Too many 'what-ifs' follow recent Timbers defeat

Richards sees good, bad in his first MLS starting role

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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PORTLAND — It was the first of what Brent Richards hopes will be many starts for the Portland Timbers, and just his third appearance in a Major League Soccer match.

But Richards is already tired of the what-ifs.

After failing to score on three chances in Saturday's 1-0 loss to Chivas USA at Jeld-Wen Field, the Camas native expressed both satisfaction and frustration.

The satisfaction came from a solid individual showing and a team effort that the Timbers believed was of winning quality. The frustration came from missing on scoring chances that might have turned the what-ifs into a win.

"I'm disappointed I didn't put any away. I thought I should have," Richards told reporters after Saturday's match. "I'm getting tired of saying the same thing game after game, where I say, 'I should have done this. I should have done that.' That's something that needs to change and I need to work on in practice."

Richards thought he should have scored in Tuesday's exhibition match against Aston Villa. On Saturday, three times he was in position to give Portland a first-half lead.

He sent a clean header wide right from a difficult angle after out-jumping a defender. He made a strong run to get on the end of a Franck Songo'o pass, but his one-time shot from 15 yards in front of goal went just wide. He took a hard shot from just inside the 18-yard box that forced a save from Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

"The coaches are pretty happy with how well I can strike a ball. They're telling me if I get in those situations just take that shot and get it on target," Richards said. "That's what I needed to do, and I did it but I didn't get it away from Kennedy, and that was unfortunate."

Richards said he needed better composure in those moments. But he was not the only Timber forward wishing they had done better with scoring chances.

Veteran striker Kris Boyd missed several chances that were as good or better than those Richards had -- among them stumbling and missing the ball with an open goal from four yards away.

"I've missed worse," the Scottish striker said through a small grin.

That is life as a forward in the game of soccer. Richards understands that.

On Saturday, he showed skills beyond finishing that could earn him a consistent spot in the lineup.

His long throw-ins in the attacking third of the field can create scoring chances for Boyd and others. And his leaping ability makes him a useful target for long balls out of the defensive end, as well as around the goal mouth. Goalkeeper Troy Perkins routinely punted the ball toward Richards as part of the game plan.

"First half, I thought I did fairly decent. I won just about all the balls in the air," Richards said. "Second half, I started to struggle a little bit more. I think they started to learn how to deal with my leaping ability and that made it a little bit tougher."

Richards played on the right wing for 60 of his 74 minutes. He traded wings with Songo'o an hour into the match. Richards said he was comfortable with his assignment and credited the communication from right back Kosuke Kimura for helping him through his first start.

Ultimately, though, Richards' first MLS start didn't provide a winning script.

"We did good things," he said, "but we didn't do enough."

Reserves win — Forward Bright Dike scored a hat trick to guide the Portland Timbers Reserves to a 4-2 win over the Chivas USA Reserves in front of 6,576 fans at Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday afternoon.