Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News via AP

For the second time in five days, the Portland Timbers earned a halftime road lead. And for the second time in five days, they let it slide away.

Thanks to the suffocating Texas heat, fatigue carried over from the weekend, a simple lack of desire to win an early-season road game, or some combination of all three factors, the Timbers' second half performance was nonexistent. FC Dallas scored twice in a span of four minutes, and won 2-1.

It was a miserable game. Poorly played, peevish, and devoid of quality from start to finish. That won't matter to Dallas, of course. Theirs was an outfit badly in need of a result after being shut out in three straight games.

But the Timbers should care. For the second time against this opposition in 2016, the defending champions were frustratingly vigorless. Eleven games into the season, Caleb Porter's team still doesn't have a road win, a clean sheet, or a firm idea of how to play its best game.

For a half on Wednesday night, it'd looked like several of those trends were bound to turn.

The Timbers started the match with purpose, and led after just four minutes when a blunder from Maynor Figueroa, along with industrious work from Darren Mattocks and Lucas Melano, led to a chance which Deigo Valeri buried for his third goal of the season.

But the lead wasn't the only reason for optimism. Dallas was there for the taking. This wasn't the menacing team that blitzkreiged the Timbers at Providence Park in April.

Most of Pareja's players were shells of their usual selves. Maxi Urruti, Carlos Gruezo, and Figueroa all had painful games. Michael Barrios didn't have his legs, Fabian Castillo didn't have his wits, and, outside of Mauro Diaz, Dallas looked every bit of the team that hadn't scored in more than 300 minutes.

And, sure enough, the Timbers lost the game more than Dallas won it. The equalizing goal from Ryan Hollingshead was wacky, but the winner from an unmarked Walker Zimmerman on a corner two minutes later was predictable.

An extremely forgettable half hour later, Portland had been sunk by a pair of junkyard goals from Dallas defenders. It's one thing to be done in by Diaz and Castillo. It's quite another to be beat by Hollingshead and Zimmerman.

Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News via AP

But the real frustration was, again, not so much that the Timbers lost. It was more the manner of the defeat. It was as if the team was offered a mulligan from the Vancouver loss, and refused it. For all the vigor with which they started, the Timbers barely existed by the time the game was over.

Once again, only Darlington Nagbe and Jake Gleeson escaped blameless. The former was again the Timbers' only source of offense after the first five minutes, while the latter battled bravely to keep his team in the game. In the end, neither effort would matter.

For the Timbers, there was a notable lack of leadership on the field. In a similarly poorly-attended Wednesday night game two weeks ago against New England, it was Jack Jewsbury and Nat Borchers who led a professional effort to net a 1-1 draw.

But in Frisco, the Timbers — resting Borchers and sitting Jewsbury — didn't really apply themselves. From Liam Ridgewell letting Castillo under his skin in the second half, to Valeri picking up a yellow card for lashing out at referee Alan Kelly, it was a weak performance mentally.

Several players didn't appear to be up for the occasion — and even though it was a small occasion, it was an MLS game. That's what players like Borchers and Jewsbury understand, and it's a big part of the reason why they're valuable.

Darren Mattocks was Kalif Alhassan bad apart from his hand in the opening goal, while Fanendo Adi was absolutely anemic against a Dallas backline that was without Matt Hedges. On the back-line, Zarek Valentin hasn't looked half the player on the road he's looked at home.

So now, a third of the way in, it must be said that the 2016 Timbers have started as slowly as both the 2014 and 2015 Timbers did.

The current predicament wasn't at all foreseeable on the Timbers' triumphant Opening Day win against Columbus — but seasons rarely progress how they're supposed to. After all, just take a look at the Crew.

What Porter needs now is competitors. Portland came out against Dallas appropriately fired up, but once halftime hit, they flatlined.

The Timbers took a good shot from Vancouver. But they only have themselves to blame for this one.