Diego Valeri, Timbers @ Dallas, 4.13.19

Having something to be bitter about is almost a step forward. Almost. Ultimately, the Portland Timbers are, again, dealing with disappointment, with an official’s decision piling on a 2-1 scoreline that favors FC Dallas.

We’ll get into that decision in a moment, because undoubtedly, that will be one of the biggest memories from today’s result. But another memory will be feeling of helplessness in a six-game winless start, as well as questions about when that streak will end. If the Timbers play, over the coming games, like they did today – particularly in Saturday’s final 30 minutes – results are going to come. But the main questions coming out of the performance in Frisco, Texas, is whether it can be repeated next week. Is this a change of direction? Or is it another ebb in a larger pattern’s flow?

Those are questions for next week, when the team returns to the training field, turning their attention to next week’s opponent: Columbus Crew SC. For now, it’s time to take inventory of What We’ll Remember from today’s loss.

Back to what worked?

There couldn’t have been too much surprise among Timbers fans when today’s staring XI was announced. In Andrés Flores and Cristhian Paredes, perhaps some of the names were unexpected, but in the formation fans could infer from the 11 selected, there was an obvious message. The team was going back the 5-3-2, a formation that seemed to work two weeks ago, in Carson, California, against the LA Galaxy. Over the previous four games, that 2-1 final is the closest the Timbers have come to a result.

The context around that decision went beyond the Galaxy game, of course. Three goals conceded in the first half last week, at San Jose. Three conceded in Cincinnati, four weeks ago. Four allowed at LAFC, before that. Portland came into the Dallas game needing to do something, anything to staunch the bleeding at the back. The 5-3-2 was always going to be an option.

In that way, the formation was a tone-setter. As we’ve discussed before, it’s too reductive to see a 5-back as inherently defensive, but there was a stabilizing element to Portland’s approach. Three center backs. Three central midfielders. At a minimum, when it came to the team’s defensive problems, the Timbers would have numbers to throw at the problem.

A very 2019 goal

Not many of the goals Portland’s allowed thus far have been the result of bad luck, but that didn’t keep Saturday’s first score from feeling like a very 2019 goal. All of the misfortunes that gets attached to a 0-5-1 start were projected onto Jesus Ferriera’s ninth minute tally, one that was only possible when an errant Dallas pass went off Diego Chara, behind the Timbers’ line, and into the path of the young attacker. He had Jeff Attinella in a helpless position before the game’s opening goal.