The Portland Timbers came up short today as they lost a 4-3 decision to the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Timbers scored early before giving up three goals, including two penalties, before half time. Although they fought back and clawed back two goals, the TImbers were just short of pulling level.
In the 3', Darlington Nagbe fought through three pressing defenders, eventually getting the ball to the feet of Diego Valeri. The Maestro took a touch toward the center of the pitch before slipping a smooth ball to Maximiliano Urruti making a diagonal run toward the Whitecaps box. As the defenders backed off him, Urruti looked up and, with plenty of space, took a hard, placed shot into the corner of the net, beating David Ousted to open the scoring.
The opener looked like a goal that should close the door on who would come away from the match with three points, and for thirteen minutes it looked like that would be the case as the Timbers held the ball and press Vancouver, looking for their second goal of the night.
Instead it was Vancouver who struck next, quickly breaking down the field in the 16'. A long ball out of the back found Beaverton native Erik Hurtado just outside the Timbers box. With the same hard cut that helped him to win the Goal of the Week against the Seattle Sounders in their 2-2 draw, Hurtado got around his defender and into the box. As Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara closed him down, Hurtado got his legs tangled in theirs and hit the dirt. There was no hesitation from referee Kevin Stott, who pointed immediately to the penalty spot. Pedro Morales confidently stepped up for the Whitecaps, sending his penalty kick down the middle and into the back of the net, tying the game up at 1-1.
The Whitecaps' goal heralded a change in the match as Vancouver were suddenly in contention for the win. Ten minutes later, in the 26', Vancouver found themselves going to the spot for the second time. The call came as Sebastian Fernandez cut into the box only to be taken down by a tackle from Jorge Villafana. Despite protestations from the Timbers that the tackle got the ball, Stott again had no hesitation. Morales stepped up to the spot for a second time, this time firing the ball ot his right and sending Donovan Ricketts the wrong way to grab the Whitecaps first lead of the game at 2-1.
The Timbers' first half misery was not yet over, however. In the final minute of first-half stoppage time, Erik Hurtado ran on to a curled in cross in the Timbers box, getting off a volleyed shot at point blank range. Ricketts was there to make the stop, but form that far away there was no way for him to hold the ball and the rebound fell directly to Hurtado who tucked it away over the Timbers' keeper, giving the Whitecaps a 3-1 to close out the first 45'.
This season the Timbers have made a habit of coming out of the locker room energized in the second half of matches and they did so today. The team's enthusiasm came back to bite them, however, as the Whitecaps grabbed their fourth goal of the match in the 49'. With the Timbers pushing forward, the Whitecaps were able to break back down the pitch and send in a cross from their right wing that sailed fully over the Timbers' box. However, with the Timbers' defense out of sorts while scrambling to recover, Jordan Harvey found himself all alone on the Whitecaps left with the ball at his feet and time to kill. After settling the ball, he lined up his shot and fired a low drive that slid under Ricketts and into the corner of the net, puting the Timbers three goals back.
With that steep mountain to climb in front of them, the Timbers finally got back into gear late in the match, pulling one goal back in the 77'. With the Timbers throwing everything forward, Diego Valeri sent a long, early cross toward the back post. The ball dropped perfectly over the head of Jay DeMerit, to Gaston Fernandez. The Timbers' unlikely aerial threat did what he does best and buried the ball in the back of the net with a snap header to oull the Timbers back within two.
The Timbers continued to press forward and got another goal back in the 86' that truely ignited the fans around the stadium. A long pass fell to the chest of Fanendo Adi at the top of the Vancouver box. Without letting the ball touch the ground, the Timbers' new striker juggled the ball twice before flicking it over his shoulder and into the path of the late-arriving Will Johnson. As the ball fell into his path, Johnson took it on the volley, crushing it past David Ousted and bringing the score to 4-3, with the Timbers only one goal away from some kind of redemption.
It was not to be, however, as the Whitecaps white-knuckled their way to the full three points, holding on despite the Timbers' repeated thrusts forward in the alloted four minutes of stoppage time.
Unfortunately for the Timbers, the goals did not tell the whole story of the match. The Timbers wanted a series of penalties of their own, particualrly midway through the first half, when Diego Valeri was brought down from behind in the Whitecaps box only to have Kevin Stott wave play on. Throughout the rest of the match, the Timbers had a series of further penalty shouts, including a hand ball in the box and a late-game foul on Nagbe that saw his former Akron teammate Darren Mattocks toss him to the ground in the Vancouver box.