Well I’m not sure there were many that saw this one coming.
Vancouver Whitecaps headed down the I-5 to take on their in-form Cascadian rivals in Portland, putting in an exciting attacking first half performance and a resolute defensive one to come away with three huge points in a 2-1 victory at Providence Park on Saturday evening.
First half goals from Kei Kamara and Cristian Techera had the Whitecaps in wonderland at half time, benefitting from a first half penalty miss from Diego Valeri. The Argentine got a second chance from the spot in the second half, as Portland lay siege to the Vancouver goal. But they couldn’t find their equaliser and the Whitecaps came away with a huge boost to their playoff hopes.
In the middle of a heavy fixture load and the two legs of the Canadian Championship, Carl Robinson went for a mix of first team regulars and second stringers for their second Cascadia Cup clash of the season.
Some of the changes were forced with Doneil Henry breaking his wrist after an angry exchange with a wall after Wednesday’s draw against TFC, Alphonso Davies coming off in that match with a knock, and Efrain Juarez still suspended from MLS matches.
Just how attack minded the ‘Caps would be for this one was a question heading in, but the opening minutes soon made it clear that they weren’t heading to Oregon to sit back and defend and try and sneak a point or a late winner.
The early action flowed quickly, and it was Vancouver that got the breakthrough 14 minutes in when Kamara rose unchallenged at the edge of the Portland box to flick home a deep free kick from Kendall Waston, with Timbers keeper Jeff Attinella caught in no-man’s land after inexplicably committing himself and getting nowhere near the ball.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 12, 2018
The Timbers had a great chance on a corner soon after but two players got in each others way and the ball went narrowly wide.
The ‘Caps certainly had their tails up and were looking dangerous on nearly every counter. Turning that threat into anything more productive was what Vancouver were needing to do and Techera had a great opportunity to add to his team’s tally when he was played in by Nicolas Mezquida on another quick break in the 20th minute.
The Bug wanted the ball on his favoured foot and cut inside, immediately finding himself closed down when a first time shot would have been the ideal option.
Portland were pressing for the equaliser and turning up the pressure. It was leaving room for Vancouver to exploit, but the key for the ‘Caps now was to get to half time in the lead.
That looked to have gone well but then calamity seemingly struck when Waston brought down Valeri in the box, after the Argentine had played the ball away. A clear penalty and Valeri picked himself up to take it, firing wide of the left post and the ‘Caps breathed a huge sigh of relief.
That relief then turned to sheer joy when Techera doubled their lead two minutes later, heading home a perfectly placed cross from Brek Shea in a fast flowing attack.
A lovely ball from Brek Shea and a headed goal from the shortest player in @MLS.
Just how we drew it up 😂
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 12, 2018
Incredible stuff and despite some late flurries from the Timbers to end the half, the Whitecaps held firm and went in to the break with a two goal lead.
Portland’s plans of making club history with their 16th straight undefeated MLS match weren’t going to go down without a fight and they took the game to Vancouver in droves to start the second half.
The ‘Caps were bending, but not breaking, as wave after wave of Timbers attacks were launched, but some good stops from Stefan Marinovic and some mad defensive scrambling was keeping the visitor’s two goal lead intact.
The constant pressure and the number of games played recently certainly looked to be starting to take their toll, with several ‘Caps looking like they were running on fumes. Robinson responded by making subs and switching to a 5-4-1 formation to deal with the Timbers onslaught.
Portland finally got their breakthrough in the 71st minute when Sean Franklin pushed Sebastian Blanco over in the box. A second penalty of the night for the Timbers and Valeri make no mistake this time, easily firing home.
Game well and truly back on.
Portland’s pressure turned up a notch further, with Vancouver struggling to get the ball up the pitch and give their defence some respite. But they were still defending resolutely and holding on to what was looking a narrower and narrower advantage by the minute.
As those minutes ticked down, the ‘Caps were giving up cheap free kicks around their box. Valeri hit a fierce 25 yard one in the 89th minute, from which Marinovic produced a sprawling save to turn the ball away.
Seven minutes of stoppage time were added on, with the Whitecaps dark arts to kill time certainly being noticed by the ref, but despite the pressure continuing right to the end, the ‘Caps stood tall and there were jubilant scenes at the final whistle, with Felipe leading the celebrations by waving the corner flag around!
