In a match that ended on a bittersweet note, the Portland Timbers took down the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 to secure first place in the Western Conference standings. Yimmi Chara scored the game-winning goal for Portland.
Portland didn’t rotate too heavily, though they did tweak the attacking lineups slightly. Felipe Mora started at the striker position for Jaroslaw Niezgoda while Andy Polo stepped in at the wing for Andres Flores.
It was a good start for Portland in this one. Although they didn’t get a score in the first 15 minutes — something they’ve been stellar at all season — they put a lot of pressure on Vancouver’s defense. They found success with the long ball from players like Jorge Villafana and Diego Valeri, setting themselves up for opportunities. Unfortunately for Portland, they were always just a step or so behind, making it difficult to capitalize. Still, early signs were positive for Portland.
But even as Portland showed flashes on the offensive end, both teams took a fairly cautious approach. While the conservative approach didn’t always make for the most tantalizing soccer, it did keep it a close match. Portland got the lion’s share of opportunities, but Vancouver was able to create opportunities on runs from Lucas Cavallini. Fortunately for Portland, nothing came to fruition.
Although it felt like Portland “won” the half for the most part, the stats ended up pretty even. Portland had a slight lead in shots (six to five), possession (57% to 43%), and passing accuracy (89% to 86%), but Vancouver had a handful of opportunities where they could’ve broken the tie first. Instead, both teams went into the half scoreless.
The second half started off awfully similar to the first. Both teams were creating opportunities for themselves, but nothing was really coming from it. That changed in the 61st minute when Yimmi Chara broke the tie for his fourth goal of the season.
Diego Valeri started the action with a quick pass to Felipe Mora at the top of the box. Mora played it back to Valeri, who pushed it through to Yimmi Chara. Yimmi made the extra pass to Villafana, who worked the ball down to the end line before launching the cross back to Chara. Yimmi volleyed the ball right past Evan Bush for the goal, breaking the stalemate. Timbers led 1-0.
After the goal, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Portland. Vancouver had numerous opportunities for an equalizer, getting past Portland’s back line more than a few times. Luckily for Portland, none of those chances translated into goal.
But as lucky as Portland was to earn the victory, it was still bittersweet due to an unfortunate injury towards the end of the match. Both Valeri and Jaroslaw Niezgoda went down on the same possession, with both players on the ground for an extended time. Valeri was able to shake off whatever was ailing him, but Niezgoda was not, having to be taken away on the stretcher. He seemed to be grabbing his left knee. Even as Portland won 1-0, it was not all sweet for Portland.
The Timbers will hit the pitch again on Wednesday when they face off against the Colorado Rapids. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. Pacific.