Spencer: Rapids give Timbers a wake-up call

Early mistakes doom Portland against Colorado

Jeremy Hall - Timbers @ Rapids, 3.19.11

Photo Credit: 
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The result wasn’t what John Spencer hoped for leading the Portland Timbers into their first MLS game, but it also wasn’t particularly surprising, either.

Spencer summed up the Timbers’ 3-1 loss on the road to the Colorado Rapids in two short but poetic words.

“Individual errors,” he said.

WATCH:  Timbers vs. Rapids Highlights

Colorado exploited mistakes made by the Timbers defense two score in 8th and 29th minutes, putting the expansion club in an early hole they couldn’t escape.

Portland defenders Kevin Goldthwaite and Rodney Wallace allowed Omar Cummings to get free out of the corner and he linked up with Jeff Larentowicz for the first goal.

On the second goal, Conor Casey flicked a ball on to Cummings, who again broke through the Timbers’ defense. Goalkeeper Adin Brown deflected a first shot but was helpless to stop Cummings’ second attempt.

“We got punished tonight for making mistakes and that’s what the top strikers in this league do,” Spencer said. “You give them chances and they’re going to kill you.”

The third goal, a gorgeous strike from Colorado midfielder Jamie Smith less than a minute after Cummings’s finish, was the knockout punch.

“The third goal was a world-class goal,” Spencer said. “You tip your hat and say I don’t think there’s any keeper in the world that would stop that.”

Spencer admitted he was surprised to be down three goals in the first half.

“We were a little bit shell-shocked, especially when the second one goes in you say, ‘OK, for the next 5-10 minutes, be safe. Don’t give anything away,’” he said. “Then, bang, (Smith) hits a 30-yard rocket and you’re three-nil down. And it’s like, welcome to Major League Soccer.”

The result comes on the heels of an undefeated preseason during which the Timbers displayed resiliency on defense. But playing the reigning champions on the night they celebrated the 2010 MLS Cup in front of their home fans proved too tall an order.

Drawing a goal closer in the second half on the late strike from Kenny Cooper did little to conceal the disappointment.

“We just got pumped three-nil in the first half,” Spencer said. “Of course there’s disappointment.”

Spencer said he didn’t detect nerves from his team but said players were too anxious at times with the ball.

The Rapids played with confidence and crispness that produced 12 shots on goal to the Timbers’ five.

“Forward passing was average at best. Our movement up front was average at best,” Spencer said. “If you don’t hold the ball up front, you’re not going to score goals.”

Spencer said he used “a few harsh words” in the locker room at halftime.

“I tried to pick them up,” he said. “You’ve got to have a belief in yourself. A believe that you belong.”