PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers have had plenty of instances this season of pulling out results despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
Overcoming two one-goal deficits while a man down to earn a 3-3 draw May 17 against the Columbus Crew. Snagging a 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy a week earlier thanks to a stoppage-time goal, and on May 3 a 3-2 win over D.C. United on another stoppage-time goal.
Conceding two penalty kicks, however, proved too much in their wild 4-3 loss Sunday evening to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Providence Park. Still, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said his side deserved better.
“For me it’s less about the PKs called, it’s about the ones that weren’t called,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “… If you’re going to call a PK, two of them, I’m fine with that, but you better give them the other way, too. That’s where I have the problem, not the calls that were made but the ones that weren’t made.”
First, in the 31st minute trailing 2-1 after referee Kevin Scott whistled for two Vancouver penalty kicks, both converted by Pedro Morales, Portland’s Diego Valeri got free in the box and was taken down from behind. No penalty was given.
“The Valeri play, watch it,” Porter said. “If you’re going to call a PK the other way, then call that one.”
Vancouver would get two more goals in the run of play through Erik Hurtado and Jordan Harvey, building a 4-1 lead before the Timbers mounted a frenetic comeback. Goals by Gastón Fernández and Will Johnson nearly led to more Timbers magic, but the equalizer never came.
Timbers right back Jack Jewsbury said the second penalty call, when Jorge Villafaña was whistled for taking down Sebastian Fernandez was especially hard to swallow. It was the MLS-leading eighth penalty call against the Timbers in 2014 -- with none called for -- and the second time they have had two called against them in one match this season.
The first penalty came when Hurtado got behind the backline and was clipped down from behind.
“We think we’ve had a few of those go against us this year, but I don’t know what it is, especially the second one, after you’ve give one, you’d like the second one to be 100-percent for sure,” Jewsbury said. “And again, I haven’t seen the replay, but what I remember from the game it didn’t seem like much to warrant another penalty.”
Jewsbury said it was the team’s reaction, allowing two more goals, that hurts the most, especially considering that the Timbers came in riding the high of the franchise’s first road winning streak after beating the New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA the last two matches.
“Honestly, I think it rattled us a little bit with the penalty calls,” Jewsbury said. “We’ve got a veteran group and that usually doesn’t happen to us, but for whatever reason the first and the second one especially, you feel a little hard done.”
The emotions certainly ran high, leading to Porter and Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson having to be separated after the game.
Porter later played down the incident.
“I don’t like losing, either do my guys,” he said. “I wished him congratulations.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.