Notoriously slow starts have been a general concern for the Portland Timbers
. But one game in particular—a 3-1 blowout by the Colorado Rapids
in their MLS debut—was fresh in everyone’s mind entering Saturday’s rematch.
The Timbers marked their entry into the league by allowing three goals in the first 30 minutes of that March contest.
On Saturday night, at home and away from the elevation and sprawling field in Denver, the Timbers went 90 minutes without conceding a goal but gave up a close-range score in extra time, falling 1-0 to the Rapids.
The Rapids got their decisive only moments after Timbers coach John Spencer
was ejected from the game by referee Abiodun Okulaja. Spencer called out Okulaja for what he considered poor fitness, arguing that he was not conditioned well enough to officiate and was calling fouls more often late in the game to give himself time to catch his breath.
Okulaja didn't appreciate it and tossed Spencer.
“I think the referee…started calling more fouls as the game went on because he got tired,” Spencer said. “I told the fourth official, ‘He’s going to call a foul, and it’s going to cost a goal.’ And unfortunately he called it against us.”
“I’ve said enough about (Okulaja),” Spencer said. “I’ll get my fine, I’ll do the time, and hopefully we’ll move on.”
Portland goalkeeper Troy Perkins
kept Portland in the game with spectacular saves on several rips from long range—the Rapids launched five of their nine shots from beyond the 18-yard line.
The Timbers also had legitimate scoring opportunities, but rather than being foiled by spectacular defense, they were tripped up by their own errors.
Striker Jorge Perlaza shanked a breakaway shot far right of the goal in the 35th minute.
Forward Darlington Nagbe followed with his own gaffe a few minutes later, toeing a wide-open shot in the face of goal high up and over the crossbar.
But an apparent handball drew the worst of the crowd’s ire in the first half. Midfielder Diego Chara launched a long shot from the right side that appeared to hit the arm of one of Colorado’s players. Okulaja didn't call it, and the ball rolled out of bounds for a corner kick that proved fruitless.
Portland seemed to gain momentum in the second half, dominating possession and putting together several respectable attacks. (The Timbers outshot Colorado 18-14 on the night.) The team failed to capitalize when Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens was caught out of the box in the 74th minute. Perlaza deferred to forward Kenny Cooper to punch in the goal. But Cooper’s back was to the goal, and under pressure he tried to dish off to midfielder Jack Jewsbury. The pass was intercepted and the Rapids escaped again.
“I thought we created a ton of good chances, but unfortunately we couldn’t put one of them in the back of the net,” Jewsbury said.
The winner for Colorado came after Perkins twice made excellent saves on shots from close range, but he couldn’t contain the ball, and it bounced free in front of the goal. Jewsbury tried to clear the ball, but it deflected to Rapids forward Caleb Folan, who passed to defender Drew Moor for the score.
Portland had hardly any time to mount a threatening attack, but they got one chance. Forward Ryan Pore— who subbed in late for Perlaza—did get a one-touch opportunity square in front of the goal.
He sent it just over the crossbar, and full time was called.
“I’m on for 10 minutes, and you want nothing more than to take three points in front of your home fans,” Pore said. “Looking back on it, I had a lot more time (to shoot) than I thought.”
In addition to its third straight defeat—the second straight at home after starting 5-0-0 at Jeld-Wen Field—the Timbers also suffered the loss of defender Mamadou “Futty” Danso.
Danso went down in the 30th minute holding his shoulder after making contact with a Rapids player. Danso was taken off in a stretcher and taken to Providence St. Vincent hospital, where he was diagnosed with a mild left shoulder injury.
Danso is expected to miss the next two to three weeks.