The Portland Timbers walked into a heat wave in Texas, then withered under the intensity of attack from hosts FC Dallas as the visitors fell 5-nil Saturday night at Pizza Hut Park.
An own goal off of Hanyer Mosquera just past the quarter hour marked unleashed a firestorm of five goals from the hosts, the best of the bunch a cracker from deep by Andrew Jacobson. The eighth loss in ten tries on their travels leaves the Timbers dead last in the West and the league, breaking an MLS record for consecutive minutes scoreless away from home.
Portland’s caretaker manager Gavin Wilkinson rang the changes in the lineup following a seventh road defeat in nine tries in 2012, a 1-nil loss at Chivas USA piling the pressure on a squad still trying to cope with their former boss’s firing.
Out went captain Jack Jewsbury, Eric Alexander offered the start alongside Diego Chara, Franck Songo’o and Kalif Alhassan to either side. Up top, Mike Fucito and Danny Mwanga’s pairing added Kris Boyd and Darlington Nagbe to the skipper’s list of casualties, while Mike Chabala returned to the left of defense in place of Steven Smith.
Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman already possessed a long list of notable absentees due to injury or suspension, and he imposed another on himself as he kept out starlet Brek Shea, who’s impertinence in argument with his coach during FCD’s last match resulted in the consequence of street clothes for this one.
Former league MVP David Ferreira and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman reflected the team’s most senior players, a collection of youth and journeymen rounding out a makeshift Dallas starting eleven. Hartman was tested early, a long clearance from Kosuke Kimura releasing Fucito into space for the game’s first real chance.
Fucito’s darting run and subsequent step inside his defender opened the door to shoot, the striker at first fortunate to see a deflection wrongfoot the netminder, but unlucky to see the ball carom off the post and roll harmlessly across the frame of goal.
The Timbers attacking forays started and ended there, the hosts simply taking over in a match played in temperatures above the century mark. The match was preceded by a short spell of stormy weather, the deluge a sign of the flood of goals ready to rain down on the Rose City club.
The opening goal was reminiscent of their prior loss in LA, the 16th minute again the witching hour as Ferreira found his countryman unmarked on the left, Jair Benitez sending in a dangerous cross before Kosuke Kimura could close him down.
Mosquera slid in front of the Brazilian Jackson’s diving effort, but was aggrieved to see his intervention provide the perfect placement into the net past Troy Perkins. Heads dropped and a mere ten minutes later Perkins most difficult task required a repeat when Ferreira again found another open outside back, this time picking out Zach Loyd alone in the box.
Loyd laid the ball back into the stride of Jacobson, whose 26th minute blast from outside the eighteen clipped inside the far post to double the Dallas advantage.
As the break neared, FCD looked more likely to score a third than Portland claw one back, Jackson cutting inside Mosquera and then around Mamadou ‘Futty’ Danso before shooting just high and wide of the goalmouth in the 39th minute.
For all the firepower on the field for Portland, the feeling was the same at the halfway mark, a disappointing deficit on the road. As play resumed after the interval Wilkinson held faith in his charges, the starters returning to attempt to make amends for another poor start away from home. If the Kiwi gave his own version of the hair dryer treatment at halftime, it made no effect on a squad sapped of energy.
Some players might have wished for an early exit as the night went from bad to worse just minutes after the break, Jackson too easily waltzing past Chara and Chabala to unleash a shot straight at Danso. The club’s ill fortune continued as the ball deflected off the inside of the Gambian’s leg to send Perkins the wrong way in the 48th minute.
Dallas were now dominant, enough so that the influential Ferreira was removed for Julian de Guzman in the 54th minute. The disaster didn’t last much longer before Portland tried to stop the bleeding, Wilkinson deciding the destruction was enough with Jewsbury coming on immediately for Alhassan. Three minutes later and Boyd replaced Mwanga, the Congolese striker’s lack of involvement rewarded with the Scot’s return.
Franck Songo’o tried to ignite the Timbers just after the hour mark, the Cameroonian lofting a cross from the left that beat Hartman but not the crossbar, one of few rare sightings of the ball in the vicinity of the Dallas defense.
That brief moment of hope was undone shortly after, a soft pass from Jewsbury picked off by Jackson, who calmly waited for Danso to commit before passing into the path of Scott Sealy, who expertly sidefooted past stand-in captain Perkins in the 69th minute.
Wilkinson made his third change in the 74th minute, Chara mercifully removed for the inclusion of Brent Richards, countered by Schyndman swapping Jacobson for former Timber James Marcelin. Dallas followed not long after with the exchange of Ruben Luna coming on for Sealy in the 76th.
Richards tried to spark some life into Portland, but Luna offered more with his debut goal in the 81st minute, tapping in from close range after Jackson squared a pass across the goalmouth.
Minutes later Mosquera did well to deny a sixth, a breakaway chance snuffed out by an excellent tackle from behind. Perkins then needed to be alert when Marcelin drilled a shot from 35 yards out, the Haitian eager to prove his former employers wrong for trading him earlier in the season.
As time wore down, the chances kept coming for Dallas, Perkins lucky on two more occasions that the hosts narrowly missed the target. Thankful travelers in the Timbers Army saw only two minutes added, an eternity for a team that was fortunate not to ship more goals.
The sense of deja vu was as evident as the humidity, the Timbers losing by a similar scoreline in their visit to Frisco last year.
Another road loss leaves Portland supporters, players, and management alike frustrated with the string of demoralizing defeats. Dallas, meanwhile, resembled the FCD of old, scoring at will and ready to roll on as they pursue a push to the playoffs.
Portland is playing like a team that feels the playoffs are beyond them at this point. If any chance remains, immediate rematches against the two clubs that most recently left them at a loss stand in their way.