This was the win a lot of supporters needed to see. A complete team effort full of heart and fight. A team everyone can get behind, playing for the jersey and the points. There is no underplaying the massiveness of this win for Vancouver. Every point is clearly crucial in the run to the playoffs and even with a victory against their fierce rivals, they are still outwith those playoff places, albeit closing the gap to two points now on Real Salt Lake.
But all that MLS talk now goes on hold for a week. Next up for the Whitecaps is Wednesday’s Canadian Championship final second leg in Toronto. The ‘Caps will be chartering out there and will certainly need to be rested and at their freshest if they’re going to get the job done. Performances like this win in Portland certainly shows they are capable of doing just that.
FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 1 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
PORTLAND: Jeff Attinella; Alvas Powell, Larrys Mabiala, Julio Cascante, Zarek Valentin (Marco Farfan 90+1); David Guzman (Andres Flores 79), Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri; Dairon Asprilla, Samuel Armenteros (Any Pol0 46) [Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Lawrence Olum, Cristhian Paredes, Bill Poni Tuiloma]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Sean Franklin, Kendall Waston, Aaron Maund, Brett Levis (Marcel de Jong 65); Cristian Techera (Jake Nerwinski 61), Aly Ghazal, Felipe, Brek Shea; Nicolas Mezquida, Kei Kamara (Erik Hurtado 72) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, David Norman, Yordy Reyna, Anthony Blondell]
On having less possession of the ball, but still being able to win…
“One thing you can’t do with the boys in there is question their hearts. I think we saw two different halves of football today. Portland is a terrific team, with good players, and we know that they are unbeaten in 15 games, so we knew it was going to be a challenge with the rotation we had with the squad as well. In the first half, the boys handled themselves immaculately when Portland was in transition two or three times. We scored two good goals and we knew the second half was going to be different. Gio made some adjustments as he’s done most games this year and credit to him for that which causes problems. We just don’t go under, we just hang in there; we’re bending, but we don’t break, even in the last minute. Wednesday night I think it was, when we conceded in the last minute and it was tough. But, we didn’t do that today and the players deserve a load of credit. It’s great when you play against your rivals, the atmosphere is unbelievable, the intensity is unbelievable and the performance was unbelievable.”
On this being the best win Vancouver had this season…
“Possibly, I think the supporters might say it is, but when we go to Columbus and win and we go to Houston and we get good results like that, it’s always good. We’ve had some nice performances at home and it’s good whether you win one-nil at home, people might say it’s not entertaining and all that nonsense. I don’t buy into that, I keep getting told that it’s all about possession and apparently when you have lots of possession and don’t get results, it’s all about results and when you get a result, it’s all about possession.”
On using the momentum of this win going forward…
“Someone asked me that leading up to this game, and I said if you actually look at the body of work of the guys throughout the season, a lot of them probably maybe one or two home results and one or two away results. In Toronto, we went down to 10 men after five minutes, we went to KC and we were down three-nil and they scored five or six goals on us which was not nice. Our performances have actually been very good. We haven’t been blown out, I think we’ve seen top teams in this league putting four or five goals by many teams. We’ve done that once or twice to other teams, but sometimes it’s not about that, it’s about rolling your sleeves up and fighting and showing what it means to play for this football club. And I challenge them every day on a daily basis, it could end tomorrow, so you’ve got to take advantage of it. We know coming into a hostile environment, Gio has done a great job, following up from Caleb who did a great a job. We know it would be difficult for us, unbeaten in 14 or 15 games, but the boys stood firm.”
On the team’s defensive effort…
“They had a couple of penalties. I was trying to speak to Mr. Marrufo to ask him what was the difference between one and the other. We had a good conversation with that. Sometimes you get a little bit of luck. We needed a little bit of luck today. You’re not going to win here or whenever you go away from home, if you don’t get a little bit of luck. You won’t get a result. We’ve not gotten luck at certain times this year, but we have got luck at other times. Today we got a little bit of luck and we played really well, in the first half we were terrific.”
On Kei’s relationship with the team…
“I love Kei to bits. He’s had a number of clubs in the league and he’s played in Europe. Until you get to work with him, you don’t actually know what he’s like as a person. As you get to know him as a person, he’s a very colourful character. He enjoys his dancing sometimes bare naked and stuff like that. You just have to get to know him and I’ve certainly gotten to know him. He doesn’t agree with my decisions sometimes, but I’m his manager and he respects it and my job is to get the best out of him.”
