An urgent late-match surge wasn't enough to get the Portland Timbers a result in a Major League Soccer contest against Inter Miami CF at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, May 28. Despite another goal from defender Bill Tuiloma, Portland lost 2-1 and has only three wins 15 games into the season.
Miami, 27th minute — Leonardo Campana heads home a close-range cross delivered on one touch by Christopher McVey, who was sent into open space behind Josecarlos Van Rankin on the left side by a lofted pass from Bryce Duke. 1-0 Inter Miami.
Miami, 59th minute — After sloppy play on the attacking side of midfield led to a Miami counter attack, Robert Taylor put home a rebound chance. A shot from Campana caught the right post and bounced right into the path of Taylor. 2-0 Inter Miami.
Timbers, 78th minute — Bill Tuiloma scores with a diving header. On a quickly-taken corner kick by Cristhian Paredes, Santiago Moreno sent a cross that Tuiloma headed home. Fellow defender Larrys Mabiala also looked to be in position to score on the play. 2-1 Inter Miami.
Big picture — Fifteen games into their MLS schedule, the Timbers have three wins and sit 10th in the Western Conference with 15 points (3-6-6). Coach Giovanni Savarese mentioned improving confidence/belief and playing with more consistent urgency as things he'll need from his team when they resume the season on June 18 after an international break.
It's fair to mention that Portland hasn't gotten many breaks so far this season. The 90th-minute chance that Paredes smashed off the post kind of sums up the way things have gone for three months.
But the most important comment from the coach in his postgame chat with the media was that Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda and Claudio Bravo are among the injured Timbers who should be ready to contribute once things get rolling again (with the caveat that it will take Mora, especially, time to get up to full effectiveness). Savarese did not list Eryk Williamson in that specific comment, but Williamson also is expected back sooner than later.
"Little by little, I think we will get stronger again with the guys we are going to get (back)," Savarese said.
In addition to the lengthy injury list, the Timbers played Saturday without captain Diego Chara (yellow card accumulation). Paredes and David Ayala started in midfield of what began as a 4-3-3 formation with Yimmi Chara also in midfield and Nathan Fogaca flanked by Dairon Asprilla and Marvin Loria. Midway through the first half, Loria dropped deeper into midfield, shifting the formation to a 4-4-2 to help counter Miami's efforts to exploit gaps out wide.
It wasn't until Savarese inserted Sebastian Blanco, Moreno and Tuiloma in the 66th minute and shifted into a 3-5-2 formation that the Timbers started to play with the kind of purpose and urgency needed to create offense.
Lookin' blue — On the weekend MLS teams sported uniforms made from recycled plastic, the Timbers bluish-purplish kits looked sharp. And, at least on TV, they were distinctive next to the pale/peach kits worn by Miami.
Tuiloma's form — Tuiloma, a central defender/defensive midfielder, now leads the club with five goals this season. He is tied for first in MLS with four headed goals. Tuiloma now joins the New Zealand national team, which plays a June 14 match at Qatar against Costa Rica for a spot in this fall's World Cup.
Needed break — Saturday's match was the sixth over 22 days for the Timbers, a stretch that included two cross-country trips. With the June international break here, the club now has 20 days before it resumes play — hopefully with a healthier lineup and more positive outlook.
• Savarese said part of the team's struggle so far this season is waning confidence as a result of the long list of injuries and some unlucky bounces. "A collective of things that get you to a point which we start doubting some of our beliefs. At least I saw a group in the second half that believed in the fact that we could have come back into this game. And that's the type of team that we want to see more on a constant basis."
Timbers' next match — Portland at LA Galaxy, 2 p.m. Saturday, June 18 (ESPN).
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