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FC Dallas falls short in comeback at Portland

The Portland Timbers stormed out to a 3-0 lead over FC Dallas before two late goals provided for an exciting finish, but left Dallas wondering after they eventually fell 3-2 on Sunday afternoon at Jeld Wen field.

Portland opened the scoring in the 13th minute as a quickly taken set-piece caught Dallas flat-footed. Jack Jewsbury found room inside the 18-yard box and banged a shot off the post that deflected off the back of Kevin Hartman for the unlikely first score. Portland struck again in the 35th minute as former FC Dallas man Kenny Cooper’s header from a corner pushed the surging Timbers in front 2-0. The Timbers final score of the day was provided by Rodney Wallace in the 53rd minute, as he came free in the box on a feed from Kalif Alhassan.

The match looked effectively over for the Men in Stripes, but two late goals and some controversy provided an exciting closure to the match. First, David Ferreira scored from a feed from Brek Shea in the 83rd minute. Then just three minutes later, Shea hit the back of the net on his own. A late missed handball inside the penalty area, plus several frantic goal mouth scrambles will leave Dallas wondering if they should not have come away with a point in this match.

It was an unfortunate end to a very unfortunate match for FC Dallas, whose play on the day was never horrible. In fact, in the first half, Dallas looked to be the better team on all but two chances. But poor luck and a mental error conspired to cause them to chase the match early, a very poor way to have to play in a stadium with such loud and inspired supporters.

There is very little for Dallas to take home positive from this match. Sure, the comeback was valiant. The determination to come back and keep fighting is commendable. It was the never-say-die attitude of the 2010 team that led to such accomplishments as the 19-match unbeaten streak and a berth in the MLS Cup. But this is 2011, and mental errors and uneven form have led to a very shaky start to the season.

It was the things that Dallas did not do in this match that were more troublesome. First of all, Dallas inability to keep a 20 year-old third-string goalkeeper under pressure is inexcusable. A well-rested Dallas was never able to impose their will on a Timbers team working on only three days’ rest. Falling asleep on a free kick is another team mistake that cost them dearly. And even though Dallas controlled possession throughout the first half, they could not make Portland pay. Despite the comeback, it was a less-than-stellar day at the office.

So the slow Dallas start continues. Surely, more changes in the lineup are coming for next week’s matchup against Vancouver in another stadium that will be loud and raucous. One has to wonder if the ineffective Milton Rodriquez has seen his last days as a starter for a while. Schellas Hyndman showed in this match he is willing to place Fabian Castillo up top alone. Could Shea make his return to left mid with Jair Benitez assuming his old role at left back?

Designing hypothetical lineups are the task of wannabe managers who believe they have answers Hyndman does not see. I am not quite so bold. My question is much simpler: When will we see the composed, mentally tough club that imposed its will on opponents time and again in 2010? We saw glimpses of it in the Colorado match against a team who checked out barely after kickoff. It is not likely to be the case in Vancouver.

Which Dallas team will step on their field for FC Dallas? Unfortunately, it will take a week to find out.