Will Johnson didn't have much occasion to celebrate after his first goal in a Portland Timbers uniform.
In fact, after he headed home a cross from Ryan Johnson in the 55th minute of Saturday’s game against the Colorado Rapids, the midfielder and team captain looked a little miffed, largely thanks to what transpired before the Canadian international opened his 2013 account.
His Portland team had fallen behind for the fourth consecutive game, after Colorado went up 2-0 early in the second half on a blustery day at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Johnson knew there was still work left to be done, and just over 15 mintues later he finished the job, driving home a penalty kick in the 71st minute to end the game in a 2-2 draw.
“It was either going to be a red card or a goal, so I’m glad it was the latter,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com by phone, referring to his first goal just seven minutes after Colorado were awarded a penalty of their own that didn’t sit too well with the Timbers.
It was Portland’s third draw in four games, and they’ve had to fight their way back for all three. Johnson attributes that ability to bounce back to the players who were brought to the Rose City during the Timbers’ offseason makeover.
“We’ve proven we can come back in games, and we know that we can dig deep and get the result,” Johnson said. “It’s just a resilient group of guys most of the time that likes to play together, that fights for one another. And that goes a long way, especially in the second half. And I also think our fitness levels our very good, and it allows us to press the game for 90 minutes.”
Falling behind a Colorado side that has been decimated with injuries and trotted out a makeshift lineup was certainly not in the script for a Portland team searching for its first win of the season. But after a Dillon Powers bomb from 30 yards out and a Hendry Thomas penalty kick, the Timbers were once again scrambling just to rescue a point.
“We were disappointed,” Johnson said. “And it was either going to go one of two ways: are we going to be the team in the first half that got frustrated with each other and didn’t finish out plays or are we going to be the team that battles back, like in Seattle, and finds a way to get a point. Fortunately the answer was the right one and the guys stuck together and we found a way to get a point on the road. I think that’s important.”
After Thomas’ PK, earned when Tony Cascio coaxed a whistle in the area on a Diego Chara trip from behind, the Timbers controlled the game, according to Johnson.
“The first one is always the hardest,” he said. “Once you’ve broken down a team, the belief starts to build and you find a way to get the second and we did that.”
Still, the Timbers know they are dealing with a disturbing trend early in games. Johnson said not much could be done about Colorado’s two goals, especially Powers’ strike, saying you just have to give him “credit” for a spectacular goal. But Johnson did acknowledge that something hasn’t been quite right with the team’s energy and mindset at the start of games, something he said will have to be fixed.
“We have to be a 90-minute team, we can’t just be a second-half team,” he said. “There’s no way you can get to the playoffs spotting teams goals, you just can’t do that.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.