There are season defining games. The ones that you look back on come the end of the year as matches which shaped what a team is made of, kickstarted a team out of a rut, or brought to a half a good run of form.
Vancouver Whitecaps will be hoping that their 2-1 comeback win over the Portland Timbers will be a game that finally sees them turn a corner and kick on from what has been a very up and down first third of the new season.
It’s been a start that’s seen them struggle for goals and discipline, yet turn out four victories and sit only six points off the Supporters Shield leading Colorado Rapids.
Taking points of your Cascadian rivals is always nice. Taking full points in your chase for a record sixth Cascadia Cup is even better. Not to mention knocking off the existing MLS Champs in the process.
But a win like this will count for little if they can’t go out and do the same again lowly Chicago on Wednesday. Which Whitecaps will turn up for that one?
REPORT (by Steve Pandher):
Vancouver Whitecaps continued their strong play against Cascadian rivals this season as they came back in the second half and dealt Portland a 2-1 defeat in front of a sold out BC Place. After giving up a first half goal to Nat Borchers against the run of play, the ‘Caps responded with goals from Masato Kudo and Christian Bolanos in the second to collect all three points.
The first half saw the Whitecaps possess the ball and create the better chances to score, but their shots either missed the net or were stopped in spectacular fashion by Jake Gleeson in the Timbers goal. That included two chances by Nicolas Mezquida from outside and inside the box, and one by Kudo that just missed the net.
Unfortunately those missed chances would prove costly as Portland would open up the scoring in the 34th minute when Nat Borchers connected on a pass from Darlington Nagbe at the far post to give the Timbers the lead into the break.
The second half saw the Whitecaps continue to press for the equaliser but time after time Gleeson would come up big to deny the home side any hope up of getting back into the match.
Vancouver finally got their reward on the hour mark when Diego Chara, in an attempt to stop a pass into the box, deflected the ball right to Kudo who made no mistake beating Gleeson at the near post to pull the Whitecaps even.
Less than six minutes later the Whitecaps got the winner, when Christian Bolanos sent a cross into the box that just missed the head of Blas Perez, confusing Gleeson, which led to him mishandling the ball as it squeezed through his legs and into the net.
The Whitecaps would hold onto the lead as the Timbers were unable to muster any quality chances to get the draw and share the points.
Against Portland, the Whitecaps showed the most promise in their attack with excellent build up that eventually led to the goals with both of their big offseason additions scoring, Kudo his first of the season while Bolanos scoring his third in as many games.
There will be little time to celebrate the three points as the Whitecaps will return to work on Wednesday when they will host the visiting Chicago Fire at BC Place.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 Portland Timbers
ATT: 22,120 (sell out)
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Fraser Aird, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Pedro Morales, Matías Laba; Christian Bolaños, Nicolás Mezquida (Blas Pérez 63), Cristian Techera (Erik Hurtado 90); Masato Kudo (Octavio Rivero 78) [Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Andrew Jacobson, Russell Teibert, Pa-Modou Kah]
PORTLAND: Jake Gleeson; Zarek Valentin, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Chris Klute (Jack Barmby 87); Diego Valeri, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe; Lucas Melano, Fanendo Adi, Darren Mattocks (Jack McInerney 77) [Substitutes not used: Wade Hamilton, Jermaine Taylor, Ned Grabavoy, Jack Jewsbury, Ben Zemanski]
Thoughts on the match:
“I thought from the first minute to the last minute, I thought the intensity of the team, the effort, the application was spot on. And the football took care of itself today, I think we played some super stuff. We didn’t score enough from our chances. I said to them at halftime, it’s a good performance, but the result we’re on the wrong end of. Sometimes you’ve got to roll your sleeves up, pull your socks up, and get on with it. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, and the boys didn’t in the second half. We continued with the intensity and continued to create chances. I think it’s a little bit fortuitous the winning goal as it happened, but give Jake Gleeson a lot of credit. He made some wonderful saves again this week. So, I think we deserved to win.”
On luck evening out on the winning goal:
“I’m a firm believer that if you put the work in, you get the rewards, and not just in football but in any walk of life. The most successful people put in the hardest hours and the longest hours. Football teams are no different. If you put the work in, you get the rewards, and today we got our rewards.”
On the fighting spirit of the team to come out strong in second half:
“I think we showed today what we can be. I think every man from one to eleven was very very strong. That’s the standard I require from them. When they drop below that standard, me and my coaches we’ve got to be on these guys because they’re good players. They don’t mean to put in bad performances and not play to their level, but as long as they put the work in. And especially in derby games, we talked today [about the] great atmosphere, it’s a sell-out here, the MLS Cup champs who are a good team. They’re a very very good team, they’ve got a Player of the Month (Adi) in the team, and we limited him to one chance maybe. And they got their noses in front, so maybe it was just our day.”
