Timbers balance feelings of progress, misgiving after draw with Sporting

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two points lost, or one point won? Every draw in soccer can be assessed by the question’s the answer. When your team has won seven of eight in all competitions, that answer becomes even more important, defining how close a team’s strong came to being stopped.

After the Portland Timbers’ 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City, the answer was still unclear. Though Sporting came into the match at the top of the Western Conference, the Timbers had been 4-0-1 on the season at home, and with reason to think Sporting’s hot start portends a descent back to earth, Saturday’s result could be seen as a missed opportunity to make up ground on one of the top teams in the conference.

“At the end of the day, we were playing at home …,” Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella conceded, his clean sheet matching his career high for shutouts in a season (four). “We know that we need to get three points at home, so I think it’s a mixed emotions type of result.”

Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese echoed Attinella’s misgivings, albeit in more direct terms.

“The most important part is that there is a little bit is disappointment from the players, from the coaching staff, not to be able to get the three points,” Savarese explained. “That’s something that’s very positive, because we played against a very good team …

“For us to have this feeling that we probably could have gotten a little bit more is a good thing. Because it means that the team is ambitious, and they’re not satisfied with only one point.”

It’s the second MLS match in a row where the Timbers have been left unsatisfied, having been held to a draw seven days ago by the visiting LA Galaxy. This week, though, the level of competition was a little bit higher.

Sporting Kansas City came into the match with the Western Conference’s highest goal total (28 in 14 games).  They also had the West’s fewest goals allowed (14), and while the Timbers weren’t able to pierce that defense, a team without starters Diego Chara, Andy Polo, Alvas Powell, and Liam Ridgewell was able to silence the conference’s best attack.

It’s why some Timbers even went as far as striking a cautiously positive note after the match.

“I wouldn’t not want to say it’s two points lost, because everybody worked [hard],” midfielder Lawrence Olum said. “We can’t say that we lost two points. We played against a good team, and we’ll take a point.

“Down the road, one point counts as something. It means making the playoffs or (having a chance to win) the Cup. We’ll take that one point.”

Take the point, but also learn the lesson. Particularly at the beginning of each half, the Timbers looked to be dictating the game. But as each period wore on, Sporting clawed back into the game, so much so that, come each half’s final stretches, Sporting was on the front foot.

“I think we could have found more combinations, and more space between lines, and especially in behind,” Savarese felt. “We did, sometimes, find that space, but I think we could have moved the ball a little but quicker in those areas, going forward.

“But I thought also we created chances. The energy and the momentum was there. And maybe, toward the end, two teams that battled in that match both entered the last few minutes a little bit tired, more concerned about not conceding than anything else.”

On current form, those two teams can expect to be part of the Western Conference picture come the postseason. And in that sense, a Timbers team that has had to keep building from its season’s slow start got a good idea of how they measure up.

“They’ve always been a good team,” was Olum’s reminder, after the game. “If we can keep up with them, always try to beat them, it shows that you’re doing something positive, something good in the season.

“To get a tie like this, shows we were right there. Maybe a couple things we can change, get clinical in the front, and then we should be right there. It’s a positive for us.”