Among MLS' hottest teams not long ago, Minnesota United was shut out for a third consecutive game with Saturday's 1-0 decision at Portland.

Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla's header off a set-piece corner kick in the 61st minute decided everything on a night the shorthanded Loons outdid Portland 21-10 in shots, 5-1 on shots on target and had the better chances most of the night.

"We definitely deserved to get something out of the game," Loons veteran defender Michael Boxall said.

The third consecutive loss dropped the Loons into sixth place. That's a point behind now fifth-place and surging Portland, but the Loons have four regular-season games remaining to the Timbers' three.

The two teams are playing these final regular-season games both for one of seven playoff spots in the Western Conference and for one of four home playoff games.

The Loons are two points from earning a first-round home playoff game and two points from eight place and missing out on the playoffs entirely while battling the Timbers, FC Dallas, Nashville, Real Salt Lake and LA Galaxy.

"Watching the other games today, one or two went for us and one or two didn't," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "We play all the way through (the final four games). We've got to win a couple games. Win a couple games and we'll be fine. Obviously, we said that with six games to go and now we're down to four. If we win a couple games, we'll give ourselves what we set to do in February."

The Loons arrived at Providence Park off consecutive 3-0 defeats – their first since their inaugural 2017 season – after losing at Real Salt Lake and to FC Dallas. Before that, they had gone 8-1-2 in their previous 11 games.

Playing without injured star Emanuel Reynoso and suspended Franco Fragapane, they came away Saturday with nothing for the third consecutive game and a belief they deserved better than they got. The Loons haven't scored a goal since a 2-1 home victory over Houston on Aug. 27.

"I thought we were the better team most of the evening," Heath said. "Our ball circulation and decision making was excellent. We just didn't have the finishing touch. It's a tough one to take because I don't try and spin games we've lost. When we've played poorly, I think I've stood up to say. Tonight didn't deserve that. We played better than them.

"For the players to come away with nothing is very disappointing."

The Timbers now have lost just twice in their last 14 games and now have won their last four games, also beating Seattle and winning at Austin and Atlanta. They won their eighth home game and 11th overall to go with 12 draws and eight losses.

The Loons played on without Reynoso and Fragapane, who also is suspended for Tuesday's LAFC game. They did so by shifting to a new 3-5-2 formation that morphed into a 5-3-2 defensively and was adjusted as the game progressed.

Reynoso's ankle remained swollen after he left last week's loss to FC Dallas in the 62nd minute because of it. Fragapane served the first of a two-game suspension for yellow and red card accumulations. Forward Bongokuhle Hlongwane didn't travel to Portland because of a knee injury as well.

Heath adjusted his formation and personnel for a team that now must play the West's second-place LAFC on Tuesday already at home.

He started true strikers Mender Garcia and Luis Amarilla together up top and generally was pleased with the energy and chances they created. They played above a midfield in which defenders DJ Taylor and newcomer Alan Benitez moved out wide on the wings when their team attacked.

Without the ball, they dropped back to the three-man backline of Kemar Lawrence, Boxall and Brent Kallman now that starting center back Bakaye Dibassy is out for the season.

Heath called the night's biggest disappointment letting Asprilla free to a leaping header at the six-yard box's edge for the game's only goal.

Boxall called it a corner kick "we should have prevented or never should have came to be."

First, Kallman misplayed the ball at midfield. Then there was too much space between Boxall and Amarilla in the six-yard box after the Timbers turned Kallman's turnover into a corner kick.

"The only disappointment is the goal they scored, they didn't have to do enough for it," Heath said. "We turned it over cheaper to give the corner away and the guy has a free header six, seven yards out. That's disappointing."

Now the Loons must play again on Tuesday, preferably with Reynoso ready to play, after this Saturday game he called "more promising" than last week's 3-0 loss to Dallas because of the way his team defended and created scoring opportunities.

The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.