Another solid performance. Another dropped result.
After taking three points from an equal game in New York City, the Timbers looked for quite a while on Sunday night like they might just be able to do the same in the Emerald City. Not so.
A momentary let down by the backline undid plenty of good work for Portland, with the result being a familiar empty feeling coming from a good performance.
Here are three questions from the Timbers’ loss to the Sounders.
1. Should we blame Adam Kwarasey for the concession?
While it certainly would have been preferable had Kwarasey found a way to put a more solid hand to the ball and shepherd it out of danger, it was an impressive effort by itself to get any paw to an Andy Rose shot from eight yards out. At that distance, Kwarasey essentially had to throw his body and arm at Rose’s effort and, in this case, the ball spun back over Kwarasey where the supine goalkeeper couldn’t clean it up before Clint Dempsey tapped home. In short, Kwarasey did most of the work to keep Rose’s point-blank effort out, but he was ultimately undone in part by a bit of bad luck.
As for the culpability department, both Jorge Villafana and Liam Ridgewell were much more blameworthy than Kwarasey, as Villafana was late to track Rose into the center of the box and Ridgewell was caught flat-footed after the ball glanced off Dempsey’s forehead and onto Rose’s foot.
What’s frustrating about the concession, however, is that the Timbers’ defense otherwise had one of their best performances of the young season. But ultimately it’s concessions that define a defense, and in a game as tight as Sunday’s, the team can’t afford even a momentary lapse.
Wherever you place the blame, however, don’t crucify Kwarasey.
2. Didn’t that game play out exactly as the Timbers would’ve hoped?
The first half was an exercise in patience, as the Timbers were happy to take the air out of the game with generous helpings of possession around midfield.
What’s notable here, however, aside from the bird’s nest of passes in central defense and fifty yards from goal, is how conservative the Timbers were about attempting box entries. Simply put, the Timbers weren’t willing to commit the additional players necessary to break into the box and generate genuine chances.
Such an approach, however, is understandable in light of the fact that Seattle was sitting in a bit themselves, but still posing a tremendous threat off the counter. Simply put, the counterattack wasn’t on for the Timbers and they did everything in their power to make sure it wasn’t on for Seattle, either.
And that worked.
After intermission Portland was a bit more industrious with their box entries, and created a healthy number of chances as a result.
The Timbers forced Stefan Frei into two good saves by way of Maxi Urruti and Diego Chara, had a dangerous Ishmael Yartey shot blocked by Dairon Asprilla, and saw one Fanendo Adi header flash wide while another bounced off the crossbar.
Seattle, on the other hand, struggled to consistently create clear-cut chances against an organized Timbers back six that remained largely intact throughout the half. Despite being the far more dangerous team in the first half, the Sounders only squeezed off five shots to the Timbers’ nine in the second half and, in reality, only had one real chance.
Unlike the Timbers, however, the Sounders converted it, which is perhaps the most frustrating part of the result. This game played out exactly as the Timbers drew it up. And yet, thanks to a moment of fleeting focus and a spritz of bad luck, the Timbers still came away empty-handed.
3. Can the Timbers win after a win?
Not with any regularity. And this is the new "Can the Timbers win in March?"
Since 2013 the Timbers are 5-6-14 after they win a game, averaging a pathetic 1.16 points-per-game in those 25 chances to start to string together a winning streak.
Although the Timbers’ nine points through their first eight games is an improvement over the five they gathered in the same stretch in 2014 (and, all things considered, represents an acceptable haul in light of the Timbers’ early-season injury woes) it puts the team in a position in which they’re going to have to string some results together if they have aspirations beyond just scraping into the postseason.
Putting together a run of results, however, is something the Timbers have not done well during Caleb Porter’s tenure. And if Portland wants to avoid manifest disappointment for a second straight season, that’s going to need to change.