All not lost in Timbers' 1-0 defeat by Club America
Portland Timbers coach John Spencer called Club America the 'Manchester United of Mexico.'
The Timbers, using plenty of reserves, didn't have much of a chance in Thursday's match. Club America outclassed them, winning 1-0 before an announced crowd of 17,198 at Jeld-Wen Field.
But Spencer spoke positively of his team's performance.
'We played very well. I was really, really proud of the guys,' he said. 'I said to them, 'Your attitude was fantastic.' We played some great football at times.'
For the first minutes, Club America attacked the Timbers' goal relentlessly. The visitors also had three shots in the ninth minute alone.
'We were rocking a little bit,' Spencer said. 'We were in trouble. They looked a better team.'
Club America's sixth shot of the match, in the 16th minute, proved devastating.
The Timbers turned over the ball in their own third. Club America played the ball to Vicente Sanchez on the left side of the pitch. Sanchez sent a short cross to Angel Reyna, who was unmarked in the middle, just outside the 6-yard box. Reyna took a touch and put the ball into the net, to the left post.
'They made a great ball back-post,' Timbers defender Kevin Goldthwaite said. 'We should've been able to close that ball down maybe then. (Reyna) took a good shot, and it was a goal.'
While Club America did not score again and got off only three more shots in the first half, it was clear that it was far superior to the Timbers reserves. The speed and pace the Mexican side brought was phenomenal. Club America swarmed to the ball on defense and created space while attacking. Even Portland midfielder Sal Zizzo - one of the Timbers' fastest players - was left in the dust as he chased balls.
Goldthwaite said Club America's technical ability was even more of an issue than athleticism for the Timbers.
'There's a difference between athleticism and technical ability,' Goldthwaite said. 'And those guys, they're all quick technical players, and when you move the ball quickly that's going to beat athleticism nine times out of 10. And that's what they thrive on and what they're very good at.'
The Timbers' best opportunity to score came in the 31st minute. Rodrigo Lopez sent a lob cross to Ryan Pore. After letting the ball get to him, Pore knocked a bullet of a header toward the left side of the goal. Goalkeeper Armando Navarrete was able to make a diving, full-extension save.
'I saw him (Pore) in the middle, and I knew he could win the ball over their right back,' Lopez said. '(The right back) is a little bit smaller. And Ryan is very good at anticipating for the ball and getting his head on it. I put it in the box, and the goalie made a really good save.'
In the second half, the Timbers showed heart and courage as they chased the game, trying in vain to come up with the equalizer.
'We regained our composure after they scored,' Spencer said. 'At times, our final ball into the box let us down, but we created some great opportunities. The final third, we just let ourselves down on the final pass.'
The Timbers took 11 shots in the half. Goldthwaite led Portland with four shots in the game, though only one was on goal.
'A couple of them I should have put the ball on frame a little better,' Goldthwaite said. 'As a center back, you just hope that you put the ball on frame, and if it goes in it goes in. There were a couple where I thought I had a pretty good chance to put it in.'
The Timbers also earned their share of corner kicks and free kicks. Lopez took nine corners, including seven in the second half.
'I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, we've got to score off one,' ' Lopez said. 'I just tried to get our guys some chances. Unlucky that we didn't finish.'
Spencer credited Club America's stingy defensive unit for preventing goals off the set pieces.
'The back line was attacking every ball that came into the box,' he said, 'and they really stood up to the aerial onslaught when we were throwing the ball into the box from corners and set pieces. They matched us pretty well.'
Thirty minutes after the final whistle, Spencer was still smiling when he walked out of the locker room.
'If you think you're going to compete with teams that are sitting with $100 million in salary every year, then you're in trouble,' he said. 'But for that 90 minutes tonight we equipped ourselves very well.'