Match Preview: Timbers U23s vs. Whitecaps U23s

Kyle Fisher (#2) celebrates his 1 half goal against Arizona United at Providence Park on May 13, 2014. - Jeremiah Mitchell Braeback - Stumptown Footy

The Portland Timbers U23s return to the pitch, opening the PDL season against the Vancouver Whitecaps U23s in the first of two 11:00am PDT starts as part of the Providence Health and Wellness Days at Providence Park that see thousands of local elementary and middle school students get away from the classroom for a couple hours and enjoy a soccer match.

The Portland Timbers U23s (0-0-0, 0pts) look to open the PDL season strong, hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps U23s (0-1-1, 1pts) in their second match in three days.

The Timbers U23s have met the Whitecaps U23s 11 times since joining the PDL in 2009, amassing a 7-1-2 record in the regular season against their northern neighbor, and a penalty kick victory (1-1, 5-4 on PKs) in last season’s divisional playoffs.

Portland Timbers U23s

The Timbers U23s come into this match on the heels of a disappointing 3-2 loss in the 2nd round of the U.S. Open Cup that saw them go up 2-0, only to give up goals in the 84th, 88th, and 90th+5 minutes to Arizona United SC of USL-Pro.

The U23s looked the better side for the first half, while Arizona United withstood constant pressure in the attack, smothering defense, and stellar goaltending from Justin Luthy.  Unfortunately, the second half saw the opponent able to assert themselves more as the U23s wore down, while they were limited to only 3 subs, versus unlimited subs in college or 6 in the PDL, and the late surge was just enough to over-power and steal the match.

Despite the loss, the U23s had to feel good about much of their performance, especially considering they had just two training sessions together before jumping into a match, which is an unfortunate reality when working with so many collegiate players, many of whom just got out of school or will be finishing the term over the next month or so.

One of the keys for the U23s will be to get over the disappointment of losing so late in the match and move on quickly, taking solace in the fact that they were the better side for much of the match.  If they can show up like they did for the first half and part of the second, they should have little problem getting a result out of the match.

Vancouver Whitecaps U23s

The Whitecaps U23s will present a different sort of challenge, as they have already played a couple of matches together, as well as most of the roster coming up together as part of the Whitecaps Academy and Residency programs, so there will be much familiarity between these players as they take the pitch, despite only having two matches under their belts.

The Whitecaps U23s come into the match feeling a sense of disappointment with themselves, allowing a 90th+3 minute goal by Kitsap Pumas forward Septi Danciu, leveling the match and ending it in a 1-1 draw, in addition to allowing two late goals in their first match of the season at Victoria Highlanders FC, losing 3-2

Forward Niall Cousens, and midfielders Cody Cook and Ali Musse lead the Whitecaps U23s with a goal each, while forward Marlon Ramirez and defender Reynold Steward had added an assist and goalkeepers Matt Diaz and Nolan Wirth have each made a start between the posts.

Final Thoughts

The Timbers U23s have had the Whitecaps U23s number throughout their time in the PDL, but the memories of last season’s loss in the playoffs has to still be in the memories of the returning players. 

The match will be a good early season challenge for both sides as the season develops, with changes across the board for both sides, as well as every other team in the league.  These early season matches could be key in the Timbers U23s separating themselves from the rest of the pack, especially if they want to finish at the top of the table for the first time since their perfect 16-0-0 PDL Championship season in 2010.

Match Information

Portland Timbers U23s (0-0-0, 0pts) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (0-1-1, 1pt.)

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 11:00am PDT

Providence Park – Portland, Oregon

This match will be live-tweeted @CascadiaFooty.

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