Timbers look for answers; formation works up front; Spencer calls for more 'maturity'; Jewsbury mixes it up
After the Portland Timbers watched a 2-0 lead evaporate into a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC on Saturday night, Portland coach John Spencer stayed in the locker room talking to the club for a very long time.
'He said a lot,' Timbers defender Mike Chabala said. 'His words I'll keep in the locker room.'
While Chabala did not want to talk about what Spencer said to the team, he pondered what is going wrong with the side he joined last week after being traded from the Houston Dynamo.
'There's a lot of points that we've dropped through this whole season, whether you've been a part of it or not,' Chabala said. 'The fact that we let this get away is disappointing. What is it? Is it fitness? Is it desire? What is the problem in this locker room that we can't close out a lead at 2-0?
'If you were to say to any guy in this locker room, 'You're 2-0 up, at home and you have 15-20 minutes to go,' it should be no problem at all. Obviously, this is a new team. But regardless, you have to start building tradition. Guys have to start stepping up and taking the opportunity.'
• The Timbers have been using a 4-5-1 formation for the last several matches. Against Toronto, it looked as if Portland had found the perfect combination of players, with Eddie Johnson as the lone striker and Sal Zizzo and Darlington Nagbe running together in the midfield.
Johnson, who scored in the 23rd minute, seemed to plug in perfectly as a single striker.
'I can do that job,' Johnson said. 'Obviously, John thinks that, and he gave me the start tonight. I suit either the two up there or the one up there. At the moment, we're playing the one, and hopefully I can hold that position down.'
Zizzo and Nagbe worked in perfect harmony.
'He's got great speed, and I've got speed also, so it was just great communication,' Nagbe said, of playing with Zizzo. 'Playing alongside him is good, and it makes us both better players.'
'Darlington is a great player,' Zizzo said, of Nagbe. 'Very creative and quick and shifty. Everyone likes playing with a player like that. Every time he gets the ball I just try and get in good positions because I know he's going to get it to you.'
•• With the Johnson-Zizzo-Nagbe combo, the Timbers were posed to score throughout the MLS match. They put up 20 shots. Eleven were on goal, and another went off the left post.
The Timbers may have died by their strength, though. Up 2-0 at Jeld-Wen Field and with the match seemingly in hand, Portland continued attacking.
'I'm telling the guys, 'You've got to slow the game down,' ' Spencer said. 'We don't need to try to score on every attack. You can't score on every attack. We tried to play 100 miles an hour, but it's not possible.'
Spencer pointed out Zizzo as an example of the Timbers pushing too hard on the offensive end.
'Sal gets the ball at his feet and all of a sudden, the whole stadium gets excited,' Spencer said. 'He wants to go and drive on and try to beat the guy again. And I'm not just picking on him. The whole team, everyone's trying to drive forward and get that goal, that (ceremonial) log of timber.'
Trying to score another goal is an example of the professional immaturity the club has dealt with all season.
'You've got to be mature in the game,' Spencer said. 'Some players have to be mature in the game to tell guys to slow the game down, take the sting out of the game. At times you've just got to put your foot on the ball, knock it back, keep the ball, get them to run instead of trying to go and score.
'You don't need to score the third one and the fourth one when you're 2-nil up. It's inexperience, maturity, not as people, but as professional soccer players, definitely. They're young guys lacking in experience and maturity.'
••• During the All-Star game festivities this week, Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury entered his name into the Guinness Book of World Records for most penalty kicks taken, as a massive group of players, coaches, league officials and fans lined up to take shots from the PK dot.
It was fitting then, that in his first match back with the Timbers, Jewsbury drilled a PK in the 57th minute.
Three of Jewsbury's seven goals this season have come on PKs (he missed one against the New York Red Bulls).
Against Toronto, Jewsbury decided to put his PK directly down the center of the goal.
'When you've taken a few over the course of the season, you know that keepers are going to kind of look at what you've done in the past,' Jewsbury said. 'I just wanted to change it up.
'I've gone every way now.'
Jewsbury spurned the suggestion that having to place his PKs in different spots makes it more difficult for him to put the ball on frame.
'At the end of the day, we've taken enough over the years,' he said. 'I feel pretty confident no matter which way I'm going to go.'