PORTLAND — It wasn’t a one-two punch that stunned the Portland Timbers in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Chivas USA at Jeld-Wen Field.
It was a pair of left crosses that had the Timbers dazed and defeated.
Portland has lost three consecutive matches, including a pair of home games they led in the second half.
Both of the defining deliveries came off the foot of Ryan Smith, a 25-year-old Englander who had the speed to find space for those crosses and the left foot to deliver a couple of darts to the top of the 6-yard box that produced headers by Alejandro Moreno and Nick LaBrocca.
“Smith was brilliant,” Chivas coach Robin Fraser said. “He came in the second half and, right from the outset, he put his stamp on the game. He was immediately giving the right backs some problems and was looking to be a threat.”
Smith’s crosses were well-placed and well-used. Most disturbing from the Timbers perspective was the team’s flat performance in the second half, when Portland seldom had possession and lacked the creativity to make something of the little possessions it did have.
No wonder coach John Spencer described it as the Timbers worst performance at Jeld-Wen Field.
“For me, I think our energy levels from the start of the game to the end of the game weren’t good enough; it is a very disappointing performance,” Spencer said.
Portland actually had the better possession in the first half. Early in the match there were several build-up sequences that showed promise but failed to produce a shot when the critical pass went astray. Still, the Timbers’ Kris Boyd calmly made the visitors pay for a collision between goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and a Chivas defender.
At that point, it seemed it might be Portland’s night.
But Chivas shifted gears and — playing toward the Timbers Army — took over the game in the second half.
“I think you can see we’ve got quality players in here,” Boyd said. “We’ve played well — tonight for 45 minutes again. But a soccer game doesn’t last for 45 minutes. It lasts for 90 minutes.”
The MLS season is 34 games long, which certainly gives the Timbers plenty of time to figure things out.
The next challenge is the defending champions. Portland travels to Los Angeles on Saturday to take on a Galaxy team that at 1-4 is probably more exasperated now than are the Timbers.
“It’s not going to get any easier,” Spencer said. “A few guys in there need to look at themselves tonight and ask themselves are they doing enough on and off the field.”