PORTLAND — Frustrating? Sure, playing against the hounding defense of the Montreal Impact and losing 2-1 on Saturday was frustrating for the Portland Timbers.
Surprising? Not at all.
Saturday’s match went according to script for Montreal, which plays a style of soccer designed to incite and then exploit frustrated opponents.
Knowing what was coming doesn’t make playing against a team that packs in its defense and waits for a moment of weakness to counter-attack.
“We knew it was going to be difficult. They are very organized,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “They weren’t easy to break down. We had plenty of shots and a lot of possession. They’re a team that if they get up on you, they can bunker down even more. Unfortunately, they got the first goal and that played into their hands.”
Montreal’s first goal, by defender Hassoun Camara, came after the Timbers failed at a chance to clear a Montreal free kick. That forced the Timbers to scramble on defense, giving the Impact a second chance to make something of the play. A similar breakdown happened on New York’s third goal in the Timbers’ season opener.
“It’s disappointing that we let them hurt us twice in moments that we prepared for all week,” Porter said, “and it’s disappointing to give up two goals on only (nine) shots.”
On the positive side, Portland kept pushing, getting 19 attempts at goal. However, Montreal’s tough defense led to all but six of those shots sailing wide of the goal.
“It’s not a coincidence that two games straight we’ve shot more than 20-something times on goal,” said Ryan Johnson, whose goal in the 80th minute set up an interesting finish to the match. “We’re doing the right things, (shots) are going to fall. We’ve just got to be a little bit sharper around the goal when it comes to those final passes. As times goes on, we’ll be fine. I’m not worried at all.”
For Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who made 51 starts for the Timbers before the trade last August to Montreal, it was a satisfying return to Portland. He was serenaded with the chant of his name by the Timbers Army at the end of the match, and he showed his appreciation by applauding back at the Portland fans.
“It was different, a little surreal,” Perkins said. “Playing almost two years here and coming back and having to warm-up on the other end was a different experience for me.”
Donovan Ricketts, who came to Portland in that swap, also had a good night. He had three big saves, but none better than his diving left-hander early in the match to deny Marco Di Vaio from point-blank range.
• The Timber lead MLS in shots attempted (40), shots on goal (16) and corner kicks (12).
• The Timbers attempted 566 passes against Montreal, more than 100 more than any of the nine other MLS clubs in action on Saturday.