Portland Timbers chalk up loss to missed chances

Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter didn’t have a lot of blame to place on the referee for rewarding the San Jose Earthquakes a penalty kick that led to the first goal in a 2-1 loss for his team Saturday evening at Buck Shaw Stadium.

He didn’t blame the loss on a poor performance by his players, either. He didn’t say his side was outplayed.

For Porter, there really wasn’t a whole lot to say other than the Earthquakes really needed three points, and the Timbers lost a tough game on the road against a Western Conference opponent.

“We weren’t as far off in the performance as it might seem,” Porter said. “So we’ll keep it in perspective. We certainly had plenty of chances to win the game. We had, in my opinion, far more quality chances than they did. But that’s soccer.”

If there is a point in the game to shine the spotlight, it was a 10-minute period after the halftime break when San Jose did well to take advantage of their chances.

A 55th-minute penalty kick was awarded to the Earthquakes after Shea Salinas collided with Portland center back Andrew Jean-Baptiste right at the edge of the penalty area. San Jose defender Victor Bernadez calmly converted past Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts for the game’s first goal.

“I’m not sure if the foul that led to the PK was in the box; it seemed out," said Porter. "Most refs probably call that out when it’s borderline."

Three minutes later, Earthquakes enigmatic striker Steven Lenhart inexplicably snuck behind the Timbers defense on a set piece for a sliding goal to give the Earthquakes a 2-0 lead.

"On the second goal, I thought the free kick was clearly offside, but we’re not the only team to get the raw end of calls this year," said Porter. "It happens, and there are no excuses. We have to avoid those situations to begin with.”

But from the moment Portland went down 2-0, they effectively dominated the run of play.

Darlington Nagbe pulled one back in the 83rd minute, highlighting a dominant stretch for the Timbers in the closing minutes – aided by the ejection of Quakes winger Marvin Chavez when he was shown two quick yellows in the 85th minute.

For the game, Portland held a hefty possession advantage and outshot San Jose 20-14.

“I think with this team, with the results that we’ve gotten where we’ve come from behind, you always think there’s a chance," said Porter. "I can’t fault the guys’ effort. In the end, we were a couple plays away, and we had the chances to level it, but the ball didn’t fall. But I can’t fault their effort."

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.