By: Rees Linn
The Portland Timbers handed FC Dallas their third loss of the young season in what was the two clubs’ first ever MLS meeting on Sunday. In front of their boisterous home supporters, Portland established a 3-0 lead by the 55th minute and then held off a late game surge by Dallas to win the match 3-2. After pounding Colorado last weekend, Dallas seemed to be firing on all cylinders, but Shellas Hyndman will be scratching his head after this latest disappointment.
The formula for this latest loss seemed to be the same as it has been in Dallas’s other disappointing results this season – the squad managed to maintain plenty of possession and create scoring opportunities, but they weren’t able to capitalize and were susceptible on counter attacks and set pieces.
Portland’s first goal came through Jack Jewsbury in the 13th minute after a quick restart from a free kick, and their second goal came when Kenny Cooper Jr. nodded home a Jack Jewsbury corner kick in the 35th. Both goals served as a punch to the gut of Dallas, who to that point had been moving the ball well and seemed to be the side more intent on establishing consistent attacking buildup play. Rodney Wallace delivered what turned out to be the game winner in the 55th minute after a beautiful piece of dribbling by Kalif Alhassan unlocked the Dallas backline.
But, the third goal didn’t turn out to be quite the killer blow that Portland probably thought it was. Dallas stormed back with goals from David Ferreira and Brek Shea in the 83rd and 86th minutes, but despite what were several tense moments for the Portland defense, the equalizer was not to be found.
Among the unwelcomed questions that Hyndman will be asking himself about this latest loss will be whether the club has a striker that fits into his system. Widely recognized as the most glaring whole in the Dallas lineup, there doesn’t appear to be anyone who can fill the void up top. On Sunday, Milton Rodriguez was incapable of generating good hold up play, and he failed to provide the speed threat necessary to stretch the defense meaning that Ferreira had to drop deeper to receive the ball. Rodriguez also failed to provide a good target in the box for at team that is dominant on the wings. On Sunday, Marvin Chavez looked especially dangerous on the right side, but had little to cross to in terms of attacking runs to the near or far posts, which should be Rodriguez’s territory.
Another problem that reared its ugly head on Sunday was the “linking” midfielder role. Andrew Jacobson appears to have been given the role by Hyndman for the time being, and there’s no doubt that Jacobson seems to have the technique, awareness, and athleticism to play the part. But, despite Jacobson’s success against Colorado, he was frequently caught out of position against Portland. The midfielder’s attacking forays impeded on David Ferreira’s space in the center and left gaps in the center of the pitch for Portland to counter-attack into.
Perhaps it was Jacobson’s poor positioning that created a sort of domino effect, but Dallas seemed to have a difficult time keeping any sort of defensive shape on Sunday – an alarming development considering their shape was one of their defining characteristics last season. With a second trip to the Pacific Northwest looming, Dallas will hope to have found some answers by the time they play Vancouver on Saturday.