BEAVERTON — Amid the rubble of Sunday’s disheartening loss to the Seattle Sounders were two goals from Portland Timbers rookie striker Fanendo Adi.
The goals were his first in league play since June 7. Adi scored twice in each of his first two starts for the Timbers, but did not score in his next nine league appearances. His drought ended on Aug. 19 with a goal in the Timbers win over Alpha United in CONCACAF Champions League play, and followed up with two goals in a substitute role against Seattle.
A confident and consistent Adi would be welcome during the stretch run, beginning with Saturday’s visit to British Columbia for a significant match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“Strikers are streaky. It’s a streaky position and when you can get in a run of form where you’re scoring goals everything seems to fall into place,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said.
Porter has been using a one-striker formation, and with 14 goals has gotten decent production from the position. Maximiliano Urruti leads Portland with eight goals in MLS play, but he was limited for several weeks by injury and has scored only two goals since early June.
“What I’m hoping is that we get a guy who can keep scoring goals,” Porter said. “We haven’t really had that. We’ve been a little bit hot and cold.”
What the Timbers really could use is for multiple players to find their scoring touch, especially given their continuing inability to shut out opponents. Five Timbers have scored six or more MLS goals this season, but one significant player is still seeking his first league goal of 2014.
Darlington Nagbe, coming off a nine-goal season in 2013, has not scored in 2014.
“I think it’s kind of a strange anomaly,” Porter said. “It’s not that he’s playing poorly. I’ve said this all year: He’s playing well. He’s still doing what he does, which is get the ball and get out of pressure and create problems for the opponent. For some reason that final piece (scoring) has been missing.”
Statistically, Nagbe took about one shot for every half he played last season. So far this season, he is averaging one shot for every 75 minutes on the field.
Porter said he doesn’t need to push Nagbe to shoot more.
“He knows he needs to shoot. He knows he needs to score,” the coach said. “He has shot and he has taken things well sometimes and maybe it’s been a good goalkeeper making a save, maybe it’s been a defender blocking a shot, maybe it’s been him missing.”
Despite the scoring drought, opponents still pay plenty of attention to Nagbe, Porter said. And like the team as a whole, a strong finish could make something of what has been a frustrating 2014.
“He’s still a guy that teams fear. He’s still a guy that teams will key on and try to stop,” Porter said. “He still has a chance here in the last nine games to get hot. And I’m hoping that happens because you need your top guys — your attackers that you go with — you need them to produce to win games.”