In a “road” match played in Providence Park, the Portland Timbers took down the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0, earning their third straight win and second straight clean sheet. Felipe Mora scored the lone goal of the match.
Unsurprisingly, the Timbers rotated heavily for this one, having key players like Diego Valeri, Yimmi Chara and Jeremy Ebobisse start on the bench before subbing in the second half. Portland also put Felipe Mora in the number nine spot instead of Jaroslaw Niezgoda while Larrys Mabiala made his first start since sustaining a leg injury against the Seattle Sounders on Sept. 6.
Portland did not wait long at all to get the scoring started. The Timbers had a set-piece opportunity in the fifth minute and they took advantage. Eryk Williamson took the kick and soared it to just the right spot for Felipe Mora to sneak in and head the ball into the bottom-right corner for his fourth goal of the year. It was the Timbers’ sixth goal in the first 15 minutes of a game, which leads the MLS.
Set pieces were plentiful early on for Portland, with Vancouver fouling three times in the first 10 minutes, including a yellow card for Cristian Guitierrez. Williamson took the majority of them, and while he doesn’t quite have the masterful touch that Valeri does, he was able to get good balls into the box, giving Portland opportunities offensively.
The Timbers were in the driver’s seat for most of the first half. Portland held possession 58% of the time to Vancouver’s 42%. That’s not something either team particularly cares about — both teams rank towards the bottom of the league in total possession time — but controlling that gave the Timbers more shot opportunities.
But Vancouver didn’t make it easy. Towards the end of the first half, Vancouver started pressing up higher and making it more difficult for the Timbers to get it past the midfield line. They also stayed physical throughout the whole half, earning eight fouls and three yellow cards in the process. Portland was able to counter by pushing the ball wide eventually, but the Whitecaps really tried to make life hard in the middle of the pitch.
Vancouver started to turn the pressure up offensively as the first half progressed. An attack led by Fredy Montero and Lucas Cavallini started to find its way behind the Timbers’ backline. Luckily for Portland, Clark continued his good run of form, earning some key saves to prevent Vancouver from getting on the board (including this one below in the 40th minute). Portland was able to stay up 1-0.
The Timbers brought Valeri in for the second half, subbing him in for Williamson. His impact was felt immediately as he drew a foul almost as soon as the second half started. Throughout the half he helped orchestrate things for Portland, although there weren’t too many opportunities to do so until late in the match.
Vancouver kept the pressure up high in the second, really trying to force turnovers before Portland could hit the midfield line. When they did it usually led to easy shots for the Whitecaps. Vancouver got off three shots in just the first 10 minutes of the second half, including a Cavallini header that was just left of the goal.
Portland and Vancouver seemingly flipped roles in the second half. Instead of the Timbers controlling possession and creating opportunities for themselves, the Whitecaps did so while remaining physical on defense. Portland occasionally got chances as the half progressed, but they were able to maintain their lead more because of the defense sinking in than because of pressure from the offense.
The Timbers brought in some offensive firepower as the second half progressed. They subbed in Yimmi Charra in the 57th minute for Marvin Loria and also brought in Ebobisse and Niezgoda for Christian Paredes and Mora. They didn’t impact the game immediately, but eventually the opportunities came.
Portland had a few late chances that almost put the game more out of reach. Combining the offensive quality of Valeri, Ebobisse and Yimmi Chara resulted in some great shots for the Timbers. Although Bryan Meredith ended up saving most of Portland’s attempts, it didn’t matter in the end, as the Timbers took this one 1-0.
The Timbers will now get to rest until their home match against the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 3. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. PT.