Well, they can’t all be like the first leg against Club America.
The Portland Timbers went down to Frisco, TX to play FC Dallas, and left with a 4-1 smacking. Dallas scored early and often, notching their first goal in the second minute, following up with their second goal 12 minutes later. They scored a third off a corner kick right before halftime, and the Timbers were out of the game before ever really being in it. They managed to claw a goal back in the second half via Eryk Williamson, but they never really got within touching distance, and when Dallas added a fourth late one,
In advance of their pivotal leg two clash against Club America at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Wednesday night, the Timbers rolled out a heavily rotated starting eleven. Andy Polo made his first appearance for the Timbers in 2021, after resolving visa issues for the first month of the season. The lineup also gave MLS starts to 2019 draftee Zac McGraw, and 19-year-old homegrown goalkeeper Hunter Sulte. Sulte became the second youngest (and tallest) goalkeeper to start an MLS match.
The second-choice keeper and back line would never have a chance to settle into the game, however, as Dallas would score before anyone could settle on their couches to watch. Dallas played direct to the right wing, and some quick interplay easily cut out Bonilla from the play, who was left spiraling. A low cross was played into the box, and it met the late run of Andres Ricaurte, who ghosted past the entire Timbers defense to slot the ball home.
The clock hadn’t even hit two full minutes played yet, but Dallas had already taken a 1-0 lead.
And they wouldn’t stop soon. After a Timbers attacking set piece that ended with Dario Zuparic having an attempt blocked off the line, Dallas again went direct, this time right from their goalkeeper. A simple route one-ball was launched from Dallas keeper Phelipe, and it bounced over the head of Renzo Zambrano, who made a half-hearted attempt to play it out of the air, for Jader Obrian to run on to. Obrian collected, and calmly chipped the ball over Sulte for Dallas’s second goal of the game.
After being shell-shocked early, Portland started to find their footing a little bit. While they wouldn’t get terribly close to scoring a goal, they also showed slightly more cohesion in their defense, and looked a more competent side.
That is, until first-half stoppage time. With the first 45 winding to a close, Dallas won a corner kick. Sulte did well to block the initial attempt, but he spilled it right in front of goal, and Bressan was the first to react, and he knocked it home to make it 3-0 just before the stroke of halftime.
It was dispiriting and disjointed half from the Timbers, and one that maybe could have been expected with the nature of the lineup. But circumstances aside, the reality was the Portland coughed up three goals in one half to a Western Conference rival.
Coming out of halftime, the Timbers looked a different side, both in style of play and in personnel. Giovanni Savarese made wholesale changes by subbing on Diego Valeri, Eryk Williamson, Dairon Asprilla, and Josecarlos Van Rankin. It was a move presumably to rotate in players who are expected to start on Wednesday to keep their legs sharp, and sub off other presumptive starters to give their legs a break.
Still, with Portland presumably having to chase a game that was just about gone, it was a potentially risky move.
Wherever the merits of the decision lied, the result was a Timbers team that looked revitalized and dangerous in the second half. Portland came out with a greater intensity in and caught Dallas on their heels. Williamson especially made a difference in linking up midfield play and providing a strong outlet for transition play.
Valeri was a more active attacking hub, and Portland generated many more chances in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. McGraw got on the end of two dangerous set pieces in the box and came close to notching his first MLS goal on his first MLS start, hitting the woodwork off of a corner on one occasion.
The pressure would ultimately pay off, as Portland would claw a goal back in the 62nd minute. Williamson would collect a ball in midfield drive forward into the Dallas defense, laying it off to Diego Valeri for a quick give and go in the box. Williamson, while falling down, would get on the end of Valeri’s pass and slot it home at the far post, to make it 3-1.
Despite an improved performance in the second half, it still wouldn’t be enough, as Dallas would add a fourth goal before all was said and done in the 85th minute. Capitalizing on Portland’s continued pressure, Paxton Pomykal would hit a long ball for Franco Jara to run onto behind. He would lay the ball of for Dante Sealy to slot home past Sulte, finishing off the fast break, and finishing off the match in favor of FC Dallas. The game would end 4-1 in favor of the home side.
A small silver lining for the Timbers was the return of Jeremy Ebobisse. After suffering a hamstring injury during preseason, Ebobisse made his return to the field for the Timbers tonight in the 75th minute, playing the final fifteen minutes plus stoppage time.
Despite getting run over by FC Dallas in Frisco, the bigger game of the week is still to come for the Timbers. They will next be in action in their critical second leg matchup against Club America in the Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday, with kickoff set for 7:15 p.m. (PST).