There were no goals and very little thrills in a fairly calm Cascadia Cup clash in Portland on Saturday night. Another clean sheet for Vancouver Whitecaps in the 0-0 draw, making it just one goal conceded now in five road games this season. Incredible stuff.
Vancouver rode their luck as Portland missed a penalty, but the ‘Caps defence was relatively untroubled throughout.
Here’s our match report and postgame reaction from both locker rooms.
Vancouver Whitecaps survived a first half penalty award and a near miss against Portland Timbers on Saturday evening to come away with a 0-0 draw that moves them in to a four-way tie at the top of the MLS standings.
It was a game that saw both defences come out on top, as a familiarity with each other’s game saw the team cancel each other out on the night and kept clear cut chances to a minimum.
It was all change at the full back position for Vancouver with the unpredictable Ethen Sampson coming in for Steven Beitashour, who picked up a glute injury midweek. Jordan Harvey came in to add a bit of experience on the left side for Sam Adekugbe.
With the influential Matias Laba suspended, Gershon Koffie and Russell Teibert shared the defensive midfield duties.
Both teams cancelled each other out in the early going, with Vancouver having time to knock the ball about and Portland trying to get things going up their left wing to target Sampson.
With not much to write home about, Portland were given a great chance to open the scoring in the 28th minute when the linesman flagged for a penalty after the Alvas Powell’s cross had struck Pa Modou Kah’s elbow in the box.
After much protests, the ‘Caps breathed a sigh of relief when Darlington Nagbe crashed his spot kick off the right post, after David Ousted had been sent the wrong way.
Portland had another great chance to break the deadlock in the 32nd minute when Maxi Urruti ended up in the back of the net instead of the ball, whole trying to get on the end of a Rodney Wallace cross.
But that was pretty much it for the half and the second continued in much the same vein, with both teams trying to freshen things up with some subs.
The Caps had a couple of great balls into the box that went begging midway through the half and Jack Jewsbury hit a low shot straight at Ousted in the 72nd minute.
Portland looked the team more likely to win it, as Vancouver delivered some good crosses but the final ball was simply not there.
Valeri fired a shot wide left in the 77th minute as the home side pushed for a winner.
There was to be no breakthrough for either side. The ‘Caps will be happy to come away with a point after failing to offer much attacking threat but putting in a solid defensive shift.
The point takes Vancouver back into a share of the lead at the top of the table but they’re going to have to play a lot better to stay there in the busy schedule to come.
FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 0 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
PORTLAND: Adam Kwarasey; Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villareal; Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Jack Jewsbury, Rodney Wallace (Gaston Fernandez 78), Ishmael Yartey (Diego Valeri 52); Maxi Urruti (Fanendo Adi 65) [Subs Not Used: Andrew Weber, Norberto Paparetto, Jeanderson, George Fochive]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Ethen Sampson (Tim Parker 88), Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Russell Teibert, Gershon Koffie, Mauro Rosales (Nicolas Mezquida 78), Pedro Morales, Darren Mattocks (Kekuta Manneh 57); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Deybi Flores, Cristian Techera, Robert Earnshaw]
Good performance, some luck on their side or a bit of both>
“I’d say a bit of both. A very professional, disciplined, away performance. That’s five times we’ve been away from home now and conceded one goal. A lot of positives, a lot of strong work from the back four especially. Defensively, fantastic. Attacking-wise, we didn’t really click tonight, which was disappointing because I felt that there gaps that we could exploit. We huffed and puffed and the longer the game went on they were getting a little bit more desperate, which opened up space for us, but we didn’t execute the transitions that we’re so good at.”
Some of Pedro’s passes and others poor and others had no-one on end of them:
“I think he put one or two excellent crosses in which we should maybe have had someone on the end of but what I stress to this group in there is that we’re young and we’re building and if you have an off day attacking-wise, you don’t have an off day defensive-wise. What that means is you roll your sleeves up. You scrap, you fight, you kick and you run, and you do what’s right for the team. That group in there did that today.”
Is it a case of teams being too familiar with each other?:
“Prior to the game, Caleb [Porter[ had said, I had said, I know what they’re about, they know what we’re about. It’s who performs on the day. Today, my back four performed, my attacking side of the team probably didn’t execute final passes like we usually do. He’ll probably say the same. Hopefully we’ll only see them once more this year. Or maybe a few more in the playoffs because they are a good team, let me tell you that.”
On Portland’s penalty:
“At the time I didn’t think it was a penalty. I was stood right behind it. It seemed to hit his leg and then his arm and then his elbow. I don’t know. Sometimes they’re given, sometimes they’re not. Referees have a hard enough time as it is. Last thing I’m going to do is disagree. If they score the penalty I might be standing saying something different!”
