Red Bulls at Timbers, 7 p.m. Sunday.
TV: ROOT, cable Ch. 34. Radio: 750 AM
On the Web:www.portlandtimbers.com
PORTLAND — There was no shortage of shots on Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field — most of them before John Spencer’s post-game comments focused on the suitability of referee Abiodun Okulaja.
With the stoppage time ejection of the Portland coach and subsequent Colorado goal that sent the Timbers to their third consecutive Major League Soccer defeat, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that sold-out Jeld-Wen Field was treated to a feisty contest that included some of the best soccer the Timbers have yet played.
Spencer said he liked his team’s possession, and movement off the ball, and said that the service passes from the wide players into the scoring zone was much improved.
Among the positives were the way Diego Chara and Jack Jewsbury matched up in the middle of the field against Colorado veterans Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz. Chara, the Timbers first Designated Player — meaning the team can pay him extra and not take a salary cap hit — was very active in his best effort so far for Portland.
Darlington Nagbe, the team’s No. 1 draft pick, was creative and confident in his first start in three games in midfield. Yes, he missed a golden scoring chance. But he created several with some quick and smart footwork.
Despite losing central Mamadou “Footy” Danso to a shoulder injury expected to sideline him for several weeks, the Timbers were in line for a shutout until that late free kick turned into a pin-ball goal for the visitors. And goalkeeper Troy Perkins continued to demonstrate why the Timbers traded for him before the season.
The one aspect that disappointed was Portland’s inability to finish. The Timbers took 18 shots, which is good. Only four of them, though, were on target. And there were several other chances that ended without shots.
Spencer talked about the role confidence plays in a forward’s production. He said Kenny Cooper probably wouldn’t whiff on a close-range opportunity — as he did in the first half on Saturday — if he was on a roll. The coach said Nagbe might have settled the ball and scored from point-blank range in the first half if he wasn’t in and out of the lineup with injuries.
The coach was speaking to the mentality of goal-scorers, which Spencer was as a player. He certainly wasn’t looking for excuses.
Spencer likely will pay for his frankness about the officiating.
“The referees make decisions that cost people their jobs, and yet they go back to their jobs on Monday morning and everything is fine and dandy, go back to their families with a smile on their face. But my job’s on the line, as well as of lot of coaches in this league,” Spencer said.
“They should be standing at press conferences in front of the cameras and giving reasons why they’re making their decisions. Then maybe they might think twice about making that decision.”
Portland (5-6-2) has lost three consecutive games, and now must prepare for a Sunday visit from the New York Red Bulls knowing that it must start to cash in opportunities, especially at home.
“Obviously a disappointing end to what I think was a good game by us,” Jewsbury said late Saturday. “I thought we created a ton of good chances. But at the end of the day we didn’t put the ball in the back of the net and it hurt us.”