Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By TIM FONTENAULT
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Caleb Porter was not going to dance around the issue when asked about his thoughts on the Portland Timbers’ 1-1 draw at the New England Revolution Saturday night: He thought his team was robbed of all three points.
With the score level and less than 15 minutes to play, forward Maximiliano Urruti, a nuisance for the Revolution defense from the moment he stepped on the pitch, was able to draw goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth out to cut him off. That left Gaston Fernandez open for a shot into an open net.
It was not until after Fernandez and Urruti started celebrating in front of the traveling fans that the linesman’s flag was noticed and offsides negated the would-be winning goal. Fernandez was deemed to be ahead of the ball when Urruti tapped it to him, but the replay leaves that ruling up for debate.
“I thought we got the wrong end of the call, that’s the reality,” Porter said. “I’ve just seen it; it’s a goal. That’s fine, I’ll come off as a whiner. But the reality is that was a fair goal we should have had. So we should have won the game. That’s frustrating.”
The same linesman deemed Charlie Davies onside in the first half when the Revolution striker got on the end of a through ball from Diego Fagundez and beat Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to give New England the lead. If Davies was onside, it was by the slimmest of margins.
But the decisions were made, and regardless of whether they were fair or not, both teams left with a point, a result that has both teams one point out of the playoff picture in their respective conferences.
Portland needs to forget Saturday’s match – for better or worse – as fast as possible. Eighteen players of the 28 that traveled to Massachusetts with the Timbers will board a charter flight to Guyana on Sunday ahead of the club’s first ever CONCACAF Champions League match Tuesday night against Alpha United. The rest of the team will return to Portland to continue training.
When the club reunites later this week, preparations will turn to Sunday afternoon’s clash with the Seattle Sounders.
“Obviously we’ve all played three games before,” Timbers defender Liam Ridgewell said after scoring his first goal for the club. “And with the travel and things like that, that’s what the whole point of a squad is for. I’m sure (Porter) might rotate a few players and we’re looking to go down there and win the game. It’s a big game against Seattle next week, which we’re at home, so we want to take as many points as we can.”
Porter has a plan in place for managing this week. He has an idea of who will play in each game and how he want to approach every situation.
The key for Porter and the Timbers is making sure everyone stays fresh so that they can play for maximum points in each game. Playing in international competition for the first time, Portland wants to make a statement. Sitting just outside the playoff spots in MLS, every point matters.
“We have a group that we’re going to play that’s going to be – for the most part – fresh to hopefully get a result in Guyana, and then we’ll hopefully have a group that’s fresh and ready to beat Seattle,” Porter said. “For me, it’s just squad rotation. It’s just normal things that you have to manage in a season. It’s not easy, but you can’t kind of wing it…you can’t just get caught trying to figure it out when it’s too late to figure it out.”
With little time to make adjustments before Tuesday’s Champions League game, Porter’s main focus will probably be making sure his team is in the right state of mind from the opening kickoff with the hope of avoiding a start like Saturday’s.
It only took the Revolution a few seconds to get into the attacking third and put the Timbers on their heels. Portland had difficulty playing the ball through the midfield and into the attacking third early on, trying to repel dangerous advances more often than not. It caught up to them eventually.
“I think they were slow, it’s pretty obvious,” Porter said. “It’s pretty obvious when you watch. And it wasn’t everybody, just a few guys. So at this stage, we can’t let that happen. We have to play with urgency. We end up getting a point, but we play a little bit better in the first half, maybe we get three points.”