After draw vs. Dallas, Portland Timbers head into World Cup break "hardened"

Porter: "There are a lot of games left and I know what this team’s capable of"

PORTLAND, Ore. – There were more than just a handful of strange occurrences on Wednesday night at Providence Park in the Portland Timbers’ wild rally for a 2-2 draw against FC Dallas.

One of them was Timbers captain Will Johnson and forward Gastón Fernández discussing over who would take the penalty kick that ultimately sparked their comeback from a 2-0 halftime deficit.

Johnson won out, scored the goal in the 79th minute and the Timbers pulled out another stoppage-time decision after a Pa Modou Kah goal at the death. After the game, head coach Caleb Porter said he didn’t have a problem with his attackers’ little conversation, saying he wants that passion in the group.

The problem, Porter said, is not everyone on the team shares that hunger.

“I’d much rather have that then nobody wanting it, which is kind of what we have in the backline right now,” Porter said, referring to a first half that saw Dallas build a 2-0 lead on Fabián Castillo and Blas Pérez goals. “Nobody wants to step up. No one wants to grab the bull by the horns and lead this team on the backline. And we need that.”

After their sixth consecutive multi-goal game, Portland are tied for the second most goals in MLS with 28 in 16 games. Problem is, they've allowed 27--tied for third most in MLS--leaving them just under the red line in sixth place.

And even though the Timbers pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat that is Providence Park – following late goals to draw Columbus, LA, Chicago and Philadelphia and a win against D.C. United, all at home – Porter said he’s growing tired of his defense leaving too many points on the table.

“First half was disappointing,” Porter said. “But that will be corrected, no doubt about it. The positive thing is we have a good team, all the makings of a championship team except for a few things that have to be better.”

The Timbers will now have a nearly three week World Cup break that includes a U.S. Open Cup game next Tuesday against the Orlando City U-23s (7:30pm PT, TICKETS). The time away from MLS play though presents a good opportunity for the club to not only re-engergize, but also build off a challenging period that Porter believes has made the team ultimately better.

"We’ve grown, we’ve gotten stronger," he said. "We’ve gotten humbled, we’ve gotten hardened, we’ve gotten even a little bit more hungry because of it and we are still right there. We’re not out of the race, we’re right there below the red line. There are a lot of games left and I know what this team’s capable of.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.