Dallas huffed and puffed, but the Timbers’ full house remained standing

Rarely have we seen an FC Dallas team in Portland – or anywhere on the road that isn’t Kansas City – really take the game to a team for large periods but a couple of individual errors proved decisive as the Huntsmen once again fell on the road.

“We could have had a goal or two in the first half to get up and ahead, so we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to be ready in preparation, and if we can show that performance home or away – with that commitment, energy, and fight – then I know it’s a matter of time before the points do bounce our way.”

Luchi Gonzalez

Luchi Gonzalez has talked about games having a handful of Homegrowns one week and none the next, and the was one with. Five Homegrowns – and most notably Paxton Pomykal – got the start.

With Hedges and Martinez still rehabbing, Nkosi Tafari and Bressan kept the start in front of Jimmy Maurer. Justin Che once again took up a spot on the right with Ryan Hollingshead dropping back into defense at the expense of Johnny Nelson.

Edwin Cerrillo and Facundo Quignon anchored the midfield with Bryan Acosta on Gold Cup duty. Jesus Ferreira sat ahead as the free eight. The front three was all change from the loss to LA as Ricardo Pepi moved over to the right wing to make space for Franco Jara, and Paxton Pomykal got his second start of the season on the left.

FC Dallas has missed a gamechanger like Paxton Pomykal, and his quality showed as early as the 12th minute. Nkosi Tafari played a perfect long pass out the back to Franco Jara. Jara checked back to Jesus Ferreira, who one-timed the ball out left to Pomykal. The former MLS All-Star cut in, taking on two defenders, and slipped the ball in between for Ferreira to run on to, but Ferreira was barely beat to the ball by a sliding Steve Clark.

Providence Park let out a chorus of boos in the 20th minute after Felipe Mora went down in the box. The Chilean forward had slipped by Justin Che with the Homegrown chasing back and making contact with Mora. The referee blew for offside, and the replay did show Bressan stepping up to catch Mora comfortably offside.

Dallas looked promising through the first quarter of the game but for some awkward passing back into the defense, putting the center backs under needless pressure. The fullbacks looked shaky between Justin Che’s frequency of being too easily beaten and Ryan Hollingshead’s recent decision making. Franco Jara settled well into an adjusted role of holding up the ball for Jesus Ferreira and Ricardo Pepi. The physicality the Argentine striker brought to that troublesome zone 14 helped FCD as much as Jara’s willingness to come deep and open play up for the three youngsters behind him in the formation.

“I thought Franco had a positive performance showing in the pocket in front of the center backs. It’s a space we worked on finding him. He can be physical, he can make a lot of movements that that help us to move the ball forward and hold the ball.”

Luchi Gonzalez on Franco Jara’s support play.

Ricardo Pepi’s name may still produce a shudder after his playoff heroics in 2020, and he had the visitor’s first shot shortly after the half-hour mark. Edwin Cerrillo intercepted a pass out of the Timbers backline, feeding Justin Che down the right. Che played a looping cross for Pepi to head across goal from the front post. Unfortunately for the El Paso native, he didn’t get enough contact on the ball to direct it goalward.

Pepi would give Clark an even greater scare a few minutes later in another three-Homegrown passage of play. Jesus Ferreira brought the ball into the midfield, finding Pomykal in acres of space down the left. Pomykal played a low ball, teasing Clark off his line with Pepi sliding in at the back post, but his shot could only find the upright.

The game started to liven up close to the half, as Paxton Pomykal recorded the first shot on target for either team in the 43rd minute with a Luke Shaw-esque effort that Steve Clark pushed away. Dairon Asprilla returned fire a minute later with an effort from outside the box that never looked to trouble Jimmy Maurer.

Dallas enjoyed a good period in the Portland third ten minutes into the second half after Paxton Pomykal won a free kick close to the area. Jesus Ferreira stepped up due to Bryan Acosta’s absence, trying to be cute with a training ground routine, chipping the ball to an unmarked Ryan Hollingshead beyond the back post. The set piece began a series of corners as the Timbers’ faithful tried to inject some energy into their team.

“I love playing here. The fans are great, the energy is good, and I feed off that. It was full pretty much full capacity today. I don’t think there was one or two open seats in the stadium so credit to them for for having a great atmosphere.”

Paxton Pomykal discusses playing in front of Portland’s first capacity crowd since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Gio Savarese brought in El Maestro in the 65th minute, switching Diego Valeri for Felipe Mora. The change certainly moved possession down the field, but Luchi Gonzalez chose not to respond.

Portland began to produce chances. Yimmi and Diego Chara combined to put the latter in the box ready to shoot. It appeared that the elder Chara had got past Nkosi Tafari until the young defender slid in to clear the ball. Valeri had a curling effort that looked to be heading in but for his countryman Facu Quignon heading the ball clear.

“We were trying to get Servania in that at that moment [when Portland scored in the 84th minute]. It was 30 seconds too late but I thought the subs were with the balance of trying to defend well and continue to get pressure on the ball. We didn’t want to go line of five [defenders] or anything – it’s not like we have center backs available – but it’s things that it’s always easy after the final result to say, well maybe we could have bunkered it down with with an extra back.”

Luchi Gonzalez when asked if there was a temptation to chase a first point on the road after the Valeri substitution or push on for the win.

Gonzalez went for pace to catch Portland on the break in the 78th minute, fielding Jader Obrian for Franco Jara and pushing Ricardo Pepi up as the nine. Ema Twumasi followed shortly after, in for Paxton Pomykal.

As strong as Dallas had looked, Portland took full advantage of static defending following a Jimmy Maurer goal kick approaching the final five minutes. The punt upfield was headed back to the center circle for Valeri to head on to Yimmi Chara. Chara played Jeremy Ebobisse down the left with Valeri’s supporting run leaving Bressan two on one with the rest of the backline still at the half. Ebobisse backed up Bressan and teased cutting back to Valeri before smashing the ball over the head of Maurer.

Luchi Gonzalez looked to his bench once more for an attacking spark with three minutes left. Andres Ricaurte and Dante Sealy replaced Ricardo Pepi and Edwin Cerrillo. Dallas tried to push forward in the dying minutes but couldn’t force a real chance beyond Jader Obrian scrapping for the ball on the floor in the Portland box, which Clark was able to claim.

Vancouver’s win over the Galaxy sent Dallas back to the bottom of the Western Conference. The level of performance certainly didn’t merit that drop or a loss. Between missed opportunities by Pepi, three defenders being caught out of position, and a delayed response to a game-changing substitution; individual moments seemed to conspire to maintain Dallas’ succession of defeats on the road ahead of a midweek trip to Colorado.

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