PORTLAND — In position for a signature Major League Soccer victory, the Portland Timbers instead were left Sunday trying to explain late-game breakdowns that are becoming a troubling trademark.
Led by Fredy Montero’s two goals, Seattle Sounders FC erased two second-half deficits on their way to a 3-2 win at raucous Jeld-Wen Field.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” Timbers coach John Spencer said after watching his team waste one of its better offensive performances and several high-difficulty saves from goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
The result stretched Portland’s winless streak to seven games, and increased Seattle’s run without a loss to eight matches.
“It proves again that if you can’t defend, you’re not going to win games,” Spencer said. “I think offensively we did enough. We scored two goals at home. We created a lot of good chances in the second half, as well.”
In addition to the result, the Sounders enjoyed the environment created by the 18,627 — including several hundred Seattle supporters.
“It’s a great atmosphere here. It’s a great park,” Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “At some stage, I wish them all the best of success, as long as they’re just one place below us. In this country, you want to see franchises like this with this kind of support be successful.”
It looked like Sunday might be a glowing success for Portland when the Timbers took leads in the 46th and the 69th minutes. But Seattle, playing with poise and confidence, didn’t wilt.
The goal that made it 2-2 started with a right-to-left crossing ball that bounced over the head of Portland left back Steve Purdy. It was the kind of little breakdown that became big when Lamar Neagle’s cross to the far post was touched from Mauro Rosales to an uncovered Montero.
“I was trying to tuck in and take care of the space between myself and the center back, and they play it over (my head) and (Neagle) was able to get a chip far post and we all saw what happened,” Purdy said.
A few moments later, Neagle made an even more significant play when he broke behind the defense to collect a nice pass from midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. Reacting late, Portland’s Eric Brunner made a stab at the ball with his leg and was called for a foul that netted Brunner a red card and Seattle a penalty kick that Alonso converted for the 3-2 lead.
“I felt like I let the team down,” Brunner said. The central defender also said he got the ball with his foot and did not deserve the card. Spencer said the referee made the correct decision for the penalty kick.
Those two breakdowns spoiled what was shaping up to be a party in Portland.
Some creative work from Kalif Alhassan in the first minute of the second half broke a scoreless tie. And Jorge Perlaza’s speed gave the Timbers a 2-1 lead in the 69th minute.
Alhassan’s assertive move along the right wing got the rookie into the penalty area, and his sharp cross from the right deflected off of Seattle defender Jeff Parke and into the goal.
Montero scored on a free kick goal in the 57th minute. But Portland regained the lead 12 minutes later when Diego Chara made a strong run through midfield to spring Perlaza free. Perlaza’s shot from the right side deflected past a diving Keller.
At that point, Jeld-Wen Field was a rollicking place. But, as has become habit with these Timbers, the lead didn’t last.
The sting, though, is sure to linger for a while.
Spencer said this loss hurts more than most.
“To get beat by your biggest rivals at home when you score two goals, and you’ve got the lead twice, it’s unacceptable,” the Portland coach said. “You’ve got to finish the game off.”