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Timbers lose 2-0 to Rapids in Colorado

The Colorado Rapids hand the Timbers their third defeat on the bounce and move nine points clear of the Timbers in the Western Conference standings.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Timbers lose 2-0 in Colorado to the Rapids, making it three consecutive defeats.

For the third time in seven days, the Portland Timbers took the field in an MLS match, this time against the third-in-West Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Good Park. And for the third time in seven days, the Timbers dropped three points against a neighboring Western Conference team, rivaling them for a playoff spot.

The Timbers’ congested schedule meant wholesale changes to the starting XI, as Sebastian Blanco, Cristhian Paredes, Dairon Asprilla and Jose Van Rankin were replaced by Diego Valeri, Renzo Zambrano, Santiago Moreno and Bill Tuiloma. It was Moreno’s first start for the Timbers and Tuiloma’s first start at right back since he was sent off against the Rapids back on Sept. 15.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

With just four games remaining in the MLS regular season, the Timbers began the match in fourth place in the Western Conference, six points behind the Rapids and just a point ahead of the LA Galaxy.

Colorado started the brighter of the two teams when Diego Rubio whipped in a dangerous cross to the six-yard box that Larrys Mabiala was just able to clear over the bar. Jack Price put the ball in the back of the net from the resulting corner, but the goal was called back after the sideline referee raised their flag for offside.

The half-hour after Colorado’s disallowed goal saw very few chances for either side, as physical play and minor fouls broke up any semblance of a chance at both ends of the pitch. Apart from an Aaron Trusty shot off of a corner in the 26th minute, and a Moreno solo run-turned-shot a few minutes later, the game didn’t really offer all too much to write home about through 35 minutes.

In fact, the Rapids and Timbers combined to muster up just two shots on target in the first 45 minutes of the game.

Colorado open the scoring in the second minute of first-half stoppage time via the head of Dominique Badji, who towered over Zambrano to nod the ball past Steve Clark. It was another gut punch for the Timbers defense in a week that has had plenty of them.

The opening five minutes of the second half saw twice as many Timbers’ shots on target as there were in the first, with Mora and Valeri both going close to scoring the equalizer for Portland. But despite the flurry of early chances, the game reverted back to the dull affair that it was in the first half.

That was until Colorado doubled their lead through Diego Rubio, who capitalized on a misplaced Mabiala header and, somewhat fortunately prodded the ball past Clark. Rubio’s goal was a microcosm of the Timbers’ defensive output over the prior two games - not quick enough to react to dangerous opportunities in and around the penalty area and unable to deal sufficiently with their opponent’s final pass.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Rapids went close to putting the game to bed in the 69th minute when Rubio sent a shot off the Timbers’ frame. Clark denied the Rapids two minutes later courtesy of a massive double-save. The final 20 minutes of the match followed the trajectory of the game as a whole, as the Rapids continued to create chances at will against the Timbers suspect defense.

Not even Jaroslaw Niezgoda or Mr. October, Dairon Asprilla, could pull a goal back for the Timbers and the score would remain at 2-0 in favor of the Rapids when the full-time whistle blew.

There’s no two ways about it: The Timbers have looked as bad in these last three games as they did before the eight-match unbeaten streak, and have fallen back into playoff uncertainty with just three games remaining in the regular season. The Timbers now sit just two points above the playoff line, and desperately need to put points on the board in their remaining matches if they are going to secure a playoff spot.

Portland’s next match comes against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 7 PM PST.