The Portland Timbers shut down the Vancouver Whitecaps in tonight's 0-0 draw, but could not find a goal for themselves despite a penalty kick and the return of their star midfielder, Diego Valeri.
After a slow first ten minutes, the Timbers took control of the match in the first half and proceeded to pin the Whitecaps back in their own end. Holding the vast majority of the possession, it was only a matter of time until the Timbers began generating chances.
In the 30th minute, the Timbers found themselves with as good a chance as a team can ask for. With Alvas Powell working his way down the right flank with the ball at his feet, the Timbers' fullback clipped a low cross into the Vancouver box. The ball caromed off a flailing limb of Pa Modou Kah and out for what looked like a corner, only to have the referee's assistant wave for a penalty and the man in the middle, Alan Chapman, point to the spot.
From there the proceedings got surreal as Darlington Nagbe, the Timbers' most famously goal-shy attacking player, stepped up to take the spot kick. With David Ousted in goal, Nagbe stepped up and struck a hard, low shot that hit the right post squarely and bounced back into play, wasting the opportunity.
The penalty was not the Timbers' only chance to go wanting in the half. A pair of open headers from Maximiliano Urruti and Liam Ridgewell both missed the mark. Urruti came first in the 32nd minute as Rodney Wallace whipped in a perfect cross from the left flank only to see Urruti put the chance over the bar from inside the six yard box. Ridgewell followed that up with an undefended header off a Timbers corner kick in the 45th minute, but could not square his body to goal and could only put his header wide of the near post.
The second half started out with the biggest cheer from a Providence Park crowd of the season as Valeri was introduced in the 52nd minute for Ishmael Yartey. With The Maestro back on the pitch, the Timbers looked like a changed team, playing quick combinations and working the ball into dangerous areas.
Valeri himself had two of the Timbers' best attempts of the half as his late runs into the box proved to be one of the missing elements in the team's attack. Twice Valeri arrived in the Whitecaps box behind the Timbers' first wave and twice he got on the end of a low cross, first from Wallace in the 72nd minute when he scuffed the ball, and then again from Jorge Villafana in the 78th minute, only partially making contact.
The Whitecaps, for their part, looked more dangerous in the second half, but were still unable to create any real chances as the Timbers controlled the midfield throughout the match.
The Timbers travel to Quebec, Canada next weekend to take on the Montreal Impact.