Rob Rensenbrink, who spent much of his soccer career playing with Johan Cruyff in Europe, tried despertately to avoid being too critical of his countryman's team following Portland's 4-2 thrashing of the Washington Diplomats yesterday.
"We got free a few times for easy shots on goal," said Timber forward Rensenbrink, who scored twice and assisted on another goal. "The Washington defenders didn't mark us too tight. Not like in Europe. Here, they give you more space."
Asked if the Dips were the worst defensive team he has seen since he left Europe early this year, Rensenbrink paused, stirred his coffee and quietly said, "Yes, they're the worst I've seen."
"I think they were having problems out there," said Rensenbrink, finally smiling. "Johan and I didn't say much during the game. I looked for him afterwards but he had run off the field. I think he may have been a bit embarrassed."
Even Washington Coach Gordon Bradley wouldn't dispute Rensenbrink following his team's worst showing since late last year. The Dips were frequently out of position, slow to recover on defense and allowed Rensenbrink, Dale Mitchell and Jimmy Conway to run loose most of the afternoon. The three accounted for 12 of the Timbers' 16 shots and all four goals.
"You have to give, them credit," Bradley said. "They play a good offensive game in the first half and had a resilient defense in the second. I'm not surprised they were dangerous on offense because they have people who can score. But you can't blame the defense totally, it was an overall thing." c
Carmine Marcantonio had the task of quieting the flashy, quick Rensenbrink and obviously did not succeed. Teammates Nick Mijatovic and goalkeeper Billy Irwin also had their problems. Three of the Portland goals seemed to be a result of Washington mistakes or, as O'Hara called them, "lapses."
"We just left too many spaces in the back," O'Hara said. "I don't think Carmine did get two goals. He deserves credit for that. Portland played us very well. This game was similar to last week's when we came in the locker room trailing by a goal (they defeated the Surf, 3-2). Like last week, we felt we'd come back. But they got that fourth goal so fast and it killed us."
Rensenbrink's teammates outran Washington players all afternoon chasing down loose balls. The more aggressive Timbers also controlled the majority of corner kicks and crossing passes and usually got a good shot as a result.
"They outjumped us, outfought us for the high balls," said centerback Don Droege. "We were a bit disorganized in the back and it seemed like they scored every time they got the ball."
Irwin, who has been shaky in the net the last few games, looked like a man who may have lost all his confidence. On Rensenbrink's second goal, Irwin was sprawled out in front of his goal just before the Timber's winger pushed the ball onto the net as he, too, fell on the slippery turf.
"He had a lot of time to shoot it," said Irwin, who has now given up 14 goals in seven games. "I reacted one way and the ball went another. I don't like getting beat and giving up goals, but I guess you have to look at yourself before you start blaming others.
"We weren't clamping down early enough out front but that is only part of it. It just wasn't a good day."
Mitchell, who scored the other two goals, said the Timbers hustling, opportunistic offense was the key, not the Dips' defense.
"We were 1-4 coming into the game and had scored only three goals," Mitchell said. "Had you seen us play before, you wouldn't have thought that. We had been creating chances but weren't having much luck around the goal. The home team has the tendency to attack and that makes them suspect in the back. When we got some breaks, they couldn't get back to defend. We played well, Washington didn't give us anything."
Timber Coach Don Megson agreed.
"I felt for Washington. They were going through the same thing we've been through," Megson said. "The defense no longer thinks defense because it has to play offense. They pushed their fullbacks foreward so much, they couldn't get back. We got the early break, the early goal and that helped our confidence."
The Dips fell to 3-4 in front of 10,634 fans including some families of the hostages held in Iran.
Rensenbrink, who played an almost flawless game, sent the Dips, to the locker room at the half with their heals down after punching in a squibber for a 3-4 Portland lead.
"We were playing well but Washington came back, scoring on that ricochet shot (by Juan Jose Lozano) to tie the game," said Megson. "But Robbie is beginning to adjust to the guys more and it shows he has settled down. He hit a good goal right after that bad goal we gave up."