Thoughts on Wednesday’s second leg v TFC. Does team get boost from this win?
“Listen, whether we can go and do it or not on Wednesday, we’ll see, but it won’t be for the lack of heart and effort.
On if this is the team’s best win of the season…
“Oh no, we’ve had a few games that’s definitely up there. Even our last game in the second half, being a man down against Toronto, it was a good fight. We went to Houston earlier in the season, disrupted their record there, we went to Columbus and did that and we did it again. But, this is not it, we’re trying to get some points to put ourselves in a playoff position and these points definitely helps.”
On the team gaining momentum…
“This is the time you need it and I hope that’s what it is because it’s the summer going into the fall and that’s when you need the points and the momentum to push you into the playoff race. We’re playing for one thing, going into preseason we knew that we wanted to make it to a cup final and that’s the position that we’re going for right now.”
On the team’s defensive effort…
“We’re playing in front of a big wall out there that supports their team and supports them very well. They give them energy and that’s what they want to do is go towards them in the second half and we knew that was going to happen. But, as you said, great defensive work from the rest of the team.”
What’s he expecting in Toronto on Wednesday:
“It’s another hostile environment going to Toronto. The game is kind of even, that’s how we look at it. Their fans are going to be behind them. They know they have the upper hand in hosting the game on Wednesday, the Cup final and all that, but we’ve done well on the road and we’re looking forward to going over there and hopefully bring back the trophy home.”
Did he know Attinella was off his line for his goal?:
“Yeah, I think I had a dream about it yesterday. When the ball was in the air I kind of heard them, they were talking. I looked at my peripherals and I kind of saw them. I was looking to play the ball across to someone else, but when I heard them coming over there, I’ve been wanting headers and I finally got one. But great win. What’s the odds that I’m going to get an assist from Kendall! Kendall playing the ball to me. He’s a great free kick taker. It’s a big win. Kudos to everyone and we’re just going to go out and enjoy it right now.”
How satisfied is he with his season so far? How is he feeling?:
“Oh right now I’m tired. I ran around so much that I’m tired. I’ve lost my voice because this team, we’ve been battling hard. There’s been a lot of games that we could have got all three points that we didn’t get. So the ups and downs are there, but going into New York and getting points and then coming here and getting these three points, it’s huge. So personally I’m happy for the rest of the guys in the locker room and whatever I can do to help the boys, that’s what we do.”
On Valeri’s penalty miss:
“I psyched him out a little bit hopefully because he usually goes that way. I thought he might change it up a little bit, but he didn’t and he missed, so that was a good relief. I would have made our job a little bit harder.”
On the great team defensive performance:
“I came into the changing room at half time and I said quite loudly and congratulated the boys on their, I hate the word effort because it sounds so you know, but their effort and their defending. Everyone put their body on the line. There was no lunging in, well apart from Kendall’s pen, haha, but it was all in all a great defensive effort from the boys. Very composed. It looked like we enjoyed the defending part of the game, which I haven’t seen in a very long time.”
What was he thinking when he saw it was 7 minutes of stoppage time?:
“I just thought come on ref, come on bud. You’ve given them a penalty that isn’t a penalty and you’ve given them seven minutes, and I was like awwww. He must have seen my interview in the middle of the week where I said when everything goes against us we play really well, so he decided to put a pen that wasn’t a pen and seven extra minutes on there. It ended up working extremely well for us. We would have been extremely peeved off if we conceded, but we looked stable. I didn’t feel like we were going to concede.”
Where does this win rank for him in his time at the club?:
“After that little bit of heartbreak last year where we played here in the last game of the season and we didn’t clinch that top spot, it feels good to get that little bit of revenge in the Cascadia Cup for that, so it feels good.”
On some argy bargy after the final whistle when someone got in his face:
“He was just trying to tell me that I wasn’t respecting the fans or something like that and tried to push and shove me, so I’m not going to be pushed around by someone that’s 5 foot 6, so I’m going to stand my ground.”
What does he expect from the team now for Wednesday’s Canadian Championship final second leg:
“I personally hope more of the same. Some of the players that played today won’t play on Wednesday, but there’s players who just had today off or come back refreshed, hopefully seen the effort that the boys all put in today, all 11 men and the subs, and couple on to that hopefully and produce a similar type of performance.”
