The Portland Timbers controlled the first half for 45 minutes and 30 seconds and got the first goal. In the 30 seconds they didn't control the game, the Vancouver Whitecaps got a corner on a dubious call, and, of course, they scored. Portland did not let the late first half goal get them down, coming out firing on all cylinders and getting the go-ahead goal. Portland then held on for the win.
Portland came out firing and looking to duplicate the good from their last two road performances. The Timbers' first shot was indicative of the way they was going to play. They put a lot of high pressure on Vancouver, forcing a turnover high up the field before attacking. In this case it was all Darlington Nagbe, but his shot was deflected over the goal. Which brings us to another theme of the night botched calls: the referee awarded a GK instead of a corner. The ref was consistently bad -- for both teams.
Time and time again, Portland applied just a little pressure and Vancouver coughed up the ball. I don't think I've seen so many errant passes by an opposing side since before the eight game winless streak started. Again in the 14th minute, with very little pressure, Nagbe was able to scoop up a turnover and attack down the middle of the pitch, weaving in between three players, before hitting the ball out wide to Franck Songo'o. Songo'o then hit a hard shot from the corner of the box but right at Cannon.
The play continued to go Portland's way, and chance after chance came, but none of them forced a save out of Cannon. When Vancouver had the ball, it tended to stay in their half, leading them to rely on long balls to the feet and head of their forwards. Most of the time these passes were either off-target or easily intercepted.
Once Portland did gain possession back, they tried to work it down the wings, but Vancouver really had game-planned defensively for Portland's wings. They had multiple players covering both Sal Zizzo and Songo'o, which made it difficult for either of them to attack down the wings. With so many defenders on the wings, Eric Alexander and Darlington Nagbe found lots of room, which they used to create headaches for Vancouver.
In the 27th minute the Timbers once again found themselves the benefactors of a errant pass -- this time right to Captain Jack Jewsbury. Jack passed it forward to Nagbe, who then passed it to Songo'o. Songo'o took a touch and hit Steven Smith on the wing, who had time to look up into the box before hitting a cross to Bright Dike and Sal Zizzo, waiting in the box. Dike was able to beat Jay Demerit to the ball, but his header hit right off the post and out, allowing Vancouver to clear it.
Over the next thirteen minutes neither Vancouver nor Portland were able to create a dangerous chance, but in the 41st Portland took the lead. Portland's goal started to take shape with a great defensive stop by David Horst after a Vancouver counter had stretched Portland's back line. Horst won the ball 39:37 minute mark and passed it upfield to Nagbe. The ball was then played up the left side, then back to the defense, and then out to the right side to Bright Dike. Dike then passed it back into the middle to Alexander, who took a touch and laid it off for an attacking Jack Jewsbury. Jewsbury attacked the center of the defense before hitting a diagonal ball to the "Boy Wonder," who stretched to cut the ball past Young-Pyo Lee and found himself with ample space in front of goal.
Instead of hitting it at Cannon like all those one-on-ones Portland had against New York's keeper, Nagbe showed some composure, waiting for Joe Cannon to commit to himself to the ground, before pounding it the other way. It was the first time in Portland's MLS history that a player has scored in three consecutive matches.
Of course, Portland's lead did not last long, which is par for the course this year. In stoppage time Kenny Miller hit a cross so badly that the referee thought it had been deflected. The phantom deflection resulted in a corner, and Vancouver was able to score, because no one pushed up and no one decided to mark Miller, who was wide open at the edge of the area. Just like his cross that won the corner, Miller's shot was the result of a shanked cross from Jay DeMerit that probably would have gone out for a goal kick (or, rather, a corner kick) if it had gone where he was aiming.
Portland, after dominating nearly the entire half, had to settle for a 1-1 scoreline after 45.
Whatever was said at half time really helped Portland shake off the late equalizer, and they came out firing on all cylinders once again. Portland wasted no time and forced Cannon to make a save in the first minute of the half -- granted, Dike's shot was right at him from distance after he won the ball off a Vancouver defender, but it signaled Portland's intent to keep applying the pressure.
Even as Portland was trying to get the go ahead goal, so was Vancouver, and, despite the fact Portland was controlling the run of play, Vancouver did have their chances. Their first chance came off a corner in the 50th minute, played to the near post, where a Vancouver player was able to flick towards goal. Donovan Ricketts got a glove to it, but it deflected right into the path of another Whitecap, Andy O'Brien. O'Brien got his head on the ball, and it was going in until a streak of robin's egg blue threw himself in front. Portland was then able to clear the ball out of danger and start its own counter, but it didn't produce a scoring opportunity.
The game started to show a frantic pace, as both teams really felt like they could get the go-ahead goal. Portland was able to capitalize on a dubious call of their own. Oftentimes when Dike and a defender get tangled up, the call tends to go against Dike, but this time the call went against Vancouver defender Andy O'Brien. Songo'o, taking the free kick, put a curling shot to the near post, forcing Cannon to make a save -- but instead, Cannon did his best Zac MacMath impression, letting the ball skip off his gloves and into the goal.
After the goal, neither Portland nor Vancouver created much, but there was a lot of back and forth play over the next 20 minutes. After that, the last 15 minutes had every possibility of ending in a bang or a thud. In the 74th minute Vancouver had their best chance for the equalizer.
Dane Richards was at the top of the box with the ball, where he turned to pass Jewsbury, but Jack was able to recover to poke the ball away from him. Unfortunately the poke megged Kosuke Kimura and allowed Richards to get behind the defense, forcing Ricketts to come out and challenge for the ball. The ensuing shot caromed back to Camilo, who, seeing Ricketts out of position, dribbled the ball around and lofted the ball into the open goal. Steven Smith had recovered towards the goal line and, while moving back into the goal, was able to get his beautiful Scottish head on it to clear it off the line.
Portland was then able to clear the ball at least out of the 18, from which point a long shot by Jun Davidson went well over the bar. Portland still had to weather one last storm in the 77th minute, as Barry Robson was able to find space to hit a knuckle ball of a shot towards Ricketts. Ricketts was unable to get a hand on the shot but did get his body in front of it, and the ball deflected out for a corner.
The game was effectively over in the 83rd minute, when Vancouver played a long ball towards Darren Mattocks. Mattocks challenged Horst for the ball, leading with his forearm in a swinging motion. After a minute of consultation with his assistants, the ref pulled a red from his pocket and sent Mattocks to the showers early. I am not sure it was purposeful, but it was an elbow to the face.
Portland was able to kill the game off and take back the top spot in the Cascadia Cup standings.
- The last three games have been the best games to watch in terms of passing and creation of chances, and, if this continues, Portland could have decent final two months.
- I love what I am seeing from Nagbe the last three games. It is as if a switch has been turned and a new Nagbe has been born.
- Eric Alexander has proven he is deserving of more time in the middle of the pitch. Can you imagine a CM trio of Nagbe, Chara and Alexander? I don't know if it would work but I think it would be interesting.
- Horst and Kimura fell asleep on the goal, but other than that they played a solid game.
- Smith had his best game in a while.
- Can anyone tell me why Vancouver traded away all of those attacking players? They sure looked like they have been neutered up top.