Micah Rice: Porter keeps looking ahead

Commentary: Micah Rice

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor



PORTLAND — It was a party, then a punch in the gut.

It was a revelation, followed by revulsion.

In a Cascadia drizzle, the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders produced a downpour of goals in a 4-4 draw Saturday at Providence Park.

The floodgates finally opened for Portland’s offense. But a leaky defense couldn’t hold a two-goal lead in the final minutes.

It left Portland coach Caleb Porter with emotions that where clear as mud.

Asked how he felt following a third draw in three home matches, Porter glared ahead for several seconds, then let out a deep sigh.

“The competitor in me is dejected,” he finally said. “The coach in me is very encouraged by a lot of what I saw today.”

Such is life amid this maddening start to a season many experts said would see Portland contend for a Major League Soccer title.

Elation and frustration, ability and futility, it was all on display over 90-plus entertaining and perplexing minutes Saturday.

The Timbers showed resilience with a furious two-goal burst after falling behind in the third minute. But…

The Timbers’ front line carved apart Seattle’s defense, showing a dynamism that could have easily led to six goals. But…

Blistering goals from 20 yards by Diego Chara and Maximiliano Urruti showed Portland has players that can score from anywhere. But…

Saturday had all the makings of a season-igniting win. Instead, the Timbers have no wins, three draws, two losses and lots of questions.

Porter made two bold moves before kickoff Saturday, benching forward Gaston Fernandez and veteran defender Jack Jewsbury. There most certainly will be more changes to come, thanks to individual defensive lapses saw a seemingly safe lead disappear.

Porter wouldn’t single out the culprits, but made clear some players were not up to par.

“The first half was very good, but we made two big mistakes,” Porter said. “The second half was very good, but we made two big mistakes. Either we change the players or we keep working on it.”

Of all the mixed messages Saturday’s match offered, two things rang loud and clear.

One, the Timbers can and should score often. They simply have too much talent and speed up front and in the midfield.

Two, at moments the Timbers can be hopelessly lost on defense. Some of that has to do with a lack of continuity, as eight different players have started among the five defensive positions. But some has to do with lack of attention.

“There are some guys hanging their heads over there because they know they didn’t do well enough,” Porter said. “I’m not going to abandon them, but there also needs to be accountability at this level.”

Ahead await more challenges as Porter tries to find a lineup that meshes. Ahead await higher stakes as Portland tries to make up ground in the Western Conference.

Ahead is where Porter is looking.

“We can all be undefeated managing Hindsight United,” Porter said.