Ninety minutes before kickoff, Sporting Kansas City was already agitating Portland.
The blue-polo-shirt-clad line of players and coaches had just made the long walk from their bus to the visitors' locker room, strolling along the wall of the MAC and down Providence Park's westernmost sideline. As they filed in, a trio SKC players veered right, wandering into the 18-yard box of the North End, headphones on and cell phones out. One turned his camera toward an already occupied Timbers Army and slowly walked along the edge of the box, taking it all in.
"GET THAT SHIT!/OFF THE PITCH!" the crowd sneered. The players laughed it off and took their time. The fans grumbled. The ensuing 1-0 SKC victory followed suit.
More (quotes, notes, the [Unsponsored] Moments of the Match, and video of Porter's full postgame presser) after the jump!
After the Timbers booted Kansas City from the US Open Cup earlier this week at Sporting Park, it was no surprise the defending league champs would be in a foul mood.
Turns out they were in a fouling mood, too. (Heyooooo!) SKC upped its physicality, eked out an unlikely early goal and clamped down on defense on Friday, escaping Goose Hollow with three points and leaving the frustrated Timbers scratching their heads and nursing their wounds midway through the 2014 season.
"It was very much disrupting," said PTFC striker Fanendo Adi of KC's 23 fouls (Portland, meanwhile, had 10).
Indeed, the beautiful game on display in Brazil is in stark contrast to the 90 minutes of poking, prodding and pushing KC and Portland put forth. Even the lone goal of the game was pretty fugly: In the 24th minute, Sporting's Seth Sinovic heaved a throw-in that bounced into the box and eventually to the foot of former USL Timber Lawrence Olum. Caught ball-watching once again, the Timbers defense once again saw a match they'd dominated early suddenly become an uphill battle.
"Those are goals we really shouldn't give up," said Timbers defender Danny O'Rourke. "It's frustrating. We've kind of been on a roll. We're excited about this second half of the season coming around. We thought with KC, with the guys they have in Brazil (US National teamers Graham Zus and Matt Besler) and some injuries, it was the opportune time to get after them."
Porter said it was "upsetting" and "very frustrating" to concede that type of goal, calling it "one of the most frustrating things he encounters as a coach.
"It's a goal out of nothing," Porter said. "Throwing the ball in the box, you gotta make a play."
"It comes down to marking—elementary play."
From then on, KC packed it in on defense, pushing their defenders back and committing timely fouls every time Portland had any sense of momentum.
"It's a part of the game—it's a tactic teams use and you've got to deal with it better," Porter said, calling KC one of the best defensive teams in the league. "When a team parks the bus like that...I don't blame them for doing it, because it works."
Instead, Porter blamed himself.
"I take responsibility," he said. "I apologize to the fans, the supporters. They deserve better."
And they'll need it if Portland is to play to a potential barely sniffed midway through the season.
Porter said the team has relied too much on chasing games and pulling out goals late—something they've done plenty this season. It's such a trend that Porter came to his press conference with a stat prepared: In 17 matches, Portland has conceded the first goal 12 times. In eight of those matches, they've salvaged points. Simply put, Porter said, conceding first reduces your chances of winning.
"It's not like we're getting broken down," Porter said. "It's moments...things that at this level, shouldn't happen. We can't just keep relying on Operation Come-From-Behind."
[Unsponsored] MOMENTS OF THE MATCH:
3rd minute—Sporting forward Dominic Dwyer pushes Timbers captain Will Johnson off the ball at midfield, setting a tone for the match in the most bro-y way possible.
14th—TIMBERS NET ONE(!)...but it's called back (/sadtrombone). Darlington Nagbe plays a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque ball (too soon?) from just outside the corner of the box for Adi, who heads it strongly into the back of the net. The referee raises his flag to call Adi offside, however, and Timbers Army expresses their disagreement by yelling things in an aggressive manner.
24th—SPORTING KC GOAL! Sinovic with a long throw that bounces into the box. Yes, a throw. (AND YES, A BOUNCE. IN THE BOX.) It's flicked on by Collin and Olum hammers it home right-footed. Portland is caught ball-watching a bit there and the former USL Timber scores his second career MLS goal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Up to this point, PTFC all but dominated the match, but they again concede an early goal on a defensive gaffe and all-too-easy finish. Oh hey, Liam Ridgewell.
45th+1—Portland nearly nets one just before the half. After some scariness in their own end, Portland springs the counter and Nagbe ends up firing a shot from the top of the 18. It's deflected right to the foot of Adi, but he's surprised by it and juuuuuuust misses a touch—which might've been all he needed to equalize there.
47th—Timbers on the counter again, and this time Valeri sends a lovely chip ahead to Adi, who's onside...but off the ball by just a step. Much like the end of the first half, Adi can't quite get to it, and it's another missed opportunity for Portland.
64th—Huge save by Donovan Ricketts. After Chara runs down Saad and takes the ball away on a 1-on-1 (like a boss), he gives it right back to Saad. It's a downright terrible (and rare) giveaway in the box for Chara, but Ricketts slides to stop Saad's shot. Biggest "phew" of the night for Timbers Army.
90th+4—Timbers Army chants "FUCK YOU, REF!" as Sporting KC celebrates their win in the Northwest corner of the park. Or is it "FUNKY RIBS!"? That would truly insult the people of Kansas City.
CALEB PORTER'S FULL POSTGAME PRESSER: