MLS Game 14– Providence Park
06/01/2014: Sunny, 22C/72F
Pre-game records: Portland Timbers (W3-D7-L3) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (W4-D5-L2)
Portland Timbers – GLK Donovan Ricketts, DEF Jack Jewsbury, DEF Rauwshan Mckenzie, DEF Pa Modou Kah, DEF Jorge Villafana, MID Will Johnson, MID Diego Chara, MID Diego Valeri, FWD Darlington Nagbe, FWD Steve Zakuani, FWD Maximiliano Urruti. Formation: 4-3-3.
Vancouver Whitecaps – GLK David Ousted, DEF Nigel Reo-Coker, DEF Jay DeMerit, DEF Andy O’Brien, DEF Jordan Harvey, MID Gershon Koffie, MID Matias Laba, MID Sebastian Fernandez, MID Pedro Morales, MID Kekuta Manneh, FWD Erik Hurtado. Formation: 4-2-3-1.
The past few weeks had seen a gradual turn around in the fortunes of the Portland Timbers who went into this match on a 6 game unbeaten run including 2 recent away wins at New York Red Bulls and Chivas USA. Coach Caleb Porter has made some intelligent signings in the past month or so bringing in experienced defenders in Rauwshan McKenzie and Danny O’Rourke as well as the exciting striker Fernando Adi, who already has a couple of goals to his name. The signings have increased competition for places in the Timbers line up and allowed Coach Porter to shuffle the pack and rest players during fixtures that have come in quick succession.
Vancouver had also been on a decent run of results and were themselves unbeaten their last 5 games with draws against the Seattle Sounders, LA Galaxy, and Real Salt Lake and wins against Columbus Crew and the San Jose Earthquakes so they were not to be taken lightly at Providence Park in this ‘Cascadia Cup’ encounter which is always keenly contested.
3 mins: Portland rush out of the blocks once again and after Diego Chara picks up the ball deep in the Portland half, Diego Valeri finds Maximiliano Urruti on the counter attack and he sizes up a terrific shot from just outside the penalty box that curls nicely into the top corner of the goal for his 6th of the season. Portland Timbers 1-0 Vancouver Whitecaps.
16 & 26 mins: After a bright start from the Timbers including an Urruti header the hit the crossbar from a Valeri corner the San Jose Earthquakes are awarded 2 penalties in 10 minutes as the Timbers defense on both occasions make silly decisions to allow the away side opportunities to take the lead. First in the 16th minute Diego Chara brings down Erik Hurtado from behind and then in the 26th minute when Jorge Villafana fouls Sebastian Fernandez, both penalties were calmly put away by Pedro Morales to stun the home crowd and put the Vancouver Whitecaps into the lead. Portland Timbers 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps.
In the 31st minute as the Timbers press for an equalizer, Diego Valeri appears to be brought down in the penalty area but the referee waves play on. Caleb Porter is incensed and cannot believe the home sides luck as it did look to be a penalty at the time and on replays. Amazingly, the Portland Timbers have now conceded 8 penalties and not obtained a single one in the league this season.
45 mins: An incredible half of soccer is not done just yet and there is still time for Vancouver to grab a third goal this time from a slick move culminating in a low cross from the right hand side and Erik Hurtado is there to slot the ball home and put the traveling side 3-1 up to stun the home crowd. Portland Timbers 1-3 Vancouver Whitecaps.
Morales and Hurtado between them had 12 shots in the first half alone as the Whitecaps looked dangerous on many occasions on the break and exposed the Portland defense on multiple occasions. It was going to take an almighty effort for the Timbers to somehow comeback and get something out of this game and maintain their unbeaten home record.
Half Time Score: Portland Timbers 1-3 Vancouver Whitecaps
Shots: POR 6-14 VAN
Shots On Target: POR 5-5 VAN
Corners: POR 3-1 VAN
Possession: Portland Timbers 54.7%-45.3% Vancouver Whitecaps
50 mins: After some early pressure from the Timbers, it’s Vancouver who stun the home crowd again. Morales found himself in space on the right wing and he picked out a long cross-field pass to Jordan Harvey who finds the bottom corner from the edge of the box. The Portland defense once again to blame for a lack of pressure on the players on the ball. Portland Timbers 1-4 Vancouver Whitecaps.
Caleb Porter made a tactical change and brought on Fernendo Adi in place of Steve Zakuani who had a poor game by his standards. The coach went with a 4-1-3-2 formation allowing Will Johnson license to go and join the attacks a little more with Nagbe and Valeri wide and Adi and Urruti both leading the line. A calculated risk by Porter who knew that the Timbers had to try to go for it to continue the 22 match unbeaten run.
With 68 minutes on the clock and Gaston Fernandez now on for Maximiliano Urruti as well, the Timbers were trying to find a way back into this match and Jack Jewsbury floated over a cross from the right hand side that found Diego Valeri who turned his defender and hit a low shot but it scraped the outside of the near post with Ousted beaten. This was followed by a half-volley from Adi and shot off target by Nagbe as the Timbers agonizingly went close on multiple occasions.
77 mins: The pressure had to tell and with 13 minutes to go Diego Valeri whipped in a magnificent in swinging ball from the left touchline that seemed to be locked in to meet Gaston Fernandez head at the far post and he did not disappoint. Surely the comeback was not on was it? Portland Timbers 2-4 Vancouver Whitecaps.
86 mins: Who said that soccer was a boring sport? Fernando Adi with his back to goal chests the ball and then juggles it with his feet twice and lofts it over to an onrushing Will Johnson who lashes the ball home for what must be goal of the week or possibly the season. Portland Timbers 4-3 Vancouver Whitecaps.
The final moments of this game was true blood and thunder as the Timbers desperately tried to get the equalizing goal but unfortunately for them, it just would not come.
This was one of the most thrilling encounters I have had the privilege of witnessing. Sadly, for the Timbers, this was the end of their 22 match unbeaten run at home and they truly only had themselves to blame. Portland had an excellent start and fully deserved to be 1-0 when they began to make poor decisions at the back and allowed the Whitecaps to take the lead with 2 penalties. Morales and Hurtado terrorized the Portland defense, especially in the first half.
Caleb Porter brought on 3 attacking options when chasing the game at 4-1 down and his side almost completed the comeback scoring two top quality goals through Fernandez and Johnson but it just was not enough and the unbeaten home streak came to an end. Vancouver did all their damage in the first hour or so and should be congratulated for their excellent counter attacking play and making the most of some questionable refereeing decisions.
For the Timbers, this is a setback and their defensive frailties are costing them big this season but this team has true heart and some fantastic quality going forward. If they can just sort out the problems at the back, the Timbers can really climb the league and ensure another spot in the playoffs. It was yet another exciting game at Providence Park with some top quality goals from both sides.
Full Time Score: Portland Timbers (Urruti 3, Fernandez 77, Johnson 86) 3-4 Vancouver Whitecaps (Morales 16PK & 26PK, Erik Hurtado 45, Jordan Harvey 49)
Shots: POR 18-23 VAN
Shots On Target: POR 8-11 VAN
Possession: POR 55%-45% VAN
Corners: POR 8-4 VAN