On this being the team’s most complete performance:
“Sometimes it’s not easy sitting up here when you win or lose. When we lost to Salt Lake, prior to the Dallas game, we actually played really well. A week later I sat here and we’d beat Dallas, and I’d said that we didn’t play as well as we did in Salt Lake. But Joe public probably doesn’t care about that, and you’re thinking I’m making an excuse if we win a game or lose a game. I’m not. I’m just being generally honest with our performance. Today, I think we deserved to win. I think we played very very well against a top top team. So I think we played better than we did against Dallas, today, even though the scoreline is not so lopsided. But just performance wise, that’s what I expect from the guys.”
On Masato Kudo:
“It was his birthday yesterday. We get the guys cake, and I missed the celebration because I was out talking to these group of friendly press, as I always do. So I sent him a message last night and he promised me he’d get a goal. So he did get a goal today, which was great. Nice to get your first goal. I think it showed what it meant to the group, we’re delighted to have Masato here and hopefully there’s more to come.”
On how to prioritize another three games in eight days:
“I just got asked that question and I said, I’ve got no idea at the moment. It’s a special day for me today, It’s my father’s birthday and at halftime I walked in the toilet and I’m talking to myself, and one of the coaches said ‘are you ok?’ I said yeah, I said ‘bring me some luck dad’. And it was his birthday, so he brought me some luck with a mistake from the goalkeeper, I know, but he brought me some luck. It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, and I’ve got two kids who are looking forward to Mother’s Day and I’m scrambling around to get a present, so Happy Mother’s Day to all those special moms out there.”
On what Carl Robinson said at halftime:
“Just keep doing what we’re doing. I thought we created enough chances, didn’t take them, but I thought we created a lot more than they did. Unfortunate to give a goal away, but the manager said to just keep doing what we’re doing and if we show what we did in the first half then the ball will go in the back of the net and we’ll get a result. And it did.”
On defending Darren Mattocks and any extra motivation:
“Not really. It’s like playing every week. I’ve played against another good player again today in Darren. He done his best and I felt I’d done very well against him. Eventually he got taken off, but I know he’s a really good player so I just denied him the least space that I can, and I thought I’d done my job today on him to be honest.”
On scoring two goals on 26 shots:
“Sometimes that happens in football. You create chances, create chances, and they don’t go in. Or you create two chances and end up scoring two of them. That’s just the way football goes. But I thought that if we keep creating chances – and I thought that everyone did – that eventually the ball was going to go in the back of the net. The way we scored was probably the far easiest chances that we created. We had a few in the six-yard box that just didn’t go in. I thought their keeper had a really good game, had some really good saves. But at the end of the day we’re sitting here with the three points and we’re happy. Obviously a big derby game for us and the fans and it means a lot. But we just move on now and look forward to Wednesday.”
On having fun:
“Every game I get to put on a Vancouver top I’m blessed and I’m lucky to get a chance to play again. Obviously I wasn’t playing that much at Rangers towards the end. And just the chance to play football again, that’s what everyone wants to do. Once you’re playing football, you’re happy. We get paid to do that and that’s what we want to do. I’m just enjoying it, each game as it comes. Working as hard as I can in training. Hopefully I keep myself in the team, and when I get my chance on the Saturday hopefully I can do my best for the team.”
On scoring three goals in three games:
“I’m happy because we win the game, it’s not because I scored three goals in three games. I’m happy because of the performance today, and we deserved to win the three points. I think we played very well today.”
On today being best possession and movement for the team this season:
“Yes, we try to keep the ball, we have the players to make problems for Portland. That’s football. We have to try sometimes, to score sometimes we have to work harder than today. Like Fraser said, we enjoyed the game today. We deserved to win the three points today.”
On what stood out from the team:
“We have to work on a lot of things. We have a strong team, a lot of young, talented players. So we have to find the right balance. In this moment, we win this derby, which is important for the fans, for the city. It’s a good step right now, so next game we have to do the same thing. I think we are in a good position right now, the players get good confidence, so that’s important in football.”
On his goal:
“I tried to play the ball for Blas. He moved very good, so he didn’t touch the ball, but I think Blas made the problem for the goalkeeper. That’s why he’s thinking, ‘maybe Blas touch the ball’. So it was lucky, but it’s good. So this goal is 95 per cent for Blas.”
On tonight’s match:
“I thought we deserved something out of the game, the very least a draw. I credit Vancouver for the second half, for coming back in and scoring two goals. The reason I felt we deserved something out of it was, 1-0 start of the second half I thought we were in a great position, getting counter attacks. [If] we do a bit better on a couple of those chances that we had, which were very big opportunities, then the game’s different obviously, we’re up 2-0 and now it’s very difficult for Vancouver, but at the very least if we don’t score a second goal we would buckle down and ride the game out. The first goal turned things a little bit. It was a broken play off a throw in deflected a little bit and scored by Kudo, and credit to him he took it well, slid it to the post on a tight angle. I thought they had a little bit of momentum after that, like I said I think that goal turned things a little bit. Prior to that goal I thought it was all us, you know it looked like we were going to score a second goal, we need the three points. Momentum, goals change games and the game turned and I thought they got the second goal [and it was] a bit unfortunate on that one as well. So they get two goals and now the score is 2-1 and I thought at the end we made a good push and some very good chances. This is one of those when you watch the tape, you’re going to think should have, could have, would have. We should have been up 2-0 and we should have at the very least pulled a goal back to make it 2-2 – which is why I feel we deserved something out of the game. But that’s the way it falls some games, we put it behind us. Congratulations to Vancouver, they get three points and we will see them in a couples weeks and hopefully we can get three points back.”
