CHESTER, Pa. — The Philadelphia Union’s quest to go from a good to a great Major League Soccer team has failed the last two weeks.
The Union dropped points at Talen Energy Stadium for the second consecutive week against a Western Conference team by way of a 3-1 defeat Saturday night against the Portland Timbers.
“I’m frustrated,” Union captain Alejandro Bedoya said. “The whole team is. Overall, we’ve scored one goal against two teams that have kind of bunkered in, sat back and defended well.”
Brian Fernandez bagged a pair of goals in his first MLS start for the Timbers and Diego Valeri added a late strike, while Kacper Przybylko mustered the lone Union goal at the start of the second half.
Jim Curtin’s side faced the same issue as last week’s scoreless draw with the Seattle Sounders. The Union put plenty of pressure in and around the box and controlled possession, but couldn’t put enough shots on target.
“It’s simply not good enough,” Bedoya said. “Our finishing is off when we get to the final third. We have times where we’re just forcing through the middle and then when we get the ball out wide, our crossing isn’t good enough either. We need to work on that.”
This week, the Timbers punished the Union for their inability to finish, getting a pair of goals from Fernandez, their record signing, during a five-minute span in the first half and then delivered a late dagger via Valeri.
In the 31st minute, Fernandez raced to the back post to connect his head with a cross sent in from the right wing by Andy Polo. Fernandez kept space between himself and Union defender Jack Elliott, and when the moment called for it, he drifted back and made a curling run to the left post for his second MLS goal.
The second goal came in the 36th minute with Fernandez finishing off a counter attack that started in the middle of the field after Bedoya tripped up on the grass while in possession.
“First of all, I accept full responsibility for the second goal,” Bedoya said. “That should never happen. Unfortunately, I got the ball stuck under my feet and it cost us the game, 2-0 down. The second goal ended up being the game-winner.”
After a timid first half in the final third, the Union began their barrage from the instant the second half kicked off.
Przybylko recorded his fourth goal of the season in the 47th minute by tapping a Fafa Picault pass off the left post and over the line, past a diving Clark.
May 25, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; A general view of Talen Energy Stadium before match between the Philadelphia Union and the Portland Timbers. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Clark came up big for the Timbers in the 70th minute, diving to his right to stop a Bedoya’s shot from distance from rolling into the back of the net.
“First of all, (the Union) are a very good team,” Clark said. “They have a very, very good pattern of play, one of the best I’ve seen this year so they’re dangerous.”
The Timbers were diligent with their defending and Przybylko’s 47th-minute strike was all the Union could put on the scoreboard.
“The guys in front of us do a really good job,” Clark said. “Our center backs are very good. I thought that the shots that I saw today were saveable.”
Valeri put the finishing touch on the victory with a strike from distance that curled past Union keeper Andre Blake and into the right side of the net.
Portland hope to carry the momentum from Saturday’s win into its home opener at renovated Providence Park against Los Angeles FC, while the Union are back at Talen Energy Stadium to face the Colorado Rapids Saturday.