A defensive miscue in the early going doomed the Portland Timbers in Friday night’s 1-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps, breaking the side’s three game winning streak and leaving them below the playoff line and looking upward.
There were strong chances for both sides on offer early, starting with the Timbers in just the second minute when a series of passes in the attacking end found Jorge Moreira overlapping on the right flank. Moreira cut back a low ball into the box, finding Sebastian Blanco in space, but the Argentine scuffed his first time shot and could not make something of the moment.
The let off gave the home side a chance to charge down the pitch themselves and a long ball over the top of the Timbers back line was enough to give Portland fans a scare as Larrys Mabiala and Steve Clark’s miscommunication allowed Freddy Montero a touch on the edge of the box, only for Clark to block the ball away before the Whitecaps forward could get it under control.
In the 9th minute the Whitecaps were able to open the scoring, again hitting out with a long ball down the pitch to start the attack. This time it was Moreira who was able to put his boot to the ball down the pitch, but the full back’s attempted interception fell to the feet of Russell Teibert. Teibert quickly picked out a pass to Montero, running off the shoulder of the defender and in on goal. Receiving the ball, Montero lined up a powerful near-post shot that gave Clark no chance at the save before it splashed into the back of the net.
The early minutes of the match saw forays forward from the Timbers matched by quick strikes down the pitch from the Whitecaps. As the chances continued to come they began to tilt in favor of Vancouver, aided by the Timbers’ struggles in dealing with the high press from Marc Dos Santos’s side.
As the first half continued on, however, the Timbers were able to calm the pace of the match and reassert themselves on the game. Both sides enjoyed long stretches of possession, but both struggled to put together clear scoring chances before the break.
The second half saw both sides come out looking to mix things up physically and make things difficult for their opponents in light of referee Allen Chapman’s willingness to let play continue. The result was a period in which both sides struggled to find a shot as they battled for the ball in the center of the pitch.
The Timbers nearly pulled one back in the 72nd minute when Diego Chara sent Blanco on the run down the left flank. Blanco sent a low pass into the path of Diego Valeri, cutting into the box, which the Maestro received on the run, taking a touch forward then blasting a low shot at the legs of Whitecaps keeper Maxime Crépeau. Crépeau was too quick to be beaten and hit the deck in time to make the stop.
The Timbers came close again in the 79th minute when Blanco sent a chipped ball over the box toward the back post. Substitute Andy Polo was there to keep the ball from going out over the end line, sending it back into the mixer and finding the head of Blanco for a snap header toward goal only for a Vancouver defender to step in the way and block the ball out for a corner.
The 83rd minute saw Lucas Melano in prime position to score moments after coming on as a substitute. After Polo served in a serving ball toward the back post, Melano was the man on the spot. As the ball dropped in his path, Melano stuck out a boot but could not make clean contact and the ball skipped out for a goal kick.
The Timbers remain on the road for their next match when they will head south on short rest to take on the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, May 15th.