Report and Reaction: Timbers win the West as Mattocks makes Whitecaps pay for inability to get job done

Report and Reaction: Timbers win the West as Mattocks makes Whitecaps pay for inability to get job done

Unable to capture the Western Conference’s top spot the week before, Vancouver Whitecaps had another chance to make history down in Portland on Sunday afternoon. Once again, they failed.

Just to add salt into a very raw and gaping wound, the man that did the ultimate damage was former Whitecap Darren Mattocks, as the Timbers fought back from being a goal behind to come away with the 2-1 win.

The two Cascadian rivals exchanged first half goals, with defenders Kendall Waston and Liam Ridgewell scoring for their clubs, before the Jamaican fired Portland ahead just three minutes into the second half, for what proved to by the decisive goal.

Portland almost opened the scoring in the opening twenty minutes with a couple of their attempts being blocked and a shot from Darlington Nagbe just missing the far top corner, as they launched wave after wave of attack.

Vancouver’s defence bent but did not break, and it was to be the ‘Caps who would open up the scoring just before the half hour mark when Kendall Waston rose unchallenged to powerfully head in a Yordy Reyna free kick.

The ‘Caps lead was to last only three minutes, and Liam Ridgewell tied things up when he converted a poorly parried ball by Stefan Marinovic, off a curling shot from Darlington Nagbe.

It was a poor goal for Vancouver to concede and Marinovic will know he needs to be much more assertive when dealing with balls in like that.

The Timbers almost took the lead soon after off a counterattack, but the shot from Sebastian Blanco from inside the box sailed over the net.

Blanco also came close in injury time during a scramble in the box only to be denied off the line by defender Jake Nerwinski.

The second half couldn’t have started better for the home side with Mattocks being set up for an easy goal with Marinovic getting pulled away from goal. The ball came to the striker in front of goal and he drilled home the go ahead goal through Waston and Parker on the ‘Caps line.

It was another poor goal to give up by the ‘Caps defence and their dreams of a first round playoff bye were starting to fall apart.

There were a number of chances, especially by Blanco, for the Timbers to double their lead but they were unable to convert, give the Whitecaps hope that they could still pull something out of the match.

With less than five minutes to go Vancouver came close during a scramble in the opposing box only to see it cleared away. Then after coming on as a sub, Fredy Montero attempted a strike from distance that was easily smothered by Jeff Antinella, when there were far better options available to him on a four man ‘Caps break.

And that was to be all she wrote. With the loss, the Whitecaps finished the regular season in third spot. They now head into the playoffs and face last week’s opponents San Jose Earthquakes, who squeaked into the final postseason spot with a dramatic stoppage time winner.

Have they used up all their luck or will that give them the massive boost they’re looking for going into the do or die games?

That match will take place at BC Place on Wednesday night. An one game knockout round with the winner moving on to the Western Conference Semi-Final against Seattle. Third time lucky for Vancouver in getting a job done?

FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 2 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 21,144

PORTLAND: Jeff Attinella; Alvas Powell, Larry Mabiala, Liam Ridgewell, Vytautas Andriuskevicius; Diego Chara, David Guzmán; Sebastián Blanco (Dairon Asprilla 84), Diego Valeri (Lawrence Olum 90+5), Darlington Nagbe; Darren Mattocks (Jeremy Ebobisse 87) [Substitutes not used: Jake Gleeson, Roy Miller, Zarek Valentin, Jack Barmby]

VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Christian Bolaños (Cristian Techera 67), Aly Ghazal, Nosa Igiebor (Erik Hurtado 73), Brek Shea; Yordy Reyna, Bernie Ibini (Fredy Montero 56) [Substitutes not used: David Ousted, Andrew Jacobson, Nicolás Mezquida, Marcel de Jong]

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

CARL ROBINSON

Thoughts on the game…

“I’m obviously disappointed for the guys, but they shouldn’t be disappointed in there because our body of work is 34 games a season and we finished third by one point. We can all say we should’ve done this or could have done that, but every team does that. For us to be just fallen short in the last game it shows how far we’ve come, so we’ll take that as a positive.”

If there is concern over how Vancouver has played over the last month…

“No. I thought we went toe-to-toe with Portland today and they’re a good team. They won MLS two years ago and they’ve strengthened since then.”

