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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sporting KC Exposes Portland's Crisis Of Confidence

Posted by Brian Gjurgevich on Sun, Jul 3, 2011 at 6:56 PM

If last week's beat-down at Dallas left a bad taste in Portland's mouth, Kansas City's 2-1 victory on Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field was the belch that brought back an unappetizing memory.

Sporting scored twice in the first 20 minutes and switched slow-starting Portland into embarrassment-avoidance mode, as the Timbers extended their winless streak to six and furthered a growing unease in the locker room.

"We're lacking a lot of confidence right now," said coach John Spencer after Kansas City held off Portland to earn its eighth straight result. "When you get out of the gates like we did at home, going five (games) unbeaten, I think guys get the feeling that we could go unbeaten at home all season.

"They're young. Experience-wise, we've got a lot to learn."

Best do it quick: Arch-rival Seattle makes its first visit to the Fortress of Shelterwood on Sunday afternoon, and then it's a remaining schedule featuring 10 MLS matches on the road and just seven at home.

Make no mistake, last night's match was an improvement on the Dallas debacle (though the alternative seemed like a distinct possibility in the 19th). For starters, there was this:

Darlington Nagbe delivered Portland's goal of the year (and his first career score) with that touch-pop-strike in the 45th minute, but it failed to spark a Timbers team that had its chances in the second half but again couldn't capitalize.

And speaking of starters, much ballyhooed lineup changes (Eddie Johnson started for Kenny Cooper, Steve Purdy for Jeremy Hall) didn't quite stoke the Timbers' fire either, as Portland again couldn't rise to their opponent's early aggressiveness. Nearly midway through their inaugural MLS season, Portland has committed the fewest fouls in the league (by a lot), so if they're "on the ropes," it's high time to start swinging back.

"I think guys need to continue to have that belief that we've got to continue to fight and continue to work hard for one another," said Capt. Jack Jewsbury, who just missed equalizing late against his old club. "That's the only thing that's going to get us out of this rut."

Full highlights and EXTRA TIME links after the jump:

EXTRA TIME! Links to help spike your counter-punch
• The Timbers looked "completely defeated" after falling behind by two scores, says The Trib's Stephen Alexander, who has more on Nagbe's "greatest first career MLS goal in the history of the league."
• "Any early season magic is pretty much forgotten," says The Columbian's Paul Danzer.
• Where does Portland go from here? Start with "a number of defensive lapses and some sloppy passing and lulls in their tempo," says Jose M. Romero of Soccer by Ives.
• Only Nagbe's "stunning goal" could give Portland "any semblance of hope," says Mao of The Offside.
• "The sheen is off in Portland," according to Jeremiah Oshan of SB Nation.
• The Timbers' losing streak is "in danger of turning into a hemorrhaging gusher," says Joe Oneill of the LA Times.

HIGHLIGHTS:

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