By the 63rd minute, John Spencer had made all the moves he could.
The Timbers were down three goals on the road and his allotted subs had run drier than the thousands of empty seats at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas. Like every other Timbers fan (who hadn't already flipped to the Gold Cup final), the Portland's coach could only sit back and watch.
"Very disappointed towards the end by the effort," he'd say post-match. "We just laid down and died."
Indeed, with a half-hour left in his first match since serving a one-game suspension for chastising officials, the only move Spencer could've made was to stand atop his bench, raise fingers to nose and direct a familiar gesture toward his team.
Yep, the Timbers were having themselves a stinker.
Embroiled, boiled and baked in the highest temperature they've played in this season, the Timbers (5-7-3) weren't exactly the hot mess we've come to know through 15 MLS matches. The sometimes-disheveled-but-occasionally-brilliant
expansion promoted playoff contender expansion club just didn't have it against FC Dallas (9-4-4) on Saturday, and a 4-0 Hoops thumping was Portland's worst of the season because it highlighted all of the Timbers' lesser tendencies: A tepid start. Back-to-back goals and a halftime deficit. Defensive miscues. A lack of intensity in an sometimes-anemic effort.
"Just a poor, poor performance," Spencer said.
More thoughts (some with optimistic undertones!) and highlights (if you happen to be a Timbers fan and a bit of a masochist) after the jump.
The Timbers slogged through the match like it was hotter than Houston, and it was. But Portland didn't show much fight in trying to beat the heat.
“I thought we were very poor," Spencer said. "From the first moment to the last, we never matched them at all, never got close to them, never tackled them, never ran with them."
Dallas out-shot Portland 21-7 and the Timbers managed just two shots on goal and a single corner kick. Knowing Portland had scored 18 times on restarts this season, Dallas was careful to keep their distance while keeping up the pressure on the Timers' forwards, including Dallas native Kenny Cooper, who was held to one shot in his homecoming.
"You can't put a finger on any one (Dallas player) who was exceptional," said Hoops coach Schellas Hyndman. "They all had a good game."
Which is just what the Timbers need to strive for at this point, five matches removed from a victory. Nobody need panic or play outside themselves, but there's clearly work (and perhaps some lineup tinkering) to be done across the board: Portland's given up 26 goals (most in the Western Conference) and the defense has allowed its confidence to be shaken after mistakes lead to opposing scores. Meanwhile, the Timbers have yet to score first in any of their seven away matches this season—and digging itself out of a hole has not been Portland's most steadfast suit.
"You have to be a man to play on the road," Spencer said. "You’ve got to man up and be strong."
Spencer said it. And now, it's the Timbers' move.