The Vancouver Whitecaps’ game plan in the Rose City is simple: Be compact, be opportunistic, and, perhaps most of all, be physical.
And on Saturday evening that was good enough for the Whitecaps to earn a 1-1 draw after Matias Laba’s second-half screamer nullified Diego Valeri’s 33rd-minute opener.
But the story of the evening came in the late stages as Jordan Harvey earned a 92nd-minute red card for a hard foul on Valeri and Will Johnson was sent off after the final whistle for, according to referee Juan Guzman, "offensive, abusive, and insulting language towards the referee."
But for all the drama late, early on the Timbers were as out of rhythm as they’ve been at Providence Park. That didnt mean, however, that they weren't creating chances. In the 15th minute Darlington Nagbe took an entry pass out of the path of an onrushing Diego Valeri and laid the ball off to Will Johnson at the top of the box, who fired just wide of the near post.
A couple looks at goal notwithstanding, however, the Timbers has trouble creating anything consistent in the buildup. And on the other side of the ball, the Whitecaps looked like the sharper team, creating enough chances in the opening stages to justify a lead. But if the Timbers defense wasn’t exactly solid in the early going, it wash heroic.
In the 16th minute, barely a minute after Johnson’s shot whizzed wide, Kekuta Manneh found himself clean through on Adam Kwarasey, but the Timbers’ keeper come up big with a kick save to bail out his defense and keep the ‘Caps off the board.
Kwarasey was otherwise shaky in the opening stanza, though, and the Timbers nearly paid for it in the 27th minute when Manneh beat Kwarasey to the ball and unleashed a shot destined for the empty net from a tight angle on the right, but Nat Borchers interfered at the last moment and cleared the ball off the line.
As the half wore on, however, the Timbers started knocking on the door more consistently. And in the 31st minute it looked like Portland might find its opener when Fanendo Adi slipped Valeri through on goal, but David Ousted came up with a magnificent save at the near post.
But Ousted couldn’t rescue the Whitecaps three minutes later.
After Christian Dean hung Matias Laba out to dry with a dangerous pass in central midfield, Diego Chara pounced on the static ball and fed Adi running between the Whitecaps two centerbacks. With Christian Dean and Tim Parker closing in, Adi played wide to Valeri whose first touch was heavy, but second touch found the net to put the Timbers’ up a goal.
The advantage didn’t last long after the break, however, as in the 57th minute Laba made up for his first-half mistake by picking up the ball with the Timbers’ lines dropped deep, taking his space in central midfield, and whipping a shot from 25 yards inside the far post to level the match.
From there the match turned increasingly physical, much to the chagrin of any onlookers hoping for aesthetic football .
Physicality notwithstanding, the Timbers pushed for the winner.
In the 85th minute the Timbers worked a training-ground free kick free kick from 35 yards out that wound up with Gaston Fernandez finding a yard of space at the top of the box, but his shot was deflected just over the bar.
Three minutes later the Timbers were back to work on another set piece. Diego Valeri’s service from the right wing found Nat Borchers ten yards out in the center of the box, but Ousted made a diving save to his left on Borchers’s bouncing effort to squib the ball on frame.
And that’s when things got out of hand.
Two minutes into stoppage time Diego Valeri picked off a heavy Jordan Harvey touch and turned to move upfield, but Harvey bundled into the Timbers’ maestro from behind. Guzman immediately went to the back pocket and gave Harvey his marching orders.
With the Whitecaps a man down, the Timbers pressed on for the winner, but, unlike two weeks ago against San Jose, to no avail. The result, as reflected by the Timbers’ postgame outburst, is a frustrating one for Portland, as the Timbers walk away having dropped two valuable points on their home field.