Newcastle United fans left Providence Park with more questions than answers.
Like why did the club agree to a friendly on a surface half a dozen players couldn’t play on?
And just what will be the team that lines up against Southampton on August 9?
It will certainly bear little relation to that which started against Portland Timbers.
Steve McClaren left defenders Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor, Jamaal Lascelles and Mike Williamson out in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Their absence proved decisive in Oregon.
Midfielder Jack Colback – who has been skippering the team in the absence of Coloccini through injury – also wasn’t involved in the 4-3 defeat.
McClaren didn’t want to risk them on the artificial surface at Providence Park.
In their absence, United’s head coach had to field Shane Ferguson, possibly the shortest player in his squad, at centre-half alongside Lubomir Satka.
Midfield pair Rolando Aarons and Gael Bigirimana started the match, the club’s third and final USA tour game, at full-back.
Fortunately, Aarons came into his own when pushed upfield after the break by McClaren, who brought on Daryl Janmaat to shore up his defence.
After new signing Georginio Wijnaldum opened the scoring, it was downhill until Aarons’ late intervention.
The 19-year-old scored two goals inside a minute, the first a stunning overhead kick.
Aarons is a talent, no doubt about it. He’s an instinctive player, and the technique, and vision, for his first goal in particular sets him apart from his contempories.
But for his talent to count at the final whistle, Newcastle must address some issues at the other end of the pitch.
At least one defensive reinforcement is needed.
McClaren did the right thing in this game with the likes of Coloccini, Taylor and Colback too important to risk.
Newcastle, however, started well enough, and took the lead in the sixth minute through Wijnaldum, who poked a cross from over-lapping left-back Aarons home.
The evening start to unravel for United in the 13th minute. Fatawu scored after an error by Satka, an unmarked Anthony Manny headed a Michael Nanchoff free-kick past Karl Darlow, and Taylor Peay netted from another set-piece at the half-hour mark.
Portland added a fourth goal in the 70th minute when Besler got the better of Bigirimana to head a deep right-wing cross past Woodman at the far post.
Then came Aarons.
Bigirimana broke upfield five minutes later and crossed for Aarons, who flicked the ball up and finished with an overhead kick.
It was a stunning goal, stunningly executed, and a minute later he rifled another shot past Gleeson with his left foot.
Newcastle pressed for an equaliser, but it didn’t come. The club’s players lapped the pitch applauding the club’s fans before heading back to the locker room at Providence Park.
Yesterday they headed back across the Atlantic.
McClaren will have learnt a lot from the club’s USA tour but will still have many questions.
Aarons, at least, had some answers at Providence Park.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow (Woodman, 46); Bigirimana, Satka, Ferguson, Aarons; Abeid (Anita, 65), Wijnaldum (Janmaat, 46); Gouffran (de Jong, 77), Sissoko (Obertan, 46); Perez, Cisse (Armstrong, 46).