failed to convert those chances into goals. The Timbers outshot the Impact 17-5, however, it was Montreal that was able to capitalize and make the most of the few scoring moments they had. In the 31st minute, Montreal would catch their break on a quick striking play as midfielder Tony Donatelli scored his first goal of the season, taking a pass then weaving past the Timber’s backline and firing a shot past keeper Steve Cronin.
“We didn’t come out with the right intensity, especially in the 1st half.” said starting defender Quavas Kirk. “We went down a goal and that’s what punished us. We had to crawl back out of a hole and that’s tough to do against a good team like Montreal.”
“It’s frustrating.” said Ryan Pore. “Not being able to wrap up 3 matches at home, dropping points in all 3 of them, and we know that’s not good enough. I thought we played well in spurts, but it wasn’t enough, so give Montreal credit.”
Portland has yet to play their best soccer this season, struggling to find the right chemistry and put together a full 90 minute match. Early in the season the team was able to play their way through the rough patches and still find ways to win, but in the last 3 matches their problems have finally caught up to them. Although the slow start could be pinned on the many new additions to the roster and the inevitable gelling process that’s required, bad luck has certainly played a role as well. Portland had many near goals, including the 76th minute when returning defender Josh Cameron put a nice cross on the money to Brian Farber who missed a header just inches wide of the far post. In the 85th minute, Pore sent a long pass inside the box which found the head of a leaping Stephen Keel, his shot fell short, but James Marcelin was there to intercept the loose ball and send his own header towards the goal, hitting the underside of the top crossbar, again missing the equalizer by mere inches.
“It’s part of the game, you know.” said Kirk. “Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re unlucky and it seems like we keep hitting that post, so it’s just that sometimes you need to be lucky and it hasn’t been our day yet.”
At one point in the 2nd half the Timbers were able to earn three consecutive corner kicks, relentlessly putting pressure on Montreal’s defense. Already one of the the league’s best defensive squads and up one goal, the Impact were able to pack it in and essentially play 9-10 guys behind the ball, making finishing in the final third an even tougher challenge. The Impact have also only allowed 4 goals all season.
“Each team is gunning for us and I don’t think we’d want it any other way.” said Pore. “I mean, they’re showing respect for us, so I think everybody needs to take a look in the mirror and analyze how they can individually bring something to the team and I think if everyone does that we have enough talent on this team that we’ll eventually come through and prevail.”
The positives for Portland? Many players who’ve struggled with consistency lately played well against Montreal. Johan Claesson and Brian Farber lead the team with 3 shots a piece and defender Quavas Kirk was noticeably active, perhaps playing his best game of the year. Josh Cameron, a starter for much of last season, returned to the field to see his first action of the year and performed well on both sides of the ball. Searching for the good in all the ugly isn’t the ideal situation, but right now Portland doesn’t have a choice.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to find ourselves a little bit…” Said Cronin. “I’d much rather have (the struggles) happen now and we get our legs under us and we’re able to find those wins within ourselves. It’s better in some ways to have that happen now and then we’re strong at the end of the year.”
The mood after the game was somber and the players were visibly dejected, many hanging their hands as they headed into the locker room. With coach Gavin Wilkinson away on a scouting trip in Ghana, assistant Amos McGee lead the way and he quickly took the team to the back upon the conclusion the match for a short closed-door meeting.
“Usually when we have a bad result we’ll go in (to the locker room) and we’ll have a talk in there and then come out, but tonight we kinda went in and tried to take a step back and take a deep breath. We have a game in four days and we need to get things turned around, so its an opportunity for us to get ourselves going again.”
To say the Timbers aren’t struggling would be misguided. Expectations heading into the season were at an unprecedented level. Portland is considered a favorite to win the league championship and with many experts pointing to the Timber’s “easy” opening schedule with 6 0f their first 7 matches at home, including matches against lesser talented teams, the pressure on the players to win has been building with each disappointment.
“Expectations are deservedly high,” said team-owner Merritt Paulson. “There’s no question that the team isn’t performing to its capability right now which is disappointing, especially at home where we should own our house and we have owned it (in the past).”
Portland is currently in a 3 way tie for 2nd place in the USSF overall standings, now 3 points behind 1st place Austin. And although the 6573 in attendance left disheartened and the opening of this season hasn’t gone the way many would have hoped, the loyal Timber fanbase will surely stick around to support the team whether the results are good or bad.
“We’re going to be in the playoffs this year, I’ll guarantee that 100% and we need to have a good run in the playoffs and that’s what we’re focused on.” said Paulson. “(The fans) deserve entertaining soccer.”
Added Paulson jokingly, “Our fans don’t need a refund to come back either.”
Portland will now have 2 days to think things over, regroup, and attempt to find a solution to their scoring woes. The team will then head to Baltimore on Saturday, a chance to not only right some of their wrongs, but an opportunity to avenge a 1-0 home loss to last place Crystal Palace earlier this month.
“I don’t think it’s time to hit the panic button.” said Pore. “It’s still early in the season, obviously we need to make some changes because what we’ve been doing hasn’t been getting it done. So guys can’t be complacent with their spots right now, we have a lot of depth, but we need to figure out something fast and get some better results.”
Said Cronin, “Obviously something needs to change.”
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* Picture provided by Allison Andrews @ Timber Mill
Posted by Kevin