Report and Reaction: Bair beauty can’t stop Whitecaps falling to another derby defeat

Report and Reaction: Bair beauty can’t stop Whitecaps falling to another derby defeat

It was a night of quality goals in Portland but by the end of it, Vancouver Whitecaps’ hopes of making it three games without defeat were destroyed by a clinical Timbers side in a 3-1 Cascadia Cup loss at Providence Park.

The Whitecaps put in a gutsy performance, failing to let their heads go down after falling behind twice in the match, but the clear difference in the end was the attacking quality between the two teams.

And it was quality goals from Sebastian Blanco, Marvin Loria, and Jeremy Ebobisse that did the damage for the Timbers, with the shining light for the Whitecaps being Theo Bair’s first MLS goal, an absolute beauty that will be up for goal of the week honours.

But at the end of the day, those honours matter little, it’s points that count and the ‘Caps failure to take any sent them tumbling back down to the bottom of the Western Conference standings with eight games of their MLS season to go.

Marc Dos Santos went for the Christmas tree formation once again, with Yordy Reyna returning to lead the line up top.

Neither side threatened to break the deadlock in the opening stages, but Vancouver looked the more lively from the early exchanges.

Portland soon started to turn the heat up a little bit and Max Crepeau pulled off a fantastic diving save to keep out a fierce Blanco strike in the 20th minute. The rebound fell to Diego Valeri, but his effort was headed over the bar by Ali Adnan, with a shot so fierce it send the Iraqi defender crashing to the deck.

Crepeau was called into action again soon to scoop a dipping cross out from under his crossbar, before Adnan was in the wars again, this time straining his left adductor from a clearance in what was to be his last action of the game and a big loss for the ‘Caps.

The Timbers kept their pressure on and the ‘Caps allowed Blanco to fire up another one in the 28th minute, failing to close him down completely, and the Argentine unleashed another fierce one that Crepeau got a hand on but couldn’t keep out. It was a cracking strike, but really one that the ‘Caps keeper should have done better with.

It already felt a long way back for Vancouver. Their mental fragility when falling behind has been questioned a lot in recent weeks. Last week they came from behind to beat Cincinnati, but Portland are a whole different animal and this would be a real test to see if they truly had put those issues behind them.

The answer came ten minutes later and what an answer it was!

The Timbers failed to clear a corner and Bair latched onto the loose ball on the edge of the box, swivelling fantastically to volley home the equaliser and grab his first MLS goal.

What a way to get it and just what the young homegrown striker was needing for his confidence.

The game was now end to end, with Portland having the best chance before the break, with Crepeau pulling off a leg save to deny Loria.

As the second ticked down to half time Portland were left furious after the ball hit Bair’s hand in the box, but he seemed pushed into it from behind by a Portland player and ref Ted Unkle waved away the Timbers appeals.

This set up a tasty second half, where you knew the home side and their fans would have some added anger, and the early action went end to end.

Brett Levis blocked a Valeri shot, amidst further handball claims, then Vancouver went up the pitch and Bair had a great chance to put the ‘Caps ahead but headed weakly into the arms of Steve Clark.

The Timbers retook the lead ten minutes into the second half and it was another long range screamer, with Loria firing a beauty past Crepeau into the bottom left corner from around 20 yards out.

A superb strike.

Vancouver thought they’d got an immediate response when Reyna collected a through ball from Fredy Montero and chipped the ball over Clark, but the flag went up and the Peruvian was adjudged to be narrowly offside.

Both sides had their chances in the remaining minutes, without causing much panic to the opposition keeper, but as Vancouver pushed hard for the late equaliser, Portland caught them on a quick counter in the final second of normal time and Ebobisse put the tie beyond any doubt as he coolly slotted past Crepeau for a Timbers third.

It was a result many people would have expected heading into this one. Portland were clear favourites, but the Vancouver performance is worthy of some praise. They battled far more than I expected and didn’t let their heads go down after falling behind twice.