On getting the first goal, but not getting momentum…

“The game probably panned out as I thought it might do. It was a tactical battle. We got ahead on a great set piece and great header by Kendall [Waston] and then we gave up a bad goal. After the goal they were on top for the next 15 minutes, it was important to get to halftime. At halftime you adjust a few things and we come back in the second half and say ‘start strong’ and then we concede. I talk to these guys on a daily basis and it’s, ‘focus and details and mentality’. If you don’t get your details right, it bites you in the backside – it did and they’re a good team. When they’re ahead they can change how they play. Last 20 minutes I thought my guys put in a real shift to try and get that equalizer, but ball wouldn’t fall for us.”

On how the team handled playing in a difficult environment…

“Great. The team I put out, a few were terrific and a few that could have performed a little bit better. I thought Nosa was outstanding, Aly Ghazal as well. A lot of positives to take. Yeah I’m disappointed, no spin on it. Over the season we’ve just fallen short, we have to accept that. Should be proud. The club should be proud.”

On if there’s a goalkeeper dilemma heading into playoffs:

“There’s no goalkeeper situation. It’s a team situation. Every position I have players are fighting for positions.”

FREDY MONTERO

Thoughts on the result…

“Tough one. We came here looking for one point or the victory, unfortunately it wasn’t enough. We came up short with one goal.”

On the fact that the season comes down to one game during the middle of the week…

“That’s the statement that we’re all going to be talking about during the three or four days that we have before the next game. Since day one, we were looking for the playoffs and now we’re here and we start over again.”

KENDALL WASTON

On the effort of the team…

“I think the effort was there, we did a good effort, but we have to finish the plays. Scoring is the only way to win, and today Portland got the opportunities and they got the tempo of the game. They were not as sharp at the beginning of the first half, I think in the second half Portland got it. Now we have to lift our heads up and try to see that the next game is a final that we have to win.”

On meeting San Jose again…

“We have another opportunity to face San Jose again, to get in the semifinals. That is a nice opportunity, that everyone is fighting from the beginning of the season to get there, and now we have another opportunity and hopefully we can take it.”

On new players in the lineup today…

“I think Nosa especially, was his first game. I think he did it excellent. He was getting on the ball, making contact, all the stuff he has to do. He’s used to playing in those situations, everybody has grown and in these big games we have to step up.”
 
PORTLAND TIMBERS

CALEB PORTER

On finishing atop the West and having the first-round bye…

“Thirty-four games is a long season. For us to be – after 34 games, nine-and-a-half months – top of the West, says everything about the group I have in the locker room. The quality they have. We did it with different guys as well, but we earned it and we deserved it. We started out of the gates strong. We were top of the league for the first two months then we went through a lull because we had a bunch of injuries and that’s when we needed to go to the bench and those guys stepped up. They got the job done. Got enough points. And then at the end when we got healthier – we still aren’t 100 percent – our form and playing the football that we want to play came back and you see it. At home in the last six games, we are 6-0 and in every one of those games we’ve played with an attacking-oriented style and had the ball and pressed and created very good goals, and that’s the way we want to play. And when we do that we are a tough team to beat. I’m real proud of the guys to earn the No. 1 seed; doesn’t ensure anything, but that’s a real good accomplishment. That’s the first season. That’s done. Now the second season is up and we’ve got five games to win a cup and we are going to take them one at a time and you will see just as hungry a group, trust me.”

On the importance of a response after they scored the first goal…

“Obviously the first thing I thought about after this win was the playoffs and I’m already thinking about that, but it is important because you spend so much time for nine-and-half months fighting for a place in the playoffs and in a position of strength with the top seed, that you do need to sit back and reflect for an hour or so after nine-and-a-half months of hard work, but my mind is already on playoffs and trying to win the next game and setting up the second leg here, because we know we will be on the road first leg. My point is I’m already thinking about mistakes and things I want to correct and at this point, giving up the goal to [Kendall] Waston there is no mystery that’s how they win a lot of games and we worked on it all week. It comes down to individual matchups. He’s the toughest guy, I think, in the league to handle on an individual matchup. He made a good play there. Credit to him. What I liked about my group is they gave us their best punch and we didn’t flinch. We came right back and leveled it. The start of the second half you saw how badly we wanted to win this game. I thought our best period of play was the first 10 minutes of the second half. I Would have liked to see us score the third goal, we had plenty of chances, good chances to do that. That would have made it much easier. So those are a couple of things we need to address when we get to the playoffs.”

