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Nagbe provides highlight, but Timbers left still looking for answers

by: BECCA QUINT Darlington Nagbe holds the log symbolic of his first MLS goal as the Timbers leave Jeld-Wen Field with a 2-1 loss Saturday night to Sporting Kansas City.

Start checking YouTube videos, because Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe may have just scored the greatest first career MLS goal in the history of the league.

With Portland trailing Sporting Kansas City 2-0 in the 45th minute Saturday night, Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury took a corner kick from the left side. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen punched the ball away, but it came directly to Nagbe at the top right corner of the penalty box.

The No. 2 SuperDraft pick did not let the ball touch the ground. He received it with his right foot, bounced it in the air once, twice and then sent a blistering rocket to the top corner of the far post.

'If Cristiano Ronaldo scores that goal or (Lionel) Messi, it's splattered all over the globe on world soccer everywhere,' Timbers coach John Spencer said.

Jewsbury wasn't sure how Nagbe was able to put the ball in the back of the net the way he did.

'I was on the opposite side of the field,' Jewsbury said. 'I think he closed his eyes on that one. No, I'm just kidding. It was a great strike.'

Nagbe, who said he has never before juggled the ball like that and scored a goal, is one to remember every detail of his first MLS goal, or not.

'I think it was (after) a corner,' Nagbe said. 'I'm not sure.'

Nagbe probably will always remember running to the opposite side of the pitch, thumping his chest and receiving an embrace from Spencer, though.

'(Spencer) told me yesterday I was going to score. That was what it was about out,' Nagbe said.

• The Timbers' starting lineup Saturday featured two changes. Steve Purdy replaced Jeremy Hall at defender, while Eddie Johnson replaced Kenny Cooper at striker. Cooper subbed into the match for Johnson in the 67th minute. Hall did not play.

Hall said he wasn't surprised by his removal from the starting 11.

'I talked to coach,' he said. 'I don't think that I've been playing up to what I'm capable of, and Purdy has been doing well. You've got to give other guys chances. Switch it up a little bit. We've been a little, I guess the word is we've been in a slump. We haven't won the past few games, so switch things up, give a new look.'

Hall said he will not allow his removal from the starting lineup be a force that fractures the already flailing club.

'Of course everybody wants to play,' Hall said. 'We have a lot of good players, from the first player to the last player. So anybody who coach puts on the field we believe is good enough to play and get a win. I'm OK. Everybody is still confident. Not everybody can play. There's only 11 guys that can play on the field. We still have a lot of games. We're going to have other opportunities to play.

'Not everybody is going to be happy about not playing. But we're a good team. We're all close. We're all supportive of each other.'

Hall will now have to go back to square one, and earn back his starting position in training sessions.

'You've just got to keep working in training,' Hall said. 'Keep working hard, and hopefully your time will come again, and when you're on the field, you've just got to make the most of it.'

•• The Timbers have fallen into the very bad habit of giving up back-to-back goals within a few minutes of each other. Saturday's match was all but over when Sporting Kansas City scored goals in the 15th and 19th minutes.

'We can't be giving them up,' said defender Eric Brunner. 'So we can improve in that area. It sucks that we gave up the early goals and shot ourselves in the foot in the beginning.'

Goalkeeper Troy Perkins thinks it is the little things that have the Timbers conceding goals.

'I don't think organization or tactics is the thing that's killing us,' he said. 'It's just little mistakes all the way up, and we've got to put a stop to it.'

Perkins is not quite sure how the Timbers can avoid allowing a second goal after conceding the first.

'If I knew, I would tell you,' Perkins said. 'Personally, I just think it's us being ready, being sharper and me, just sometimes, you've got to make a save.'

Perkins does think the Timbers defense is getting better, though.

'We're learning a lot,' Perkins said. 'We're just lacking confidence. That's part of it. That's learning how to be a good pro and being successful. But we've got to do better from front to back.'

••• Confidence is what Spencer believes has been lacking during the Timbers' six-match winless streak.

'Sometimes lack of confidence looks like a lack of effort,' the Scottish coach said. 'When things are going well, you feel that energy. You can run for fun, you're just feeling so good about yourself. When things go against you and you go a goal down, that's when the legs start to feel heavy. You hear your breathing. And you say to yourself, 'Geez, I'm tired today, I'm tired.' That's when all the negatives start to set in.'

•••• That brings up the question, how do the Timbers come out of this losing streak and try to salvage their season?

Jewsbury's answer is that the club just needs to have a little faith.

'Guys need to continue to have that belief,' he said. 'A couple of months ago, bounces were going our way, shots were going in the back of the net, and now they're not. We've just got to continue to fight, continue to work hard for one another. That's the only thing that's going to get us out of this rut.'