Timbers can ‘only go up’ after difficult setback

Timbers now must head on road to break out of slump

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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PORTLAND — The Seattle Sounders were dancing in shared celebration with their supporters in the southwest corner of the Jeld-Wen Field, their smiles almost outshining their highlighter-yellow jerseys.

As Portland captain Jack Jewsbury started to lead his teammates around the field in salute of the home fans, Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins stood alone, his gloves discarded inside the center circle.

Perkins was Portland’s man of the match, making three huge plays to deny Seattle goals. But the Sounders put three goals behind the keeper anyway to extend Portland’s winless streak to seven games — six of them losses.

The aftermath was tough to digest for the Timbers, whose late-game lapses are becoming predictable.

Jewsbury, who learned Sunday he is one of the players voted by fans to the MLS All-Star team, called it one of the more difficult losses of his nine-year career.

“Emotionally, it’s probably one of the toughest just because of the buildup leading up to this rivalry game. It’s a tough one to swallow,” Jewsbury said.

He took a breath, then added, “If you had said we were going to score two goals in the second half and not come in here winning, I would have not put a lot of money on that.”

As Portland coach John Spencer said, no one in MLS is going to feel sorry for struggling expansion teams in Portland and Vancouver, B.C. The question now is: How will they respond?

“We can only go up,” said defender Eric Brunner, who made the foul that produced Osvaldo Alonso’s game-winning penalty kick. “It’s a terrible game to lose. It’s a terrible feeling in the stomach, but you’ve got to put it behind you.”

A good first step would be to make it more difficult for opponents to put the ball behind Perkins, whose day included a dynamic save to deny Seattle’s Fredy Montero a third second-half goal. At Chicago next weekend, Portland will try to accomplish that without Brunner, who will miss the next match because of his red card.

“You can’t let balls bounce in the box. You can’t let runners go free and expect (other) guys to pick them up,” Spencer said. “You’ve got to do your own job. We got caught napping a couple of times, and got punished for it.”

Jewsbury said there it is not one particular weakness dooming his team.

“It’s hard to pinpoint one thing,” the captain said. “It’s easy from afar to say the guys aren’t fit enough because we’re giving up some late goals. I don’t necessarily think that’s it. I think it’s a matter of concentration and focusing for the 90 minutes. In this league, or any league, when you fall asleep for a second there are dangerous guys who are going to captialize, and that’s what happened today.”

Jewsbury said the veterans — which on this roster means Jewsbury, Perkins and a handful of current reserves — will make sure the commitment level in training doesn’t waver in the midst of this latest disappointment.

“There are going to be tough stretches, and we’re in that right now,” Jewsbury said. “Today would have been a great day to get out of it. That’s not the case. Now we’ve got to get back and work hard this week in training and go to Chicago and get a good result, which we haven’t done so far on the road.”