One thing is for certain: the Portland Timbers’ scoreless draw Sunday afternoon with the San Jose Earthquakes was an improvement on a string of disappointing road results.
Coming into the match at Avaya Stadium, Portland had lost their last three matches away from the Rose City (four including a 2-0 US Open Cup loss to Real Salt Lake) by a combined score of 12-1. So coming away with a point and clean sheet is certainly a step in the right direction.
“It was solid in terms of our defending, and that was probably the most pleasing part of it,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. “Probably should have won the game. We had chances, we hit the post, so you feel like in some ways you deserve better, but I thought we defended very well and that needs to be the formula on the road moving forward.”
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It was a tidy defensive effort to be sure, one that allowed Portland to build into the game offensively. And after a conservative first half, the Timbers became more proactive – especially in the final 30 minutes.
They even had a good chance to take all three points when they were awarded a penalty in the 74th minute after Diego Valeri was taken down by Shaun Francis. Unfortunately for the Timbers, Valeri pinged his spot kick off the bar.
“It feels good,” center back Nat Borchers told media after the match. “It’s something we talked about all week. We know from our previous experiences on the road that it hasn’t been good enough. The amount of goals we’ve given up in the last three games just wasn’t good enough for this group.”
Needless to say, nobody was faulting Valeri for the missed opportunity.
“Everybody knows that Diego is going to win us plenty more games, there’s no doubt about that,” Borchers said. “Nobody is pointing any fingers at him at all, and those things happen. We were able to create some really good chances on the road, and you want to just give yourself a good opportunity to win games on the road. And we did that.”
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Valeri's PK wasn’t the only chance. Despite conceding the bulk of possession, Portland outshot San Jose 15-12 (6-3 on shots on goal), forced Earthquakes goalkeeper David Bingham into five saves and saw another dangerous attempt draw woodwork on a Fanendo Adi shot in the 47th minute.
“I thought we came to life at the end of the first half, and [in the] second half we were the aggressor and unfortunate not to score,” Porter said. “Obviously, we missed a PK and hit the post. But I thought overall it was a good performance. I always say if you can't win then don't lose."
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.