On goalkeeper Jake Gleeson:
“I mean obviously when there is a new goalkeeper and he is under the microscope, you know he made some big saves last game and some big saves today. I actually thought his response is what you want to see when we have such a young goalkeeper. You want to see them respond to mistakes. I thought, down 2-1, on a couple set pieces he was outstanding, and that’s what you want to see. The mistakes always get magnified and there will be more mistakes. You look at the best goalkeepers in this league and they make mistakes. Usually there is a mistake that leads to the goal. He knows he could have done better on it, he’s a good guy and I’m sure he feels bad for that goal. I liked his response and he will move on from it. He’ll continue to make saves and there will be some more mistakes down the road and the microscope will be less visible as the time goes on.”
On the second half of the game and sitting back rather than possessing more:
“I think part of it is tactical and part of it is when you are on the road obviously, you know the opponent is going to push and we were very good in transition. Like I said, if we are a little bit better on the counter and in that final play, I mean you look back probably four or five clear chances that should have been goals. The only way you can get those counters is if you absorb a little bit, but I also do think that we can be better at our passing game as well, so it’s a little bit of both.”
On the Whitecaps changing dynamics since last season:
“Well it’s not my team and it’s not my job to talk about them, Vancouver. I have a lot of respect for the club, and I have a lot of respect for Carl. We have some great battles with their team, I think similar to us, they’re trying to figure it out a little bit like most teams in this league [to] develop a continuity, consistency, top line up, top system, and the best way game plan wise to approach home and away, because it does change things. A lot of it too is just getting results and confidence. We had a pretty good run, seven point points in the last three games. We drop points today, but hopefully we can get on another good run, and that’s what this league’s about. Getting on a good run, last year for us we got on a run and we settled on a good line-up, made a few tweaks. Carl has been able to figure things out on the long haul and I’m confident that he will do it again.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Yeah, obviously disappointed, being up a goal. We were obviously thinking that we can go and get a result that we wanted. But, that’s football. We didn’t put away our chances at the start of the second half, and we got punished for it. So, it’s a tough one to take but we have to try and quickly forget about it, as we have to go on the road again on Wednesday at Dallas.”
On how the team felt about the defensive performance:
“I think they (Vancouver) played very well. You know, let’s not take anything away from Vancouver. They played very well and slipped inside a lot and got a lot of shots away. I don’t think that they had too many clear opportunities, but they certainly did well and worked the ball very well. We were defending for a lot of the game, but I think we played very well. It’s just something to take on to Dallas.”
On moving on from tonight’s match:
“We will learn and move on. I think that’s the big thing, you know to show a turnaround before we play Dallas. You can’t dwell on it too much, it’s one of those things that happens, you don’t want it to happen but it does, it happens to everyone so it’s how you react, I think that’s the big thing. For me it’s learning from it, moving forward, being more consistent and putting it behind me before Dallas comes on Wednesday.”
On the winning goal:
“I think I was just caught leaning forward a little bit, I wasn’t seeing whether he (Perez) was going to head the ball or not. It’s just one of those ones where I’ve just got to see it and hope for the ball to come to me, not get caught moving. It’s a simple ball, a ball I’ve caught a thousand times before but you know it’s just one those things, it happens and it’s how you respond. I think that’s the big thing.”
On Portland’s defence during the match:
“I think, you know, just getting back into it, getting the back four back into it. Playing with the same back four and everything every game will help, and obviously we don’t want to give up as many chances as we do, but at the same time, you know, it’s my job to keep the ball out of the back of the net and today I didn’t do that, so.”
On the team’s reaction to the loss:
“We can’t get too down about it, obviously we would have loved to pick up three points, at least a tie away. You know, it’s unfortunate, I think we deserved something out of that game. But it’s a really quick turnaround, we’ve got to move forward, travelling tomorrow, going to Dallas, you know, so it’s a bit down but I mean the team is really upbeat regardless, you know, so for us it’s right on to Dallas.”
On whether or not it was difficult playing for Portland in BC Place for the first time:
“Not really. I mean I enjoyed my four years playing in Vancouver and in general life takes you places that sometimes you don’t know. Obviously I have a lot of past teammates here and I really enjoy those guys, but for me, I am on the Timbers now and I’m happy to be here, so that’s good.”
On whether transition to Portland was easier due to college years under coach Porter:
“Most definitely, I would say. I’ve known Caleb for I want to say six, seven years and the guys from Akron, and a couple of Jamaican guys here so the transition was much easier. All those things add up. I really enjoyed my four years in Vancouver, but now I’m with the Timbers.”