The Portland Timbers faced an uphill battle from the moment they stepped foot inside Toyota Stadium to face league leading FC Dallas. Without Darlington Nagbe to facilitate the offense and Alvas Powell to provide width along the left flank and stability in the back line, the Portland attack was doomed from the start.
Portland Timbers Defeated in Disastrous Night in Dallas
Other than those two absences, the rest of Caleb Porter’s starters were the usual suspects in the usual places:
Vytas – Ridgewell – S. Taylor – Valentin
Jewsbury – Chara
Melano – Valeri – Barmby
Indeed the Timbers attack was nothing short of lifeless in the first 45 minutes. Their inability to produce anything forward resulted in only three wayward shots to their first half name.
To make things worse, the conceded twice in that first frame. The first was on a dubious penalty against Jake Gleeson that allowed captain Mauro Diaz to calmly slot home from the spot. The second was to Victor Ulloa in the dying seconds before the half time whistle. Walker Zimmerman put the match away early in the second half with a thunderous header off a Diaz free kick.
As the time ticked towards the inevitable end, the desire to go home permeated the match. Caleb Porter’s late substitutions said it all. Diego Chara, who may have been the best midfielder on the night, was taken off for Ned Grabavoy. A very frustrated Fanendo Adi was replaced with Jack McInerney. The only saving grace of the night was Diego Valeri ruining the clean sheet in the 87th minute.
So, despite the lack of Nagbe and Powell, who takes the blame for this lackluster showing in Texas?
Ball watching defenders
The Timbers defense was only missing Powell thanks to international call ups, but you wouldn’t know it having watched that match. It looked like the entire starting back line was off on a Caribbean vacation. The second FC Dallas goal made their defenders look like pylons in the middle of the pitch. While the entire defense was watching the ball pinball around the box, nobody had eyes on a streaking Victor Ulloa, who collected a loose ball and pounded into the back of the net.
On Zimmerman’s goal in the 53rd minute, the free kick marking was awful. The entire unit was ball watching, which allowed Zimmerman to fly on in to get his thumping head to Mauro Diaz’s take.
The leaders had a terrible night
Portland draws leadership from two players. Diego Valeri up front to Liam Ridgewell at the back are the engines that get the rest of the team moving. Both had one of their worst matches of the season. Valeri took zero shots while only connecting on 68% of his passes. This is not what a player known as “Maestro” should be doing. Without him in form, Adi was useless since there was nobody to reliably get him the ball. He did provide the consolation goal at the end of the night. That was their only shot on target for the entire match.
Liam Ridgewell may as well have sat this one out. He recorded zero tackles, zero interceptions, and one silly yellow card in the second half. That forced the still rusty Steven Taylor into picking up the slack, which he was incapable of. Add in Zarek Valentin, who hasn’t seen the field in weeks and a Vytas who looked all sorts of lost and you have a defense capable of conceding thrice in preventable fashion.
Leave the international call-ups out of this
They can’t even genuinely play the international break card here. Sure, they were missing Nagbe and Powell, but Dallas wasn’t fully stocked either. Tesho Akindele and Kellyn Acosta were both away on international duty. Both important parts in Dallas’s Supporters Shield leading machine.
Nobody was expecting the Timbers to walk into a road match with the best team in the league and grab an unexpected victory. However, a little more effort from the key cogs in their machine might have been nice. Instead, we saw Portland’s ugly road form show up yet again. With the margin for playoff qualification, they will need to get their act together outside of Providence Park if they want to remain above the red line when the season comes to an end.
Thankfully, a couple of home matches make up the immediate league schedule. Next weekend, Real Salt Lake comes to town and, after a midweek trip to Costa Rica, Philadelphia Union are in Portland. Both present winnable matches as long as that midweek CONCACAF Champions League match doesn’t suck all the energy away.