There were some signs of life, some signs of something to build upon, but this is also a squad far removed in quality from the playoff contenders and in need of much improvement in the offseason. The question now is how to approach the final eight matches.

A two game unbeaten run is something most teams take for granted, for the Whitecaps this year it actually felt like an achievement after what had gone before it. Now sitting bottom of the West, ten points adrift of those playoff places, and surely soon to be officially mathematically removed from the equation, this has to be all about the future now – evaluating certain players to see just what future, if any, they have here.

That might not make for the prettiest of run ins, but it’s not be an attractive season all round.

FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 3 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 25,218

PORTLAND: Steve Clark; Zalek Valentin, Julio Cascante, Bill Tuiloma, Jorge Villafana; Renzo Zambrano, Diego Chara, Marvin Loria (Dairon Asprilla 90+2), Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco (Tomas Conechny 87); Jeremy Ebobisse [Subs Not Used: Kendall McIntosh, Larrys Mabiala, Jorge Moreira, Andres Flores, Cristhian Paredes]

VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Jake Nerwinski, Erik Godoy, Derek Cornelius, Ali Adnan (Brett Levis 30); Andy Rose, Inbeom Hwang, Russell Teibert (Scott Sutter 79); Theo Bair (Joaquin Ardaiz 87), Fredy Montero, Yordy Reyna [Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Doneil Henry, Jon Erice, Michael Baldisimo]




General thoughts on the match…

“I think in the first half it was a very good game. Overall the commitment of everybody on both teams was good. Our first half was good. We were able to get the tying goal. We felt very good at halftime when it was 1-1. I think Theo [Bair] had a very good chance to do the 2-1. Then [Portland] get that second goal on a deflection from one of our players. It’s a good shot, but it’s unlucky there. Then it’s 2-1 and we still pushed. If there was a little more belief in the box I feel we could have tied. Then there’s this play with Yordy [Reyna] and at the end of the game, there’s this 3-1 that you guys go see it. It’s not worth it. Just go see the image.”

On if Vancouver’s attack is hurting from a lack of wide players…

“That’s why we addressed it in another form tactically. That’s why we’re playing the way we’re playing. I think today we did enough offensively on the road to get goals. We scored one, we could have easily scored two and unfortunately it didn’t happen.”

On Theo Bair’s first MLS goal…

“He worked for it. He deserves it. He’s a player that has worked very hard to get an opportunity. Then to get his first MLS goal like that is very, very good for him.”

On if he feels he’s lost the trust of his players…

“We played like this the last three games. We tied in Minnesota, we won in Cincinnati and we played a good game today. No. Zero.”

On if Vancouver’s struggles are down to a pile of little things or a few big things…

“It’s a pile I think. From day one in preseason and now we have to rebuild the team from day one with 17 players. 21 going. All of that is an accumulation to where we are.”

On if he’s ever seen a pitch invader in MLS…

“We saw one in Vancouver I think. This one was intense. He didn’t give up.”

On the Cascadia rivalry…

“It was good. There’s very good games. The 0-0 against Seattle, the excitement until the end where there’s a foul on [Hwang] In-Beom that wasn’t called and a clear penalty shot that wasn’t called. Then we went against Portland home. There’s this exciting game in Seattle that could have gone both ways and I think today was a very good game.”

On any update on the injury to Ali Adnan…

“No. No.”


Thoughts on the game…

“We had many opportunities, it was about finishing them. Unlucky. I thought we played a really good game.”

Thoughts on his first Cascadia away game start…

“It was great. The atmosphere was really good. Unbelievable stadium. It felt really good.”

On getting his first MLS goal after coming so close before..

“I was watching highlights and Zac [MacMath] told me they never expect you to shoot when you’re back is to goal, so just do it and see what happens. At that moment I saw the ball dropping and I thought if I shoot this and it goes in then nobody’s getting mad at me, and it happened. It was the most unbelievable experience of my life.”

