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Timbers notes: Defense not good enough again

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Portland Timbers coach John Spencer leaves the field after a 3-2 loss Sunday to the Seattle Sounders.

There were two stories for the Portland Timbers in their 3-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders Sunday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field: the Timbers' good offensive showing and their cover-your-eyes defensive performance.

'Offensively, we did enough when you score two goals at home,' Timbers coach John Spencer said. 'But defensively, you keep leaking goals, you're not going to win games. We proved today that if you can't defend, you're not going to win games. If you can't keep clean sheets, you're not going to win games.'

The Timbers scored twice in the second half and had many more opportunities to score, finishing the match with 11 shots and five corner kicks.

'Our offensive side of the game, we had some good performances that way,' Spencer said. 'A couple of good goals. Looked strong, looked confident in possession at times.'

Portland allowed Seattle to take 14 shots. Seven of those shots were on frame. The Sounders easily could have scored four or five goals, if Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins hadn't come up with four clutch saves.

Timbers defender Steve Purdy said the team's problems on defense came down to not playing a full, 90-minute match.

'To have a solid defensive performance, you need to play 90 solid minutes of good defense,' Purdy said. 'A team can score in a couple minutes throughout the game. If you have a couple of breakdowns, and they score two or three goals, even though maybe you played all right the rest of the game, that's still not a good game defensively.'

Spencer was not letting the midfielders and strikers off the hook for the three conceded goals, either.

'You can't just hang the back four out to dry and say the back four have to defend better,' Spencer said. 'You've got to defend better as 11 guys. It's easy to run forward, it's more difficult to run backward.'

• The brightest moment of the derby match for the Timbers didn't come in the run of play, or on a set piece. It came at halftime, when Major League Soccer announced that Timbers midfielder and captain Jack Jewsbury had been named to the first 11 of the All-Star team as one of MLS' top vote-getters.

The 30-year-old admits that as he entered his ninth MLS season, he did not picture himself being named to the All-Star squad.

'To be quite honest, probably not,' Jewsbury said.

This season, Jewsbury has led the Timbers with four goals and six assists. While he was honored to receive the accolade, it meant less to him than the outcome of Sunday's match.

'It's an honor, but it's a little bittersweet today, with this (match) being the most important thing,' Jewsbury said. 'It's obviously hard to think about (the All-Stars election) today, with the circumstances and the way we ended up losing the game. But it's definitely an honor to be included and representing the Timbers.'

Spencer was proud of Jewsbury and pleased with what the selection meant to the Timbers. Like his sides' captain, though, it was difficult for Spencer to think about anything other than having just lost a key match.

'It's great for him,' Spencer said. 'He's deserved it. He's had a good season so far. It's great for the club. But right now I'm just trying to swallow the pill that's 10 times bigger than it should be going down my throat.'

•• The Timbers put a starting 11 onto the pitch that was different from any they have used this season. Kalif Alhassan, normally a midfielder, was moved to striker. James Marcelin took the pitch as a holding defensive midfielder.

Marcelin's start was surprising, because he had played 71 minutes in a friendly against Club America on Thursday.

Marcelin said he was not tired during Sunday's match, though.

'No, I'm not tired, because I've been working a lot,' said Marcelin, who hails from Haiti. 'I really worked a lot to be starting.'

Playing help defense, Marcelin's foul on Fredy Montero in the 57th minute led to Montero taking a free kick and scoring a goal. Other than that one play - big as it was - Marcelin put in a solid 90 minutes of work. That did little to palliate his disappointment, though.

'I worked a lot to be a starter today and I really expected more from me,' Marcelin said. 'Especially (because) the team lost.'

••• The play of the match came in the 81st minute, when Timbers defender Eric Brunner was red carded for a foul on Lamar Neagle inside the 18-yardbox. The foul resulted in a penalty kick and the match-winning goal for midfielder Osvaldo Alonso.

Brunner and Spencer had different opinions on the justice of the call.

'I thought I got to the ball first,' Brunner said. 'I came in, watched the replay, and I thought I did. Maybe my foot was a little high. But I think I got the ball first.'

Spencer disagreed.

'It was 100 percent the correct call, a penalty kick and a red card,' Spencer said. 'I don't think there's any question of that.'

•••• Halfway through the season, the Timbers are in the middle of a seven- match winless streak. Lack of confidence is becoming a habit the club has to find a way to break.

'Lack of confidence is the habit right now,' Spencer said. 'We've got to try to stem the tide and get back to winning ways.'

Jewsbury wants the Timbers to keep fighting as they travel the long road to the final match of the season in October.

'At the end of the day, we've got to pick our heads back up,' Jewsbury said. 'We're halfway through the season and there are a lot of games to come, a lot of points out there to get. We're disappointed with the way the game went, but we've got to learn from our mistakes. If we don't, we're going to be in this situation more.'