The Portland Timbers did something Saturday night they hadn't done in almost two years over a stretch of 19 regular season games at PGE Park: They lost.
The defeat, 1-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps in front of a rain-soaked crowd of 8,688, marked Portland's first loss of the season. The result also pushed the Timbers (3-1-4, 13 points) further behind the first-place Charleston Battery (5-1-2, 17) in the United Soccer Leagues First Division standings.
Afterward, a livid Portland coach Gavin Wilkinson questioned his players' passion, intensity and commitment.
"We've got players who think they're quality professionals, and they've disappointed myself, themselves, their teammates and paying spectators," Wilkinson said. "As a player, if they look in the mirror, I'd be horrified."
Portland had struggled on offense coming into the game, scoring two goals in the past four games -- all ties. The team's inconsistent play led defender Justin Thompson to say that Portland had overachieved in its first three games -- all home wins.
Back home again after three consecutive road matches, Wilkinson described Saturday's contest and Monday's matchup against Miami as games "we have to win . . . if we want to be serious contenders this season."
To that end, Wilkinson again shuffled his starting lineup Saturday, benching captain Andrew Gregor until midway through the second half. Gregor led the Timbers in scoring last year but notched just one point this season through the first seven games.
A new lineup didn't make much difference in the first half. Portland didn't get a shot off until the 28th minute. It was a shot that should have given the Timbers a lead against a Vancouver (4-2-1, 13) squad coming off a home loss Friday night to the Seattle Sounders.
Portland forward Chris Brown headed a shot to the far post that Vancouver goalkeeper Srdjan Djekanovic left his line to defend. The shot fell short and straight into the lap of Timbers defender Cameron Knowles. But Knowles, a few feet from the open net, shanked the shot wide.
Meanwhile, the Whitecaps rattled off several dangerous shots saved by Portland goalkeeper Ray Burse, who finished the game with four.
The sky turned an ominous dark gray, and a steady rain began to fall at the start of the second half. Fifteen minutes later, Vancouver midfielder Vicente Arze chipped in a shot from the corner of the box. It looped over Burse's head and dribbled into an open net for the game's only goal.
As lightning bolts crackled in the distance, Portland's attack appeared to come alive. Shots by Brown and fellow first-year Timbers forward Takayuki Suzuki came close.
But not enough. Portland lost at PGE Park for the first time since Sept. 7, 2006.
"It's disappointing," Gregor said. "But it probably has to come to an end at some time. Maybe it's a good slap in the face to wake us up."