General thoughts on the match…
“I thought that first of all we started the match the way we wanted. We opened the match with a diamond. We went with something different. A more attacking-minded team. In the first half maybe some of our mistakes they were able to capitalize and score the two goals. And I thought the second half was all us. We gave everything that we had in the second half. We scored a goal. We couldn’t get back into it. Credit to Vancouver. They came in with a plan. They executed. They were able to get the goals that they needed in the first half. Taking advantage of our mistakes and then second half they defended. They defended everything that we threw at them, which was a lot, and they got an important victory.”
On his thought process dealing with a team that was going bunker in…
“We thought we had to open up the game. They were very solid in the back. With [Andy] Polo and [Sebastián] Blanco higher we were able to have more mobility and we were able to find more space. We became more dangerous. We brought our lines higher and also then they defended. They went five in the back. We had more space, but they dealt very well with the crosses. We tried everything that we could. Maybe something there we could have gotten a little bit more, which maybe the referee said too many PKs, and maybe that one he could have given. We will have to see. We tried everything that we could. And credit also to Vancouver because they found the two goals and they made it very difficult on us.”
On attacking their right side and the motivations behind that decision…
“As I said we took an approach from the beginning of the game and having Blanco a little bit more in the line of three, that way he could find the space going forward. And then we decided to make the substitution because of the situation, but also because Polo gave us a different width to find more space and he became very dangerous for the entire second half with Blanco a little bit closer getting in the box. I thought that we did a lot better. We were finding more space. We gave them a lot more problems on both sides because Alvas [Powell] from one side and Polo and Zarek [Valentin] just giving a little bit more support from behind. And we just missed on the goal because I thought we did everything right in the second half.”
On the first time experiencing defeat at Providence Park…
“Of course you don’t want to lose. You want to win every match, especially at home. But also you have to know that at some time, or some moment, a defeat is going to come. I think the most important part is how we react to this defeat. That will make the character of the team that we are. I think today, the guys in the second half, we gave everything that we had. We have to learn from the mistakes we made in the first half, but we knew that something could happen because we opened the game. We opened the game today and they found a way to be able to score two goals.”
On what he says to the team to help them shake off the mistakes and the loss and move forward…
“If you don’t make mistakes, you know, soccer’s not perfect. We’ve been very good. So I think we have to expect in some moments we are going to make mistakes. I think it’s that we cannot think about those mistakes. We have to learn from them. We have to make sure we rebound right away from it and understand right away what we did right and what we did wrong. But we have to manage also the fact we are human, we are going to make mistakes. We have to now just keep on working and support each other. I make mistakes. They players will make mistakes. The less that we can make the better, and even though we made those mistakes we were able to have a great second half. We just have to make sure we learn from those situations that happened today.”
On the team’s performance in the second half…
“The reaction and the chances we created were really good. We dominated them because we played most of the second half in their half and created a lot of chances. We missed a lot, and that’s why we lost the game.”
On how Vancouver took the lead…
“They were very effective in the first half. When I missed the penalty kick and they scored their second goal right [after], that benefitted them in the way they wanted to play. They kicked the ball forward. They didn’t even look for a teammate, but that’s OK. That’s the way they think they will get points. They did it today, but if we were a little bit more precise in some moments we could have tied or won the game.”
On the team’s two-match road trip…
“It’s good. Two hard games against D.C. United and Sporting Kansas City, but it’s a challenge for us. We’ll need everyone involved for it and we think we’re ready to play good games, perform and win both games.”
On the team’s first loss in 15 games…
“It’s a tough one to swallow, but the good thing about how our schedule is laid out is that is that we can make up for it on Wednesday. I’m sure not a lot of guys are going to sleep tonight, but it’s about shaking it off and getting ready for the next one.”
On Kei Kamara’s goal in the first half…
“We watched a lot of film, so I knew the ball was going to Kei. It was a little overeager on my part because I wanted to come out and try to help that cross and do what I can to try and win that ball, but those are the types of things that happen. I misread it. He got up there, won the ball and unfortunately for me I was out of the net. For me, it’s a good learning experience. Unfortunately tonight, the guys couldn’t battle back for me, but I think we left everything on the field in the second half and that says a lot.”
On the team’s streak being snapped…
“Winning is obviously contagious and everyone was pretty excited about the streak we were on. It was a good run, but at the end of the day streaks come to an end, but it’s about the next one and getting another one going.”