March 10th, 2013 by Kelly McLain
The Timbers dug themselves a hole again Saturday night at JELD-WEN Field, but this time they couldn’t climb out. Montreal Impact worked their game plan to perfection, hitting back on a counter attack and capitalizing on a set piece to give themselves a two-goal cushion heading into the game’s final 30 minutes. Ryan Johnson pulled one back for the home side, but despite a furious final few minutes, Portland wasn’t able to salvage a point and recorded their first lost of the season in a 2-1 defeat.
In a now-disturbing pattern that dates back five games including the team’s final three preseason matches, Portland gave up the game’s first goal. “We talked about the first goal and how important that was,” said head coach Caleb Porter. “They are a team that if they get up on you, they can bunker down even more. They’re very organized. Unfortunately they got the first goal and that played into their hands.”
Similar to one of the goals conceded last week against New York, the Timbers gave up the first goal off a set piece. But it wasn’t the initial service itself that caused problems, it was not cleaning up the second ball and extending the visitor’s chance. This week, it was Montreal’s Hassoun Camara who was more than happy to put away the opportunity at the half hour mark with a clever bicycle kick that bounced past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and into the side net. “It’s sucks being scored on by set pieces these past two games,” said second-year center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste. “Clearing a ball out the first time is going to make us that much better. It’s a matter of getting the ball out under pressure.”
Montreal were also successful creating counter attack opportunities, including a few particularly dangerous chances early in the first half, but they were unable to capitalize–until the second half. Felipe Martins gave the Impact a 2-0 lead in the 60th minute when the Impact took over a careless Timbers possession and quickly struck against a Portland defense scrambling to recover. “We knew they would hit us on counter attacks; we knew they would hit us on set pieces,” said Porter. “It’s disappointing that we let them hurt us twice in moments that we prepared for all week.”
The Timbers did make things interesting down the stretch, however. Ryan Johnson turned a Ben Zemanski cross into the Montreal goal at the back post in the 80th minute to pull one back. The final 10 minutes primarily consisted of Portland peppering the Montreal goal with crosses and shots, but despite a few close calls, they couldn’t complete the comeback.
Portland outshot the visitors 19 to 9 and held 63% of the possession, which included 571 total passes (over 100 more than any other team in MLS Saturday night). Porter noted that while stats can paint a picture of the performance, in the end its the results that matter. “I do believe were performing well enough in attack to win games,” said Porter. “Defensively we’re not giving up a ton of shots, but we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Next up, the Timbers head out on the road for the first time this season. They’ll face off against Cascadia rival Seattle Sounders on Saturday at 5:00.