On whether the team has flown under the radar this season…

“I don’t care. I don’t care if people talk about us. I really don’t care. I might have cared my first year. I do my job. I care about my guys. I don’t sometimes know how people don’t see some of the things I’m seeing, but it doesn’t matter to me. I see it. They see it. We will just keep going about our business. I don’t care if websites talk about us or rate us. We are a good team. We know that. We proved that over 34 games and we’ve proved that with a lot of different guys in the lineup and I think we are playing some good football. Some of the little combinations that we create and the passing sequences, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. We know also no one remembers 10 years from now who was first in the West. So we get that, but I do want to acknowledge that accomplishment because that’s quite an accomplishment to be the team standing at the end of a tough 34-game season. We also know we will be defined on the next five games, starting with the first game of the series.”

On if there was anything Vancouver did that surprised him…

“I think the way they played was par for the course. I think one of the things I respect about Vancouver and Carl [Robinson] is he gets his guys doing certain things and they do it well. It’s three things and we worked on it all week. That’s the counterattack. That’s crosses and set pieces and then they are tough team to break down. Our preparation was 80 percent on how we can break them down, and it wasn’t easy, but we found one goal from the run of play and one goal we manufactured off a set piece. We knew that would be important. The other things were going to be stopping the counter, which I thought we were excellent. I didn’t think they had very many counterattacks. Stopping crosses, which I thought we dealt with well especially late and then stopping set pieces, which we failed in the one moment. Other than that I thought the game was similar to what we thought it would be and I thought we executed very well. And honestly a little bit more luck coming from their end at the end and they get a draw, and you know these are the fine lines. I’d say the only surprise was [Bernie] Ibini playing center striker. I think that was the first time they have done that all year.”

On why Diego Valeri should be MVP…

“I think he’s the best player in the league this season over 34 games. I think when you also factor in Fanendo Adi has been out 10 games for us, he’s had to carry a lot of the load. Valeri] scored in nine straight games and he did that in a time where we needed him to step up because we had a lot of injuries and in a lot of ways that period put is in the position that we are in and might have saved the season because we had a lot of adversity and a lot injuries. For me, I credit the entire team, the depth. But Listen, he’s the one on the scoresheet, scoring a lot of those goals, and if we don’t get those goals we don’t get points and then we are on the outside looking in. We always knew at the end of the year when we got healthy our form was going to come back but what he has meant to our team over the regular season and just the quality. And his production. I don’t even know if I need to sell him. Look at the production. He’s the guy that scored 20 goals and 11 assists on the best team in the West.”

On looking back on 2015 and the run to MLS Cup and what’s the same and what’s different…

“I think the big difference is we started really well and you saw right off the bat the type of team we had. I think the reason we’ve flown a little bit under the radar is we had couple-month run where we had to figure out how to win games with a lot of different guys. I’ve always said you have to do that, you have to adapt. The quality of the football in some of those games wasn’t what it was to start the year when we had everybody healthy, but you can’t say that about the last period of play because the quality of football has been there now, back to really what it was to start the year. So I think that’s the big difference. We’ve been above the red line all season long. Never once below the red line and we’ve been near the top at the start and at the end. Obviously that year in 15 we had to win our last three games to even get in, so I think that’s the big difference. This team plays a lot different, too. That team was much more of a counterattacking team and we had some different personnel. This team is definitely more of a team that wants to score goals. Leading the West in scoring. We like to go at teams in different ways than that team. Have the ball in the front half. We keep the ball a bit better than that team. Those are some of the differences.”

On where this recent run of form ranks among the other runs during his tenure…

“Well I think when you look at the home games in particular. Six games and six wins. Pretty convincing, in terms of how we attack and the threat we have. These guys wanted to score in that second half. They wanted to win. I want to see that cloned a little bit more over the course of a game. That killer instinct, but we are closing out games a lot better and we are scoring goals. We are giving up a few still, but not as much. Much tighter. I don’t know how it compares, but I think in my five years we are playing as good of football as any team we’ve had here.”

