From the very beginning you could see that the Portland Timbers were out of synch. The passing wasn't crisp, the defensive rotations were late and the players looked like they had little idea how to play team defense. Real Salt Lake on the other hand has been playing the same system for years and you could see they were comfortable and felt confident with whoever stepped on the field.
Two goals in the first fifteen minutes of the game reminded me of all those recaps I wrote during the 2012 season. It was painful to flashback to the absolute mess that was 2012. The biggest difference between this team and the 2012 team (remember the 3-0 loss that ended John Spencer's managerial time?) is the fact that this season Portland will continue to compete instead of giving up.
Of course when Diego Valeri needs to be subbed out just after Portland's first goal due to what appeared to be a groin injury it makes it very hard to come back against a skilled defensively unit like RSL's. It becomes even harder when a Ben Zemanski earns a red and Portland has to play the second half down a man.
The second half was more about how much Portland would lose by than if they could come back. Especially with the bubble gum and scotch tape line-up Portland had on the field. Portland still had the fight and did not give up. The attitude spilled over a little bit and the game became very chippy. You can tell these two teams do not like each other and that Toledo was having a very tough time managing the game.
During the run of play Portland actually looked very good defensively in the second half and did not allow RSL to break them down. Of course set pieces were the exact opposite. Twice RSL scored on set pieces in the second half to double their lead.
Portland did get the consolation goal for traveling to Rio Tinto. Sal Zizzo scored a goal after a Jose Valencia shot was saved by Nic Rimando.
Now that the recap is over let's talk about what the heck is going on with the Timbers. After having a pretty consistent starting line-up, especially during the 15 game unbeaten run, the Timbers have now had to use players who are well down the depth chart. The midfield has suffered the most and thus Portland's playmaking ability has suffered, which then leads to a predictable build-up. The build-up is to pass it to Valeri and hope he creates something. This is not a bad idea but if he does create something you need to finish it <cough> Ryan Johnson <cough>.
Another factor we should consider is the fact that RSL just might be Portland's ‘bogey team'.
For those who think the playoffs are slipping away I want to remind you that we have 9 potential points with games against Chivas twice and Toronto at home. Those nine points could be enough to propel the Timbers to the playoffs.
The thing Portland needs most is to time to heal all the injuries. Injuries happen and injuries will always affect line-ups but Portland does not have the depth to overcome their current injuries. Will Johnson needs to come back as soon as possible.