How relieved is he to get that first goal now…

“Again, it’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. Very unfortunate to get the result that we did, but it’s still the best moment of my life.”

Thoughts on playing out wide and not as target striker…

“A lot of my academy career I played winger, so I’m not uncomfortable there and I feel good there.”


On the environment around the Cascadia rivalry tonight…

“It’s what you come to expect from these sorts of games. Obviously the atmosphere, the fans make it so great. With the rain as well it helps with the speed of play and the way the ball moves. From the outside for sure it was a special evening. Obviously some incredible goals. From our point of view, obviously, frustrating to be on the receiving end of some of those.”

On Theo Bair’s first MLS goal…

“Just rewatched it and the technique is sublime. It’s incredible. What a way to sort of announce yourself, is what I said to him. He’s worked really really hard for this opportunity. All credit to him. Throughout the season early on, when he wasn’t really involved, he never put his head down. Obviously the academy boys saw what’s happened with Alfonso Davies and they all want to be the next one. I think he’s worked so hard on little things in his game throughout the season. He’s been humble. Kept his head down and really deserved that goal. Deserved three points as well, but incredible goal.”

On Inbeom Hwang’s performance…

“He gives us a lot of control. Obviously in [Portland’s] system their two holding midfielders had a lot of the ball. They were always going to have a lot of the ball. They’re at home, they play that way. In that role for us, In-Beom gives us a lot of control and so much composure on the ball in tough moments, tricky moments. He makes good decisions. As the game goes on, we changed shape a little bit and were really pushing. We go to more of a 4-4-2 and at the end there [Portland] catch us on the break. I think we all know what a special player he is and certainly fun to play with.”

On returning to Vancouver for their next match…

“Obviously a couple good results leading into this game. Would have loved more from today. Obviously the fight for sure was there throughout the 90 minutes. At 2-1 we were certainly in the game and I’ve just rewatched Yordy’s [Reyna] [off-side] goal and it’s so close. Too many times this season it’s been the finest of margins that’s gotten in our way. Really frustrating and their second goal takes a slight deflection. Maybe the third one was close to being offside as well. It was hard to tell. Those little things have certainly gone against us. Look, we hope we come back and the fans are right behind us. We hope they’re proud of the effort we put in today. I don’t think it necessarily was a true 3-1. I think we were right in it until the last couple minutes. So we’re excited to get back out in front of them.”

On conceding two goals from outside the box…

“The first one’s really frustrating because Ali [Adnan]’s off the pitch, so we’re down to ten-men for however long it was. Two-three minutes. That means [Russell Teibert] needs to go to left-back and we sat in a little bit. [Diego] Valeri pulls off my shoulder, I go with him and maybe could have stepped out a little quicker on [Sebastián] Blanco. Must have been from a good 30-yards out when he struck it and obviously it was wet. That can happen. It was an excellent strike. First three goals were all fantastic strikes. Look, sometimes you have to give something up and often we give up a lot of crosses and pride ourselves on being able to deal with a lot of those situations. I think we did today. We cleared so many balls and were able to find Yordy [Reyna], Fredy [Montero] and Theo [Bair] in good pockets and counter attack. At times we did that really well. The goals that went in were great strikes.”



General thoughts on the match…

“I thought it was a great performance, especially in the second half. Yes, also in the first half, but the way we moved the ball in the second half, the way we exposed them … especially in the wide areas – the way we put better crosses inside in the second half. Overall, it was a very good performance. I’m very content with the group. [Vancouver is] a difficult team. They’re a team that defends very well. They look for the counters and I thought we dealt very well with the counters in every moment, and in the moments we had to defend a little bit deeper. The guys sacrificed to make sure that we kept the score the way it was. Once we got the second goal, things opened up even more and I thought that third goal was huge for us coming from [Tomás] Conechny, who was fresh. We got the job done and overall it was a very good performance. Now we need to make sure we keep on working, keep on getting better and now we have another [game] on Wednesday.”