Another adventure for Pa Modou Kah. Time for a rest?:
“At certain times I will give him a rest as he’s getting on a little bit but I thought he was outstanding today. He was up for the physical battle. Him and Kendall today, I can’t fault them and I won’t fault them. He’s a very important player for us in this young group and you don’t underestimate players that bring experience to the table. He certainly does that. I look around the league with centre backs. Reasons that some players are in this league is that sometimes things don’t work out for them or they make mistakes and things like that. If not, they’d be at Chelsea and even they make mistakes.”
Was he tempted to sub out Ethen Sampson after he picked up early yellow card?:
“Yes, I was, but I thought he done well. Throwing a kid in in this environment, in a match that matters this much to both teams, to both sets of fans. In this atmosphere. I’m not fearful of doing that because I have faith in my young players. He tackles. He loves a tackle. Unfortunately he mistimed that one and he’s had to play with a little bit of discipline after that. He picked up a little bit of cramp at the end. Timmy Parker made his debut today. Delighted for him. He looked very solid and composed and won a few aerial battles near the end. It was a good day at the office for us.”
Update on Steven Beitashour’s injury:
“He’s got a gluteus maximus. I call it a little strain in his bum cheek, but I don’t think that’s the right way to say it! I did say arse cheek but I’m not allowed to say arse cheek, so bum cheek, but now it’s gluteus maximus.”
Is it a case of teams being too familiar with each other?:
“Yeah you can say that. It seemed that today it was going to take something special to break the tie. Today it was the defences that were better than the offenses. I think that’s why it was nil-nil today.”
Overall team performance:
“I thought we did well. A good clean sheet here, a good point. Happy with a good performance. We might have been able to get a few more chances, keep the ball a little bit more but overall a very good point.”
On strong defensive showing:
“I thought the back four were outstanding today. The two guys in the center we know how they are. Rock solid. I thought they did very well.”
Is he taking credit for Darlington Nagbe’s penalty miss?!:
“Of course! Of course, I’m a keeper. Always! In five games you won’t remember and I’ll just say I saved it!
On overall performance
“I thought it was a nice performance from us. We felt the pressure of the other team obviously, but we stayed calm. We tried to do our best. We didn’t concede any goals so that good. We know this point is good for us.
On strong defensive showing:
“We tried to be compact, the back four and the midfielders. We tried to stick together because we know the type of players they have. Every time that we stay calm and we play together, everything go good.”
On the bet with Vancouver Sun’s Gary Kingston that he couldn’t go three games without getting a card:
“He got to pay me $100 because he told me it was impossible that I wouldn’t go three games without a yellow card. So I told him, ok, let’s bet.”
His assessment of tonight’s game:
“I thought we played well, I thought we played to win. We were aggressive. I was really pleased on the defensive side. I thought we were able to manage them on the counter. You could say this is an easy game to defend in, I think it’s a really hard game to defend in. Sometimes when you have the ball and you’re up the field, you’re most vulnerable and Vancouver has played this exact way on the road and gotten results by opening teams up on the counter. We knew that was going to be crucial. I thought our discipline in the back was outstanding. We didn’t give them, over 90 minutes, very many looks on goal, especially in the transition I thought we were balanced and really disciplined. I’m really pleased on that side of things. Same thing on set pieces – we knew that was something that was going to be important. Part of this game, those were the two things we felt they would look to do and I thought we defended those areas, those moments, very well. We also knew that we would have to have some quality in the final third to break down their numbers. They’re organized, very good at cutting out crosses. They are a tough team to breakdown. I thought possession-wise, build-up wise, we were very good. I thought we created enough to score. You are not going to create a ton when a team sits like they did, but we created enough to score. Obviously, the penalty kick, a few other moments, Maxi’s header [Maximiliano Urruti], [Diego] Valeri had one and few others where we were in position to score. We probably could have created more. Our final ball at times could have been better, crosses, our ability to push guys through, spring guys in, but again we created enough to score, and we can’t be satisfied over 90 minutes not finding a goal.”
On Diego Valeri’s return tonight:
“Couldn’t have come at a better time. We are struggling to score goals. Like I said, it’s not for lack of the ball and having chances. Sometimes you have to look at organization. But it’s not for lack of being in position. It’s not for lack of anything other than in the moment, being ruthless, being clinical, being clever. At halftime, I said to the guys, you are going to score a goal in one of four ways. You are going to score off a long build-up, which rarely happens. Vancouver plays those odds. They let you have the ball a bit. But you are going to score on a long build-up sequence, maybe it’s switch of play. Maybe it’s a combination, the nine off the 10 and you spring a guy, you work on these things every week. A two-v-one with the outside backs getting forward and getting a cross in. Or you are going to score off a set piece, which we had a lot of set pieces. Or you are going to score on the counter, so when they do have the ball, which they didn’t have much, they were smart with managing the game and not getting their lines up the field much. I felt like if they did we could open them up on the counter. Or we were going to score off our pressure and being able to turn them over, and we didn’t find a goal in any of those moments. For me in looking at the game we can’t be satisfied not finding a goal in the 90 minutes. What we have shown in nine games playing the top four teams in the West and Vancouver twice, that’s five of the games, and if you look at the total table it’s the top four out of the seven, we’ve played in the first nine games. In none of the games have we been overmatched. We have been in every game. Our spirit has been good, our chemistry has been good, our mentality has been good. We’ve defended overall really well, but where we have fallen short is finding goals consistently. To have Valeri back will help a lot because if you look at his production for us, he’s had the lion’s share of our production over the last several years. So that’s probably a big reason why we haven’t scored. How would Seattle play if Dempsey’s out? LA’s managing a little bit with Robbie Keane, but you look at every week it’s interesting. I look at the score of the game in MLS and then I look at the box score and a lot of times I don’t even need to look at the box score because I know who is going to be on it with certain teams. You are going to start seeing Valeri on that box score and some of the others when they step up.”
