Match Report: Timbers Erase Disadvantages in Vancouver

Now it’s a home and home.  Obviously thinking of the team’s effort to retain the Cascadia Cup, that was the sentiment from Caleb Porter in the postgame press conference.  Any number of times on Saturday, however, the Timbers could have found themselves chasing the race for the Cascadia Cup.  As they have done over and over this season, however, Portland found a way to secure a result and come out of BC Place with a point.

Despite the Timbers’ exertion of control over much of the first ten minutes, Vancouver came away with the first legitimate chance on goal.  After Futty blocked a pair of Caps chances in the tenth minute, Gershon Koffie found himself in space 20 yards out, but sent his shot well high.

Portland would turn its possession into a golden opportunity three minutes later, when a Diego Valeri shot from a tight angle on the right escaped Brad Knighton’s grasp and bounced tantalizingly in front of goal, but Rodney Wallace couldn’t find a way to push it across the goalline before Vancouver cleared it behind for a corner.

Six minutes later Ryan Johnson got loose on the left side, but his dangerous low cross evaded a Timber’s finishing touch and skipped harmlessly across the face of goal.

There would be no evading a brilliant set piece from Camilo three minutes later.  After Will Johnson got suckered into a soft foul on Camilo just outside the box on the right, the Brazilian hammered the ball inside the near post to give the Caps their first goal against Portland in this building.

As they have all year, however, the Timbers reacted calmly to the concession and came right back.  In the 30th minute Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe combined on the weaker left side of Vancouver’s defense to give Valeri a little bit of space.  The Argentine fired a cross to the top of the six where Rodney Wallace got head to it, but Knighton made a deceptively difficult save above his head to preserve the lead.

After controlling almost 70% of the ball in the first half, there was a feeling at halftime that there was a goal out there for the Timbers.  That goal came in the 52nd minute after Andy O’Brien clearly handled a Will Johnson shot in the box, prompting the referee to blow for a penalty.[1]  The Captain coolly stepped to the spot and buried the penalty.

As good as the Timbers’ response to their concession was, their reaction to equalizing was equally bad.  Two minutes later, the Timbers’ defense, Will Johnson prominently included, needlessly flattened at the top of the box after a Whitecaps attacking throw.  Koffie – who was the best player on the field for much of the match – took full advantage of the space and curled a beautiful shot into the net.

The ensuing minutes were among the nerviest of 2013 for Portland.  While Vancouver had a hard time getting into gear to put the game away, the Timbers struggled to find the midfield dynamism they have showed so often this year.  For much of the next twenty minutes it looked like the Timbers’ nine-match unbeaten streak was fated to come to an end in Vancouver.

That fate was seemingly sealed in the 81st minute, when Futty gave a little tug to Camilo in a footrace for a Nigel Reo-Coker long ball.  The Brazilian cast a line in the water by tumbling to the ground, and the referee took it hook, line, and sinker, giving the Gambian a straight red card for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Certainly the Timbers couldn’t find their way back a goal and a man down.  The Caps would discover, however, that it’s hard to stop a runaway Trencito.

After Will Johnson picked up a loose 84th minute header in the center of the field, he lobbed a long ball forward into the path of Jose Valencia.  Trencito handled the ball on the way down, but both the center referee and the linesman’s views were obstructed, and after a deft cut back shed his defenders, the youngster slotted past Knighton like he’d been there a million times.  For a player who doesn’t have many moments on the field, the young Colombian sure seems to make them count.

Despite being up a man, Vancouver couldn’t seriously threaten to pull ahead once again.

The result is huge for Portland.  Not only does it run the unbeaten streak to ten games, it also levels the Cascadian playing field, as the Timbers have erased their two-match away disadvantage by earning draws at Seattle and Vancouver.

Game on.

