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Monday, July 8, 2013

Timbers Snap Streak, Maintain Mystique

Posted by Brian Gjurgevich on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 at 1:59 PM

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  • Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

The Timbers' 15-match unbeaten streak may have ended on Sunday afternoon, but their reputation as one of the more dangerous clubs in Major League Soccer certainly didn't.

Portland gave up an early goal and played with 10 men for nearly 80 minutes during 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew—PTFC's first defeat since March 9. So did a Timbers team that's rolled to the fourth-longest unbeaten streak in league history finally gets its comeuppance? Not exactly.

Despite losing defender Pa-Modou Kah to a straight red card (after he straight kicked a dude in the face), Portland dominated large stretches and possessed the ball 56% of the match. All this despite not having professional spark plug Rodney Wallace, All-Star (Capt.) Will Johnson and frontline threat Frederic Piquionne (the latter of whom faced each other in a Gold Cup match at the Rose Bowl during Portland's game).

File this one under "coulda/shoulda been worse." But according to coach Caleb Porter, don't put it anywhere near "failure."

"There's no failure, there's just feedback," Porter said postgame. "The feedback I got today was very positive in a lot of ways, again reinforcing just how tough and strong this team is. We got better today, even though we lost. You can get better through losses just as much as you get better through positive results. But sometimes it takes feeling defeat to really stay sharp and stay hungry.”

The loss hardly gives the rest of the league a blueprint on how to contain Portland. Scoring a goal early helps, sure, but even a man down, Portland's pass-happy attack looked effective as ever: They nearly equalized in the 75th, 77th and 85th minutes.

"I think we’re a team that likes to possess the ball, and whether we had 10 or 11 on the field, it’s not going to change much for us," said Cap'n Jack Jewsbury, who wore the armband in Johnson's absence. Added forward Darlington Nagbe: "Even with a man down we still played our game."

The Timbers look to start a new streak on Saturday, when they host Los Angeles at The Jelly. Highlights and full recap from Ohio after the jump!

HIGHLIGHTS:

From the Timbers:

COLUMBUS—The Portland Timbers' club-record 15-match undefeated streak was snapped on Sunday afternoon as the Columbus Crew took advantage of an early goal and red card to hand the Timbers their first road loss of 2013 with a 1-0 win at Crew Stadium.

Bernardo Anor's 5th-minute goal, his second in as many games, stood as the game-winner to end a three-match losing streak for the Crew.

Sunday's loss spoiled the Buckeye state return of former University of Akron coach Caleb Porter, who was making his first visit as Portland's coach. The Timbers (7-2-9, 30 points) were 7-0-8 since losing to Montreal back on March 9 and they were also undefeated on the road (2-0-7). The Crew used a familiar combination to take the lead in the fifth minute as Federico Higuain found Anor on a header off a restart, the same way Anor scored Thursday against Los Angeles. This time, Higuain's left corner kick went to the 6-yard box where Anor powered his attempt inside the near post.

Following the goal, Timbers defender Pa Modou Kah earned a red card and conceded a penalty for committing a foul on Crew forward Aaron Schoenfeld in the box. Kah lost inside position to Schoenfeld and attempted to stop the forward, but stuck his right foot into Schoenfeld's forehead. Luckily for the Timbers, Higuain missed the 12th-minute penalty kick. The Argentine failed to convert for the second time in six tries this season from the spot when his shot skimmed outside the left post and the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

With Portland down a man and on the scoreboard, Porter was forced to go the bench in the 14th minute and brought in substitute defender Futty Danso for winger Kalif Alhassan. Despite the Timbers being reduced to 10 men, they didn't deviate from their possession game and opened the second half in control. Their pressure almost resulted in the equalizer in the 55th minute when defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste headed Valeri's corner kick off the right post.

Higuain then tried to make up for his PK misfire by freeing Dominic Oduro on an early entry pass in the 65th minute, but the speedy Ghanaian booted his shot harmlessly across the goalmouth. Ricketts kept his team in the match with a timely save in the 75th minute when Higuain's lofted ball found Crew sub Ethan Finlay, whose diving header was swatted over the crossbar by Ricketts.

That save reenergized Portland but Timbers playmaker Diego Valeri missed on a look from 13 yards, sending his strike over the goal in the 77th minute. The Timbers had one more golden opportunity denied in the 87th minute when Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson, playing the first time this season for the injured Andy Gruenebaum (shoulder), made a save on a blistering strike by Darlington Nagbe that was ticketed for the upper right corner.

Each team made wholesale changes to their respective lineups with three of Portland's four necessitated by CONCACAF Gold Cup call-ups to Will Johnson (Canada), Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica), and Frédéric Piquione (Martinique). The trio had combined for 10 goals and 12 assists this season. Crew manager Robert Warzycha opted to give Wil Trapp his MLS debut after his recent participation in the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. Trapp was one of five players in the Crew's starting lineup (Chad Barson, Konrad Warzycha, Danny O'Rourke and Lampson) from central Ohio high schools.

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