On the penalty kick:
“I was proud of Darlington [Nagbe] stepping up and taking the penalty. I’ve known the kid since he was 14 years old and he never wants to take penalty kicks, ever. So while I was disappointed that he missed the penalty kick he took responsibility to step up and take it. That’s a good sign because we are going to need him to continue to take responsibility to score goals. He knows that if he is going to take it he needs to make it, but I think that’s a really good sign because he’s going to be another guy that has to chip in more for us to win games.”
On how to improve finishing:
“Training and repetition. We did a lot last week with getting around goal every day. We are working on attacking movement, some of it unopposed, so you can gain that automatic, where you are confident. Then you have to add an opposition as well. So there is a little bit a balance there in how you train it. We’ve never had any trouble scoring goals. Even last year we started a little slow, but obviously the first two years, the two years I’ve been here, we’ve been top three in the league in goals scored and we’ve done it by committee. I’m confident it will come and like I said if you look at the 4-2-3-1 system and the 4-3-3, you play that system because you have a 10 that chips in assists and goals. We’ve kind of built this system around Valeri and we’ve gotten production from at times the wingers and of course the strikers, there have been a couple of guys we’ve played there. Maxi and [Fanendo] Adi rotated at times last year. The d-mids chip in every once in awhile and the center backs help on set pieces, here and there. So we’ve done it by committee. If you don’t have a guy like Valeri you are going to sputter a little bit more.”
On the decision to start Urruti over Adi
“Just trying to find the hot hand. The other thing is tactical. They are different in their tendencies. We knew Vancouver was going to play a physical game and we knew [Kendall] Waston and [Pa Modou] Kah like that game. They are up for that game. They want to play that game. They want to bang. You saw that Waston came to life even more when Adi went in the game. He loves that. So we felt to play a little bit more technical and tactical group to try to use movement and pressing at times. So I felt Maxi could turn Kah and Waston over a little bit maybe create off that and use Maxi’s movement to bring Darlington into the game and create combinations, but also he seems to lengthen the field a bit more. It’s not that one is better than the other, they’re different. Just like if the defenders make a mistake that’s part of their job to stop goals. The strikers have to score goals. They know that. We are at home. We have the ball 65 percent of the time. The toughest thing to do in a game is find a goal when a team sits back and is organized. And like I’ve said they’ve ‘smashed and grabbed’ results on the road, I think it’s three times. The positive is we didn’t give up the goal, and it’s not easy because when a team plays like that sometimes you get impatient and you lose your discipline. That’s what they are waiting for. But somehow we have to find a goal; whether it’s individual quality or collective quality, we have to find a goal.”
On how he’s feeling after a long rehab:
“I am feeling good. I’m really happy about that. I just try to help the team. We couldn’t find the result, the three points, but the feelings are good because we played well. We know the way to get points is this [playing well].”
On how he feels after his first minutes back on the field:
“A little bit tired, a little bit tired. It’s normal. It’s my first 40 minutes in a game, which is nothing. I was focused in the game. The way we play, that helped me, because we just attack all game, trying to find the goal. Like I said, I’m a little bit tired but happy to be back.”
On if he felt the energy from the stadium:
“Sure. I want to say thanks to the people, to our supporters, because they made me feel like home again. Hopefully, it will be a great season and our goal is to get a trophy for them.”
On the shutout and the defensive effort:
“Good. I thought we were organized and I didn’t think they had any chances. Soccer is a game of chances and they had nothing on us. That was encouraging. As it usually is against Vancouver, they don’t play the type of soccer that they’re going to create a lot, but usually when they do they can score goals. I thought we did a really good job in the back six with being organized and not giving them anything.”
On continuing to build positive results
“We’ve got to show some character here. We’ve got to continue to do the right things defensively. We got Diego Valeri back, so offensively I think it’s going to come. I think our guys are really close. We’ve got a lot of belief in them and in ourselves. In the back we can do better as well when it comes to scoring goals, I think we’re all accountable there.”
On getting Diego Valeri back in the line-up
“It was great. I’ve always wanted to play with a guy like Diego. I got to play with Javier Morales at RSL, who is a very special player. Diego is also an extremely skillful, special kind of player. You always want to play with guys like that.”