Notes & Observations

  • Sort of a strange performance from the Timbers.  While they were often sloppy in their passing, Portland still managed 63% possession and a respectable 79% pass completion percentage.  The Timbers shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions, including both concessions, but battled back.
  • This team’s pluck is uncanny.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team that can rally as consistently and as often as the Timbers have in 2013.  Saturday marked the fourth time in the ten-game streak that the Timbers have fallen behind on the road to come back and earn a result.
  • Six of the Timbers’ results in the ten unbeaten have come on the road, surpassing the total number of road draws and wins the Timbers earned in 2012.
  • There may be hay to be made on the rest of Portland current three-match road trip.  The Timbers’ next two games are winnable fixtures at DC United and Chicago Fire, whose eleven points combined are eight fewer than Portland’s 19.
  • The reemergence of Koffie is the difference between the Whitecaps on Saturday and the Whitecaps two weeks ago.  He was fantastic Saturday and could make the Caps dangerous going forward.

Timbers Grades

Donovan Ricketts, 5 – Completely helpless on both concessions, but he also didn’t bail his team out on Saturday.  Average day for a goalkeeper.

Michael Harrington, 3 – Another poor performance in a generally poor month for Harrington.  Upgrade his seat from lukewarm to toasty.

Futty, 4 – Can’t pin either concession on the center backs, and Vancouver’s other chances were limited, but Futty needs to be a little bit smarter with Camilo.  Yes, it looked like a dive.  But it would have been a shocker if he hadn’t gone down in the face of even a penumbra of a touch.

Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 6 – Whereas Futty struggled with Camilo, AJB used his width to good effect in controlling him on a number of occasions.  Good showing from Jean-Baptiste, who stated his case to pair with Pa Kah when everybody is healthy and available.

Jack Jewsbury, 4.5 – Decent game defensively, but Jack had a couple opportunities for dangerous crosses that he didn’t capitalize on.

Diego Chara, 7 – The best Timber on Saturday.  Had a difficult task in matching up alternately with Reo-Coker and Koffie, and showed very well.  Was a touch looser in his passing than usual, but was massive in winning the ball back in midfield.

Will Johnson, 5 – This is a tough grade.  A goal and an assist will generally earn a player an impressive scorecard, but he was culpable on both concessions for failing to mark Koffie and giving Camilo the opportunity to hug the turf leading to the set piece goal.

Diego Valeri, 4 – As tough a game as Valeri has had.  Didn’t do too poorly in the opening half hour, but as the rhythm of the game got choppier, Valeri looked increasingly uncomfortable.  Right now Diego is the prohibitive favorite to take home the Diego Chara Award,[2] given to the player with the biggest difference between him home and away performances.

Darlington Nagbe, 6 – Went down early, but was very effective in combinations and using his movement to open spaces in a Whitecaps defensive midfield that seemingly had a lot of them early on.

Rodney Wallace, 6 – Rod had a tough task running into the right side of a Caps’ defense that features Y.P. Lee and Andy O’Brien.  Wallace did well, however, nearly finding the net twice in the first half.

Ryan Johnson, 4 – A step off all day, as he had a couple crucial moments that weren’t quite right, including having his steps wrong in collecting a perfectly weighted ball from Kalif Alhassan in the second half.

Kalif Alhassan, 5.5 – Pretty poor in the first half, but Kalif worked into the game nicely as the second half went along, settling the ball in the center of midfield and feeding it out to promising attacking areas.

Frederic Piquionne, 6 – This was a nice example of good Frederic.  Held the ball up well and distributed nicely after he came in.  Once the Timbers pulled level, Piquionne did a decent impression of a right back to add some extra defense.

Jose Valencia, 7 – Okay, Vancouver fans, it was totally a handball.  But showed poise well beyond his years in calmly cutting it back, rendering Knighton helpless, and rolling it past the keeper.

Preseason Prediction: Timbers 2, Whitecaps 2.  Valeri,[3] Jewsbury.
Actual Result: Timbers 2, Whitecaps 2.  Will Johnson, Valencia.

Onward, Rose City!


[1] While we’ll never know, it looks like Johnson’s shot may have been goal-bound.  While Knighton may have been able to palm it away, the lane was open for the ball to nestle inside the far post.

[2] While Chara is now fantastic home and away, it wasn’t always so.  One of the reasons for the Timbers’ road foibles in 2011 was Chara’s mediocre form outside the friendly confines of Jeld-Wen Field.

[3] On a penalty, no less!

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