PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Timbers struggles on the field, and on the bench, continue.
In a 1-0 loss to DC United, which should’ve been 2-0 if not for a refereeing mistake, the Timbers struggled to impose themselves at home, which has been the case often this year. The Timbers’ four home losses this season is their most since 2012.
The Timbers (13-12-4, 43 points) again had a short bench of just 16 players due to a mixture of injuries, illness and a coaching decision.
But it was defensive errors that ultimately cost the Timbers and an own goal from Bill Tuiloma put the Timbers behind in the 24th minute.
DC United’s Ulises Segura crossed a ball into the box that goalkeeper Steve Clark would had covered without any pressure from DC players, but Tuiloma slid into it, knocking it into the goal.
“It was just communication — that was it,” Tuiloma said afterward. “Everything just happened quick and, it was my choice, I decided to go near post and unfortunately it went into the back of our net. It is what it is.”
United (12-10-9, 45 points) should’ve doubled their lead in the 38th minute, but the goal was incorrectly dismissed.
A Wayne Rooney corner kick led to a scramble where the ball went off Paul Arriola and then Clark, and then it appeared to bounce into the goal before Eryk Williamson cleared it away.
Referee Drew Fischer did not go to a video review of the play, but replays on the television broadcast show the ball fully crossed the line.
— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) September 15, 2019
The referee explained afterward the call on the field, which was that the ball did not cross line, was allowed to stand because there was not a clear and obvious error. The video assistant referee “determined that the available angles did not show a clean error,” Fischer said, per the pool reporter.
The Timbers were again operating on a short bench with just 16 players available for the game instead of the usual 18.
Striker Brian Fernandez was out with the same illness that kept him out last week, according to the Timbers, although Pro Soccer USA saw him entering the stadium for the game with his family in street clothes. Winger Sebastian Blanco and defender Larrys Mabiala — two of the Timbers most unfortunate absences, along with Fernandez — are still out with leg injuries. The Timbers have not given definitive timelines of their returns.
Defender Zarek Valentin was unavailable because he was with his wife, who just had a baby.
Dairon Asprilla was left out of the 18 due to a coaching decision. During last week’s 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City, Asprilla rejected a high-five from coach Giovanni Savarese when he subbed off in the 70th minute and Savarese gave him a light slap on the face in return.
Asked to elaborate on the decision to leave Asprilla off the bench, even without a full 18-man roster, Savarese said simply: “Coach’s decision.”
The Timbers certainly had their chances to salvage something out of the game. Diego Valeri headed a ball off the post in the 16th minute while Jorge Moreira hit the crossbar in the 51st minute.
Sep 15, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; D.C. United midfielder Ulises Segura (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in the first half against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
But DC United defended well, pushing most of the Timbers’ 23 shots to being taken outside of the penalty area.
“We outplayed them but the game is about goals — it’s not about crosses, it’s not about possession, not how many good things you do,” Savarese said afterward, pointing to the Timbers out-possessing DC United, 67 percent to 33 percent, and sending 39 crosses into the box. “There’s a lot to build from, but we need to be better in the final third because, even though we created a lot of situations, we were not as dangerous as we could’ve been.”
Valeri also said that he was clipped in the box in the second half by Joseph Mora and it should’ve been a penalty for the Timbers.
With the result, the Timbers remain stuck in sixth place Western Conference with four points separating seven teams heading into games later Sunday.
DC United climbed to fifth place, tied with Toronto FC, but below them on tiebreakers. That leaves United still outside a seed to host a playoff game, but in a position to work their way up with three weeks left in the regular season.
Rooney made his return from a two-game suspension where he committed “violent conduct” in the 21st minute against the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 21.
The Timbers played their first 12 games of the 2019 season on the road due to renovations at Providence Park and have played mostly at home to close out the season. But they’ve failed to capitalized and rack up points as expected.
Asked why the Timbers have been less dominant at home this year, Timbers defender Jorge Villafana said it was hard to say.
“I wish I knew,” Villafana said. “If I did, this wouldn’t be happening. This was just an unlucky game. I think they find a lucky goal, and we possess the ball, we move the ball well, they dropped deep and we created opportunities, we hit a couple of posts and we just couldn’t find the goal. We just have to keep going.”
The Timbers Army, the supporters group in Portland, again protested the MLS-wide ban on political signage at games. The fans stayed silent for the first three minutes and 30 seconds of the game before singing a chant based on “Bella Ciao,” an Italian anti-fascism song. Pro Soccer USA noticed one fan waving an Iron Front flag, which is banned and has resulted in several fans being barred from attending future Timbers games.
Up next, the Timbers host the Red Bulls on Wednesday for a midweek match. DC United are home for the Seattle Sounders next Sunday.