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  • 18 Dec 2014

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No goal, no win for Timbers

The Timbers went on the road and beat Sporting Kansas City 3-1 in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup playoff match Tuesday.

On Friday, Sporting KC turned the tables at Providence Park.

While the Timbers dominated large portions of the rematch — especially in the second half — Portland conceded a goal in the 24th minute and, despite throwing numbers forward to try to find the equalizer, fell 1-0 before an announced sellout crowd of 20,814.

“Massively disappointing,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “You can call it cruel. You can say that we shouldn’t have lost. But they were able to find a goal and we weren’t, even with all the possession we had.

"You can call it cruel, but I call it fair. We didn’t get it done. We fell short. I take responsibility. I apologize to the fans, to the supporters. They deserve better.”

Several times this year, Portland has entered a match knowing that a win would move the team above the playoff red line as one of the top five sides in the MLS Western Conference.

Each time the Timbers have had that opportunity, they have stumbled. The match against Sporting Kansas City (7-5-4, 25 points) on Friday was one of those cases when the lights shined too brightly for Portland.

The Timbers (4-5-8, 20 points) have yet to be above the red line this season.

Portland had the ball most of the night, ending the match with .669 of the possession. The Timbers took 11 shots and put three balls on goal. Sporting Kansas City took nine shots and had four on goal.

The Timbers almost went up a goal in the 14th minute on a beautiful combination play between Darlington Nagbe and Fanendo Adi. Nagbe took the ball on the right side and played a pass into the box, hitting Adi in stride as the Timbers striker made his run. Adi finished the play with a clean header that beat Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Eric Kronberg to the left post.

Before the Timbers Army could pull the pins out of their smoke bombs, though, the referee’s assistant raised his flag and disallowed the goal, calling Adi offside.

“We saw the replay, and it didn’t look offside at all,” Adi said. “But when the referee called it offside, you’ve got nothing to do.”

Porter was livid on the sidelines, but his screaming fell upon indifferent ears.

“I thought, obviously, for sure it was a goal,” Porter said. “It changed the complexion of the game because if we score that, we’re up 1-0. But we can’t use that as an excuse.”

In the 24th minute, the Timbers were on the wrong end of the assistant referee’s flag again. As Timbers defender Michael Harrington marked a Sporting Kansas City player dribbling along the left sideline, the ball went out of bounds. The assistant referee gave the possession to Sporting KC. Harrington tried to argue that the ball went off Sporting Kansas City, but to no avail.

On the ensuing throw-in, Seth Sinovic tossed the ball into the box. It reached Kevin Ellis, who tapped it to the left side of the box, where it found Lawrence Olum, unmarked. Olum nearly mishit the ball, but got just enough boot on it to send it to the far post, where Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts had no chance of stopping it, and Sporting Kansas City was up 1-0.

“It’s a goal out of nothing,” Porter said. “It comes down to man-to-man marking. It’s upsetting and frustrating to concede that kind of goal.”

In the second half, Portland began pushing numbers up the pitch. The Timbers moved the ball into dangerous positions and gave themselves numerous chances to find the equalizer. Sporting Kansas City had to fall back, defend the goal and try for counterattacks.

Sporting KC was unable to convert, but its defense held shape marvelously, keeping the Timbers from putting the ball into the back of the net.

“Parking the bus like that is a tactic teams use, and I don’t blame them,” Porter said. “It worked.”

The Timbers will play again on the road against the Los Angeles Galaxy on July 4. The Timbers will then travel to Seattle on July 9 to play the Sounders in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Cup.

“We’ve got to get back to work Monday,” Porter said. “We have to make up for the results we haven’t been getting at home.”