On the message to the group at halftime, after a controversial no-call on a potential PK…

“Just to make sure that we don’t let those things frustrate us. We need to continue to play. We need to make sure we don’t worry about what happens from the decisions the referee is going to make. We have to play our game and get the job done. Of course, I can have my opinion on the PK. There’s been three games where there’s been two [decisions] against us and one [decision] not for us. Maybe it wasn’t clear, maybe it was a little push. I don’t want to get into PKs. I thought that the most important thing about today was the performance from the guys and the way we played. The energy from the fans was fantastic and overall it was a very good performance.”

On the performances from Marvin Loría and the young players on the team…

“I think it was three great goals. [Marvin] Loría’s goal, Seba’s [Sebastián Blanco] goal and also Jebo’s [Jeremy Ebobisse] goal at the end from Conechny. What we have to look at is not only the goals, but the performance. I think it was a very mature performance, a good performance from everybody. The energy was great and the fans brought so much to the game as well. It’s great to play at home now and we need to take advantage of the games we have at home and I hope we can get as high as we can get [in the league table].”

On how the field played with the rain…

“Today was great because it rained. The ball was moving very nice on the ground. It allows us to be able to move the ball faster into wide areas. I think it helped for sure today. The weather was a good thing for us.”

On the performances from the Marvin Loría young players on the team…

“Not only Loría, but I thought also Renzo [Zambrano] today as well, and Conechny when he came in, and Jebo. It’s great to see these young guys stepping up and doing better, developing and competing. When we call them to come in and play, they do a great job. Overall, it was fantastic. Loría today showed again that he’s hungry, that he can help with the goal and with the way that he defended. As soon as Conechny came in he changed the game to create that moment that we needed. I’m very content with everybody. That’s why we have a great group, but that’s why we need to continue to work. We need to continue to get better. There’s areas we can continue to improve in still, but today was a very important three points that we needed.”

MARVIN LORIA [Translated]

On his thoughts on the match…

“We played a very good match tonight. We were fast, had possession of the ball for a long time and attacked a lot, and that helped us win tonight’s match while executing our strategy.”

On scoring once again at Providence Park…

“It is a great joy. To be here with your people at your stadium, at home, because this is my home, makes me feel very happy because I can feel the support of our people. That is all really nice for all of us.”

On scoring a goal in a crucial moment…

“At the time I scored, we needed a goal really badly because the match was getting very complicated and we weren’t able to score in any of the many chances we had created. Thank God I had the opportunity of making that play and hit the ball the way I wanted and score that goal. It was a very nice moment for the team and for myself.”


On starting strong in both halves…

“We got a great performance today. We knew that Vancouver was going to play a little deeper than normal and, obviously, we managed the ball really well, we created a lot of chances, we were patient until the final third and then we got a lot of long-distance shots and good passes, cutbacks, crosses, and overall we managed really well the game. [Vancouver] had a couple of counters and nothing else. Their goal was a great goal, they didn’t expect that. It was a little bit lucky and obviously a great goal, but besides that, we managed the possession, we had the chances, we scored three goals, so at the end, everyone performed really well and collectively it was a strong performance.”

On Marvin Loría’s and Renzo Zambrano’s development as young players…

“Their development has been great. They feel very confident. We try to make them play in that way. When you are a young guy, you need experience, you need games, minutes, and they are doing really well and they are in a role where they are helping the team really well. That’s the most important thing, because they are helping the team with their performances and I am very happy about the way we play as a team and the way we are playing at home. We have played the last four or five games at home in a very dominant way.”

On becoming more comfortable against teams that sit so low…

“Yes. They sit with a lot of guys behind the ball, but we cannot force that. We are pushing the team deeper and we are feeling confident playing in that position of the field and today, even being one-one, we were patient around the box trying to connect well and finding the right pass.

Authored by: Michael McColl

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