A playoff position, that was just a week ago thought to be secure, is now teetering on the edge. The Timbers wilted to a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Providence Park on Wednesday night, via a second-half meltdown. First-half goals from Yimmi Chara and Dairon Asprilla looked to have the Timbers running away, but a second-half that featured three unanswered Whitecaps goals doomed Portland to defeat.
The game got off to a fast start with both sides seeking to press and attack quickly. The Timbers were the ones to find the greatest amount of penetration first, stretching Vancouver’s lines.
Portland were able to earn three corners in the first nine minutes, with the third nearly resulting in the opener in the ninth minute. A shot from a corner kick was parried to the feet of Sebastian Blanco, who saw his curled shot kiss off the crossbar. It was reflective of the balance of play in the opening stages and reflective of all of the Timbers’ early pressure.
In the 16th minute, that pressure from Portland justly paid off. The Timbers started an attacking sequence via the hold-up play of Felipe Mora. The ball was switched to Blanco in space. He collected and lofted a cross to Mora. It was cleared, but only as far as Cristhian Paredes. Paredes thought about the volley for a moment and correctly let the ball settle after freezing both Vancouver center backs.
The Paraguayan midfielder squared the ball to Yimmi Chara, who had ghosted to the top of the box. The Colombian hit the ball first time and it streaked past Maxime Crepeau into the bottom left corner to make it 1-0.
After the goal, the Portland Timbers eased off the throttle, dropping their lines a touch deeper and focused on the defending. As a result, the Whitecaps found more possession as the half wore on and started to put pressure on the Portland backline.
The Timbers were committed to keeping lines solid and then looking to be quick and lethal on the counterattack, ready to capitalize on any Vancouver mistake.
In the 42nd minute, that’s exactly what happened. A misplayed pass was gobbled up by Paredes, who quickly drove forward. With the lightning-quick, direct play we’ve come to expect from the Timbers counter at its best, Paredes played through Yimmi Chara, who attempted to play through Mora. The pass was blocked right back into the feet of Y. Chara.
The ball bounced right off Y. Chara to the feet of Dairon Asprilla. He took a touch and then absolutely smashed the ball into the roof of the goal. The Year of Dairon rolled on with a quintessential Asprilla smash, his ninth goal of the season.
Death, taxes, and Asprilla scoring in October. These are constants and, on the night, it gave the Timbers a 2-0 advantage in the closing minutes of the second half.
The first half came to a close with the Timbers decidedly in the advantage. While Vancouver enjoyed the slightest edge in first half possession and five shots, the Whitecaps weren’t able to register any shots on target. Portland entered the locker room with a vital 2-0 advantage and the wind in their sails.
It was Vancouver who came out of halftime with their tails up. They immediately put pressure on Portland’s goal and were a lot quicker with their initial counter pressure after losing the ball. The Timbers were caught on their heels in the opening ten minutes of the second frame and the visitors seemed determined to start it off with a bang.
It took a little longer than they might have wanted but just as Portland did in the first half, Vancouver did eventually find their reward.
Daiber Caicedo collected the ball in his own half and then dribbled down the field on the counter. Portland was caught upfield and were scrambling to try to catch him. The Vancouver attacker dribbled past all of the Timbers midfielders, into the box, past the defense, and then slotted it home. Vanco had cut the Portland’s lead in half, making the scoreline 2-1 in the 63rd minute.
The Whitecaps would not let up and Portland could not break Vancouver’s pressure. The moments following Vancouver’s goal were marked by Portland being unable to clear their lines or counter attack due to the concerted efforts of the Whitecaps press.
On a night when Diego Chara was suspended due to yellow card accumulation, his absence in front of the backline was felt and sorely missed for the Timbers.
It showed as Portland could not wrestle back control of the game and Vancouver continued to push. Eventually, the Whitecaps would find their coveted equalizer. In the 75th minute, a looping header over all of the defense found Brian White at the back post. He rose above Josecarlos Van Rankin and headed it past Steve Clark. Portland saw their first-half lead evaporate in thirty minutes.
Brian White gets for the equalizer for Vancouver!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 21, 2021
His header makes it 2-2 in Portland, inside the final 15-minutes. pic.twitter.com/BNdgkqTuU2
Rather than be motivated by losing their lead, the Timbers were unable to muster enough fortitude and cohesion to make something happen on the field. In fact, they would shoot themselves in the foot yet again.
In the 81st minute, Cristian Dajome skipped past Josecarlos Van Rankin in the Timbers’ box. Just as he did four days earlier in LA, Van Rankin reached out a desperate leg to try to win the ball and gave away a penalty kick. The referee pointed to the spot and Vancouver had the chance to take the lead on the road.
They made good on that chance. Dajome sent Clark the wrong way and rifled the ball into the net. In less than forty minutes, Portland had let a 2-0 advantage, that looked like a sure win, slip all the way to a 3-2 deficit.
Despite seven minutes of stoppage time and late Diego Valeri curler, Portland was unable to do enough to rescue a result. The final whistle blew and it was assured - the Portland Timbers had lost 3-2 at home to Vancouver.
It is a deflating and shocking loss for a team that just a few weeks ago was enjoying an eight-game unbeaten streak. Now, they have lost two in a row, including a crucial game at home. Most worryingly, it was a game wherein the second half was reminiscent of Portland’s poor performances from early in the season.
The Timbers still remain in fourth place in the Western Conference, but stand just one point above the LA Galaxy in fifth place. They will have very little time to lick their wounds, as they have to travel to Colorado to play the Rapids on Saturday.
Earlier this month, we were wondering how high the Timbers could climb. After two consecutive defeats and with four regular season games left, we are now left to wonder if they can even keep themselves on the ladder, and avoid falling with a thud.