As has been the penchant for the Timbers over the past two weeks, they came out ready and composed. This was despite some very early histrionics, as Russell Teibert took down Diego Chara with a stomp on his lower leg and ankle in the second minute. Thankfully the elder Chara, making his 300th MLS regular season appearance for the Timbers, was able to get up and continue.
The opening fifteen minutes were marked by the Timbers controlling most of the possession and flow of play. Despite Vancouver’s best efforts to press Portland’s backline, the Timbers looked in control and composed as they worked the ball around their backline and up the field.
That composure would almost pay off as the Timbers found the first chance of the game, via a blocked Yimmi Chara shot that fell for Felipe Mora in the sixth minute. The in-form Timbers forward leaned back as he shot and sent the ball over the bar.
Portland wouldn’t lose their nerve. They were quick to break Vancouver’s press with long balls over the top or with quick interplay. Mora and Sebastian Blanco were key for Portland in doing so. This resulted in Portland out-possessing and outshooting their hosts, by a margin of four shots to zero through the first 15 minutes.
However, in the subsequent stages of the first half, the home side would begin to find their footing. The Whitecaps’ press would begin to cause the Portland backline a few problems and Vancouver started to create more chances. A Whitecaps free-kick earned in the 17th minute resulted in a wide open Vancouver attacker nearly finding the ball at the far post. The Whitecaps were on the verge of exploiting Portland’s recurring issue of limp set-piece defending. Not five minutes later, a bad giveaway would give Vancouver one of their clearest chances of the half, but new attacker Ryan Gauld just overplayed his pass and the Timbers dodged another bullet.
In what would be a back and forth first half, the Timbers created chances. A blistering breakaway led by Dairon Asprilla almost ended with Asprilla putting away a Blanco cross. Portland also had multiple set-piece opportunities in dangerous positions as the first half went on. Alas, nothing would come of Portland’s chances, and they couldn’t find the net in the first 45 minutes.
The Whitecaps nearly found the back of the net right at the end of the first half. Gauld found himself in behind, sprung by a long ball. He cut past multiple Timbers defenders but the backline did just enough to block his shot. The halftime whistle blew and despite 13 total shots between the two sides, almost evenly split, the teams went into the locker room locked at nil-all.
The second half would begin just as back and forth as the first half with Vancouver perhaps finding the better of the chances. They earned a few chances via corner kicks and giveaways but Portland’s defenders did enough to limit Vancouver’s clear chances on goal.
The home side wouldn’t let up with their pressure as they doubled down on their commitment to get up in Portland’s face and try to cause problems. The pressure started ratcheting up on the Portland goal, and in turn, the Timbers were able to find chances to put pressure on Vancouver’s goal via the press. The boys in green were able to put several shots on Maxime Crepeau’s net, but couldn’t break through.
The deciding factor that would finally tip the balance in favor of the Timbers would be of course, as it has been for so much of this season, Sebastian Blanco. Portland counter attacked and Yimmi Chara found Asprilla in behind on the left wing. Asprilla found Blanco, who expertly chopped and cut his way past a defender and served up a ball to Mora open at the far post. The Chilean forward took a touch and fired toward the opposite post. The ball struck Vancouver defender Rank Veselinovic first, but it wouldn’t matter. The center back rifled the ball into the roof of his own net.
Call it a Mora goal that was destined for the net anyway, call it an own goal (like the league does), call it whatever you like. Just be sure to call it Portland’s go-ahead goal. After weathering a bit of a storm, the Timbers took the lead in the 66th minute.
The Whitecaps responded by committing more bodies forward and ratcheting up the pressure even more. Portland would drop into a more conservative defensive approach, setting up to absorb pressure and defend their lead.
Vancouver’s increasing pressure nearly produced the equalizer in the 77th minute as a Whitecaps corner was cleared to the top of the box. Deiber Caicedo wound up and struck the ball first time, and as Steve Clark dove it was clear he was beaten. Claudio Bravo was in the right place at the right time though. He cleared the ball off the line and prevented an equalizer.
Vancouver wouldn’t let up. They huffed and puffed and tried their best to blow the Timbers’ door down. But despite their best breaths and a remarkable late flurry in stoppage time, Portland’s house would hold firm. Vancouver wouldn’t find the net on the night. The Timbers escaped with a 1-0 victory, securing their third straight shutout victory on the road.
After five straight road matches, the Timbers are rolling back to Portland with three straight away shutout victories. Portland was facing the darkest part of their season after big losses to Seattle and Austin. The Timbers responded well in the face of adversity as has been the trend under Giovanni Savarese. They now stand fifth in the Western Conference standings and have posted the third-most away wins in the conference with four.
Not only is it their third straight win, Portland icon Diego Chara’s 300th league appearance for the club, it’s also Savarese’s 50th league win in MLS. And it also marks the first time the Timbers have posted three straight shutouts on the road in MLS, and the first time they’ve three straight shutouts at all since the 2018 season.
The Timbers now return home to Portland for three straight matches, two of which will occur over the next nine days. They will be back in front of the Timbers Army on Wednesday when they face the second-place Colorado Rapids.
When they left a month ago, we wondered what shape the Timbers would be in as they came home. Now, on a three-game winning streak, we might be wondering how much higher this stretch can extend and how far the Timbers can climb up the standings.