PORTLAND, Ore. – The focus, predictably, in the Portland Timbers 5-3 loss Saturday to the LA Galaxy was their shoddy defense.
The five goals allowed were the most by the Timbers in their MLS existence.
But three goals is three goals, even if it took a back seat in the Timbers' disappointing performance in interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson’s first game at the helm following the dismissal of John Spencer.
A muted positive, yes, but the last time Portland had such an offensive outburst was in their season-opening 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on March 12.
“I think at times we kept the ball well, I think we moved the ball well, I think we had individuals that had amazing games,” Wilkinson said. “But key lapses cost us the game.”
Postgame: Wilkinson and team talk about the match
And perhaps another positive to be taken from the performance was that two of the Timbers' goals were scored by striker Kris Boyd, his first brace in a Timbers uniform. The pair gave Boyd seven goals on the season, one in which the Designated Player has struggled at times to find continuity in the offense.
“We scored three goals at home; I think that’s a positive,” Boyd (above) said. “But when you do score three goals at home, we should be winning the game.”
Whether the defensive lapses are a sign of things to come under Wilkinson or a perfect storm of extenuating factors – which also included defensive midfielder Diego Chara serving a red-card suspension – is yet to be determined. It was just the Timbers' third loss as a MLS side when they scored the game’s first goal.
“I think defensively we’ve got some very, very good players,” Wilkinson said. “I think we got stretched at the wrong times within the game. But I also think they had some players tonight that were on form. I think [Robbie] Keane and [Landon] Donovan had fantastic games. Their movement off one another was tremendous, and they took their chances.
“They could’ve had another couple – so could’ve we – but I think that when you have a couple of players in key positions have poor performances and the players that they’re playing against have great performances, it makes the gap a little bit bigger, and we were punished because of it.”
Another new coach
As expected, the Portland Timbers have hired another assistant coach to spread out coaching duties as Wilkinson juggles both the interim head coaching and general manager positions.
Sean McAuley joins the Timbers from England’s Sheffield Wednesday FC, where he served as a head coach in the club’s academy.
McAuley, 40, began his coaching career at Sheffield Wednesday in 2005 and spent six seasons as the club’s academy head coach.
“Sean has a wealth of knowledge and coaching experience,” Wilkinson said. “He understands our club philosophy and objectives and will help maximize the potential of our young players. Sean will be a tremendous addition to the coaching staff.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.