LIAM RIDGEWELL

On what his game-tying goal did for the team’s confidence…

“I think that was big, scoring an equalizer before we went in at halftime. We felt we played OK in the first half and deserved a goal. It’s disappointing to concede how we did, but it’s good to get the goal and go in at the break 1-1.”

On the physical battle against Vancouver…

“It’s always a physical game against Vancouver. I think it’s something you expect. They’ve got some big boys and they like to get in amongst it. You’ve just got to embrace it, enjoy it and try and give it back every time.”

On finishing at the top of the Western Conference…

“It’s been a very long, hard season for everybody. It was a great game today. To get the No. 1 seed is obviously a massive thing. It gives us a break during the week and it gives us confidence going into the next game in the playoffs to make something happen.”

On the motivation of the group heading into the playoffs…

“We’re very motivated. I think you can feel it. Everybody is buzzing. There’s a lot of confidence flowing through the team. Even a goal down, we showed we can come back from that. We’re all looking forward to it.”

On winning Cascadia Cup in front of the home fans…

“It’s obviously a big deal. I didn’t know too much about it before I got here, but you understand. It’s obviously win the game, get first place and then holding that cup in front of them means a lot. It was something special in the end.”

On the team’s defense down the stretch…

“It’s been difficult. We’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of people coming in and out. In 2015, I think we had the same continuity of players, playing together week in and week out. You understand each person’s weakness and strengths. It’s been good so far and we want to carry that on to the playoffs.”

DARREN MATTOCKS

On clinching the top seed in the Western Conference after this afternoon’s result…

“It’s massive. That was one of our goals for the season to try and win the West. Coming down to the last game of the season, we wouldn’t have scripted it any other way, especially against a Cascadia team. It’s amazing.”

On the team’s response after Vancouver scored first…

“I think they’re good on set pieces, especially [Kendall] Waston, but we were never worried. With our style of play, we knew we going to get chances and we found two.”

On the team clinching home advantage in the playoffs…

“I think we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We’ve been excellent at home. That’s going to continue. That’s massive in this league with home games. It doesn’t change what we’re going to do. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing because it’s been successful so far.

On scoring the game-winning goal…

“It’s good. For me, whatever it takes to help the team to win offensively or defensively. Sometimes it doesn’t always come off, but I’m always out there giving my best. I’m fortunate to get a goal tonight. It’s massive.”

On his play since being inserted into the starting lineup…

“I always know what I’m capable of doing. Sometimes you just need a run of games to get your confidence up to get playing with the guys and to get the chemistry going. Over a period of eight, nine games I just keep getting better and better and keep creating more chances for the team and getting the goal tonight. Hopefully this continues.”

On playing in his first playoff game with the Timbers…

“It’s massive. I think this is my third time in the playoffs and first with the Timbers, so I’m really excited. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing. Nothing changes. We just need to win our games and get results.”

DIEGO VALERI

On the team’s performance in today’s win over Whitecaps FC…

“We are a team. I’m very happy about Liam [Ridgewell] and Darren [Mattocks] contributing with the goals, but it was a team effort. There was good teamwork today. It wasn’t easy. Vancouver is a good team and a strong team too. We knew we wanted to win Cascadia Cup too.”

On heading into the playoffs…

“The regular season is done and now comes the most important part…the trophy. We all know that, we will rest and prepare for the next game. We don’t know yet who we’re going to play, but now starts another tournament.”

On dealing with the physical play from Vancouver…

“It wasn’t easy. The first part of the game, they were very tight. The defenders were fighting with fouls and tackles. We knew that and I think we played a good first half. We deserved more. As much as we could, we put the ball on the floor and tried to move it quick. In the second half, we managed it much better.”

On why the team plays better in the second half of seasons…

“I think it’s because we have the whole season to be stronger. The experiences and the games make us stronger in the way we want to play. If we play better at the end of the season, that shows the quality of the players and how much stronger we are as a team more than anything. This part of the year is the most important. We’re very happy about winning the conference, but we have to rest and be focused on the playoffs.”

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Steve Pandher
Authored by: Steve Pandher

AFTN Soccer Show co-host and Senior Writer

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Greg Petrie at 09:35

    That first quote from Robinson. Man. If the Whitecaps are looking for a motto next year, it’s clearly “Make sure you set your goals and ambitions low enough so they’re easily achievable.” Proud of third when 1st was right there is just embarrassing.

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