PORTLAND — Four home games, four draws. Another late-game defensive lapse, and mounting frustration for the Portland Timbers six games into the Major League Soccer season.
On Saturday it was Chivas USA that spoiled the evening at Providence Park by scoring late to earn a 1-1 draw and keep the Timbers from their first win of the season.
Despite a seventh-minute goal from Will Johnson and the return of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from a two-game suspension, the Timbers couldn’t find a winning formula.
In fact, it was Chivas USA that carried the play for significant stretches on a night the Timbers’ only real attack came from the counter attack.
The Timbers carried the 1-0 lead until the 79th minute, when Erick Torres scored from point-blank range for the visitors.
Former Timber Andrew Jean-Baptiste sent a pass to Leandro Barrera, who beat Timbers right back Alvas Powell to the end line and sent a low cross that found a wide-open Torres for a tap-in goal.
“Torres is a key guy and we talked about it all week. He’s good at getting into spots to score and, you know, we didn’t pick him up,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said.
Porter said he was pleased with most of the work done by his defense on Saturday. Ricketts’ return and the reuniting of Futty Danso with Pa Modou Kah in central defense seemed to produce a calmness and a confidence that was lacking from Portland’s defense early this season.
Ricketts’ return and some tight man-on-man defending allowed Portland to withstand 10 Chivas USA corner kicks without seeing any serious trouble.
But, the Timbers didn’t possess the ball enough to construct a second goal or prevent the opportunity that undid things. Chivas (1-2-3, 6 points) had 52.4 percent of the ball, a troubling trend for a Portland team built to dictate play.
“We’re a team that’s built to have the ball,” Porter said. “We need to defend with the ball. We can’t be sitting back and defending for long periods.”
Chivas finished with 13 attempts on goal to only eight for the Timbers, who relied almost entirely on counter-attack opportunities to generate the chances they did get. In the second half, Chivas outshot Portland 10-4.
Johnson put Portland up 1-0 in the seventh minute, scoring with a low shot from 18 yards. Maximiliano Urruti collected a loose ball and dropped a short pass to Darlington Nagbe, who drew the attention of two defenders before sliding a pass for the onrushing Johnson.
Johnson had another chance late in the half that went into the side netting, and his free kick in second-half stoppage time caught the outside of the right post. But against a Chivas team that has surrendered a league-worst 11 goals in six games, high-quality chances were few for the Timbers.
Porter said his team simply gave away possession too often, too easily.
“We’ve got to control the ball,” Porter said. “Maybe it’s because we were trying to score and forcing things a bit, but certainly some guys were sloppy in possession for whatever reason.”
In four home games this season, the Timbers have four draws. At 0-2-4, they are eighth in the nine-team Western Conference and one of five winless teams in the league. Up next are challenging trips to Real Salt Lake and Houston.
“We’re behind the eight ball, obviously,” Porter said. “There’s plenty of examples of teams that start slow that have won it all. … But in the end we’re not where we wanted to be at this point, and we’ve got to step it up.”