Portland Timbers unhappy with draw but remain optimistic: "There’s nothing we can do but get back to work"

PORTLAND, Ore. – Though the Portland Timbers felt their overall play was strong, head coach Caleb Porter turned his attention to an unexpected area following Saturday night’s 1-1 draw against Chivas USA.

Unlike in last week’s 4-4 draw against the Seattle Sounders, when the Timbers attack appeared ready to awake and return to their 2013, Porter said their issue Saturday night was a failure to keep the ball after Will Johnson’s seventh-minute goal that ultimately led to a late Chivas USA equalizer.

“It’s a big part of our philosophy, to control as much of the game as possible, dictate the flow with possession of the ball,” Porter said in his postgame comments. “I’m not sure why we gave the ball away so much tonight. That was one of my main points I made at halftime is that we have to do better with the ball. Maybe it’s because we are trying to score, forcing things a bit.”

Portland came out against the Goats as the aggressor. And after some slick ball movement at the top of the area built up to Johnson’s goal, they led 1-0 and appeared to be well on the way to their first win of the season.

But after the goal, Chivas USA controlled large swaths of the middle portion of the game and finished with a 52-percent possession advantage, while Portland completed just 72 percent of their passes. The Rojiblancos also outshot Portland 13-8.

“One of two things has to happen, you either get the second goal or you manage the game 1-0,” Porter said. “And we were able to last year win a lot of games 1-0. We won a few games where it was more than that, but the majority of the games in this sport are 1-0 one way or another. Sometimes you don’t find the second goal, and we didn’t, but we have to win that game 1-0 if we don’t.”

It was the defense – other than letting Erick Torres run free for his 79th-minute goal – that showed well, following last week’s performance against the Sounders. Porter gave the nod to veteran Futty Danso--the 50th start of his MLS career--and gave young right back Alvas Powell his second consecutive start in place of Jack Jewsbury.

Porter said the backline’s performance “was much better overall.”

“They made one mistake and were punished by it, but I thought overall [the backline] had a very solid game,” Porter said.

Now, Porter is faced with the task of putting both sides of the ball together with a daunting road matchup looming Saturday against Real Salt Lake, a matchup of last year’s conference championship series.

“There are plenty of examples of teams that started slow that have won it all," Porter said. "I believe Houston started eight games without a win and ended up winning MLS Cup, and the LA Galaxy started slow when they won it one year as well. But, in the end we’re not where we wanted to be at this point, and we have to step it up. There is nothing we can do other than get back to work and keep fighting and keep pushing and improve in the areas we need to.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.