Sporting Kansas City scores twice early in 2-1 win at Jeld-Wen Field
Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury sat scowling into space in front of his locker, a towel wrapped around his waist.
Coach John Spencer was in no mood to joke around. He looked melancholy.
The Timbers had just lost 2-1 to Sporting Kansas City before an announced sellout crowd of 18,627 Saturday night at Jeld-Wen Field. It was Portland's sixth straight MLS match without a win.
'We're lacking a lot of confidence right now,' Spencer said. 'We're on the ropes.'
It didn't take long for Sporting Kansas City (5-6-5, 20 points) to go for the jugular. KC struck the Timbers (5-8-3, 18 points) with two goals within four minutes of each other early in the first half.
In the 15th minute, Omar Bravo fed a pass to C.J. Sapong, who was being marked by Portland's Eric Brunner. The defender slipped and fell. Sapong took the ball inside the 18-yard box, as defenders Steve Purdy and Mamadou 'Futty' Danso tried to catch up to him. Before they could, Sapong got off a rolling shot that found the bottom corner of the goal, inside the left post.
'I was on the wrong side of him,' Brunner said. 'I tried to go get the ball. And he kind of just turned and it was in.'
Sporting Kansas City made the score 2-0 in the 19th minute. Matt Besler took a throw-in from the left touchline and sent it into the 6-yard box. Sapong was just able to get a piece of the ball with his head. That redirected the ball to Aurelien Collin, who lunged forward and knocked a header in at the near post.
'He just nods it in off the side of his head,' Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins said. 'Unlucky (for us). It's a pretty good finish by the guy. No one's getting to that.'
After the goal, the Timbers looked completely defeated. They was no more hustle for balls. There was no more intensity. And, for the first time all season, the crowd was dead too. The Timbers Army flags were lowered. The drums stopped thumping. The songs were only an echo of what they had been. There were even some boos.
'(We) couldn't believe that they went 2-0 up,' Spencer says. 'And we were shell shocked by that time. I could see it in the guys' faces. It was just like, 'Oh, no, not again.''
The only thing that could have brought the Timbers back was an out-of-this- world Renoir painting of a first career MLS goal by rookie midfielder Darlington Nagbe. It came in the 45th minute.
Jewsbury took a corner kick from the left side. Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched the ball, but it went directly to Nagbe. The No. 2 SuperDraft pick did not let the ball touch the ground. He received the ball with his right foot, bounced it once, twice and then sent a blistering rocket to the top corner of the far post.
'The ball went in, and it popped back out,' Nagbe said. 'I was going to hit it the first time, but it didn't fall right. I just controlled it and hit it, and thankfully it went in.'
With the score 2-1 going into the second half, the crowd was revived. The Timbers responded by raising their intensity.
'When I scored the first one I was like, 'We're back in it,' ' Nagbe said. 'I thought we were going to score possibly three because everyone's energy went up and the fans were in it and we were in it more.'
It was not to be, though. The Kansas City defense was too tight, and the visitors continued to attack, keeping the Timbers on their heels.
'The whole game they had a game plan of pretty much sitting at (their) half of the field and bunkering in and countering,' Jewsbury said. 'They did a pretty good job of that. In the second half, especially. Once they got their two goals, it makes it a bit easier to play that style, and we had to continue to press.'
Spencer regretted the inability of the Timbers to find the finishing touches that could have meant an equalizer.
'The second half I just felt we were pressing, pressing, pressing, just couldn't get that little end, the little bit of quality of that final pass that would give us a chance to score a goal,' he said. 'Kind of knocking at the door. Crosses into the box took too long or we just couldn't get a decent look at goal.'
As the Timbers go into a friendly next Thursday against Club America and a regular-season match against the archrival Seattle Sounders on Sunday, they know that they must find the inner conceit they have lost.
'We've got to get ourselves back on track,' Spencer said. 'I'm not slaughtering anybody. (We have) good young players, good young men. The quicker we get back to getting that first goal and getting that confidence through ourselves again, that's what we need.'