The Portland Timbers played their MLS season opener on Sunday, and to be frank, it was a bit of a dud. The Vancouver Whitecaps scored a goal off a set piece in the 49th minute and never looked back, handing Portland their first loss of 2021. After such a strong start to the season with their advancement in the Concacaf Champions League tournament, it was a tough pill to swallow.
“It was disappointing,” Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said after the match. “Every time that we don’t find a way to get points there’s disappointment. The work that the guys put in, it was very good, and unfortunately this game came down to details on a corner, which came from us allowing them to be able to find a corner that created motion in the second half.”
The details appear to be what cost them. The Timbers didn’t look awful. They actually created quality chances at the goal, getting players behind Vancouver’s back line early and often. It wasn’t that the Timbers were inept when it came to generating offense; it just didn’t matter because they weren’t executing.
“To be the first game of the season, I think we created a lot of opportunities during the match,” Timbers midfielder Diego Chara said. “We were very effective in some situations, but I think we need to do better in the set pieces.”
Execution was lacking more notably in the second half than the first. Not only did they concede the goal in the early minutes of the second, but they also struggled dealing with the high press from the Whitecaps. It forced Portland to make adjustments, but those adjustments weren’t enough to make a dent in the final score. Vancouver did well to make life difficult for Portland.
“I think it had a little bit to do with everything,” Savarese said. “The fact that they scored a goal, there was a little bit of tiredness, so we had to make substitutions, and we also have to give credit to Vancouver, the way they defended. They create much, but they found that goal that allowed them to be able to play passively and to make sure that they defended everything we gave them.”
It doesn’t always matter how many chances you create. While technically the Timbers only had eight shots, they were dangerous in those moments. But not capitalizing on those opportunities is what cost the Timbers. It’s something to work on for their next MLS match against the Houston Dynamo on April 24.
“We did have a lot of chances,” Savarese said. “We did have a lot of moments where we could have capitalized, but we just have to make sure we are better in those moments to get those points.”
Even though it was a dud of an MLS opener, the Timbers aren’t dead in the water. One loss early in the season doesn’t define this team. No one wants to start with a loss, but sometimes that’s just the way it plays out. All the Timbers can do now is figure out how to bounce back.