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Portland Timbers open Providence Park with 2-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps

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Kris Lattimore

After two seasons without a home preseason game, the Portland Timbers made the most of their meeting with the Vancouver Whitecaps at Providence Park on Sunday. The expansion of the stadium on the east side was dotted with spectators as the green and gold took down the white and blue of the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 2-1. Although fans got their first glimpses of Yimmi Chara, Felipe Mora, and Dario Zuparic, it was Andy Polo who grabbed the glory when he scored the game winning goal at the start of the second half.

In the 10th minute the Timbers made their first good foray into the Whitecaps box when a chipped in cross from Jorge Villafaña found the chest of Felipe Mora. The new Timbers forward chested the ball into the air and threw himself into a bicycle kick that made good contact with the ball, but put it only as far as the chest of the defender on his back. After a follow up shot from Jorge Moreira went out for a goal kick, referee David Gantar stopped play to review the block as the Timbers asked for a hand ball, but in the end no penalty was given.

In the 17th minute the Whitecaps had a strong chance to open the scoring when a whipped in ball from the Timbers’ right found new designated player Lucas Cavallini lurking at the back post, unmarked. Cavallini got a leg up and made contact with the dipping ball but could not strike it cleanly, putting his volleyed shot wide of the post.

Moments later the Timbers struck out down the pitch on a quick break, finding Diego Valeri in a pocket of space just outside the Whitecaps box. With room in which to shoot, Valeri took the measure of Vancouver keeper Maxime Crepeau and went for the finesse shot, clipping a chip toward goal that the Canadian was just barely able to snag as it floated over his head.

After being denied a spot kick early in the match, the Timbers were awarded a penalty kick in the 33rd minute after Mora, attempting to control a cross into the box from Sebastian Blanco, was run over from behind by Vancouver center back Derek Cornelius. After Gantar pointed to the spot, Valeri stepped up and struck the ball with power, leaving Crepeau with no chance at the save before it splashed into the back of the net.

The visitors were not behind for long, however, striking back in the 38th minute. After bottling the Timbers up in their box, Inbeom Hwang spun away from a tackle in the center of the pitch and sent a skipping ball toward the end line for the run of Ali Adnan on an overlapping run down the Timbers’ right flank. With the Timbers spinning in place, Adnan fired a chest height cross into the box and found the diving form of Cavallini at the near post. Where Cavallini’s foot had failed him earlier, his head did not as the Canadian international and Designated Player redirected the ball past Steve Clark and into the back of the net.

Less than a minute into the second half the Timbers reclaimed the lead. A rolling ball down the right flank seconds after the whistle put substitute Andy Polo into space in the attacking end. With Mora crashing toward the goal, Polo played a curling, floating ball into the box that drifted toward goal and dropped down over the waving arm of Crepeau before crossing the goal line to put the Timbers up 2-1.

The Whitecaps came close to equalizing in the 66th minute when Adnan received the ball in space on the flank and cut inside before whipping a swerving goal toward the far post of the Timbers goal. As the ball flew toward goal, however, substitute Aljaz Ivacic threw himself across the face of goal and, at full stretch, palmed the ball wide.

In the 74th minute Crepeau had a chance for some heroics of his own. Receiving the ball in space outside of the Vancouver box, Moreira unloaded a heavy shot that was destined for the upper-ninety of the near post, only for Crepeau to get a strong hand to the ball and deflect it away from goal.

The Timbers continue their preseason tournament on Wednesday, February 19th, when they will take on the Minnesota United, and close it out on Saturday, February 22nd, with a match against New England Revolution. [Edit: these fixtures were switched in an earlier version of the article.]