Report and Reaction: Cool Laba claims a point for comeback ‘Caps amongst hot heads in Portland

Report and Reaction: Cool Laba claims a point for comeback ‘Caps amongst hot heads in Portland

Hot, hot, hot. That could describe Vancouver Whitecaps away form this season, but it also described a sweltering day in Portland for the latest Cascadia Cup clash between two teams that don’t really like each other.

It was 36 degrees at kick off time, but the two rivals served up an entertaining and enthralling end to end encounter that could have gone either way, but a 1-1 scoreline could just about be described as a fair result at the end of the night.

The ‘Caps will be kicking themselves that they aren’t heading back up the I5 with all three points, yet at the same time delighted that they fought back to take one. It’s a funny old game Saint, as Jimmy Greaves used to tell us every Saturday.

Referee Juan Guzman let a lot go early, which I like, especially in a derby game. Crunching tackles weren’t even fouls in some cases and just a talking to in others. The danger was it would all boil over but just when you thought it wasn’t going to, Jordan Harvey got sent off for the ‘Caps in stoppage time and Will Johnson saw red, in all senses, after the final whistle.

So 1-1, keeping the ‘Caps in 3rd place in the West. A loss would have seen them drop to six in the crazy and scarily tight Western Conference. Next week’s game against San Jose could now be massive and give them a bit of breathing space in the race for the top six and the playoff places.

Here’s our match report, postgame reaction from both locker rooms and even a couple of photos for you.


Vancouver Whitecaps have struggled when they’ve fallen behind to the first goal in games this season. Heading in to Portland, they’d only taken one point from the seven matches that had seen this happen.

You can make that two points from eight now, but what a crucial point this may yet prove to be in the grand scheme of the playoff race in the West.

The ‘Caps had looked dangerous to kick off this Cascadian derby, with a couple of good chances gone a begging, in part through some resolute defending from the Timbers.

Once again they were made to pay a heavy price for not taking their opportunities when Portland grabbed the opening goal in the 33rd minute from Diego Valeri. But Vancouver fought back valiantly to level with a 30-yard Matias Laba stunner three minutes before the hour mark.

Neither team could find a further breakthrough and the game ended with two late sending offs to add to an action packed evening.

With Kendall Waston away on Gold Cup duty with Costa Rica, Carl Robinson went with the young and inexperienced centre back pairing of Tim Parker and Christian Dean for this one, with Mauro Rosales moving out wide right again for Nicolas Mezquida to take on the number 10 role in Pedro Morales’ continued absence.

Both teams had foray’s forward in the early going but Octavio Rivero had the best chance to open the scoring in the 13th minute but he took too long to get his shot off and Adam Kwarasey had the angle covered.

The ‘Caps were nearly punished right away as Portland broke forward but Will Johnson flashed a low 20 yarder inches past the left post in the 15th minute.

The game had suddenly become end to end and Kekuta Manneh powered forward seconds later leaving four Timbers in his wake, including Alvas Powell on his ass as he cut inside. But the Gambian just couldn’t find a way past Kwarasey’s leg and the danger was cleared.

Portland soon had their next chance, but Liam Ridgewell just failed to connect with Diego Chara’s low ball across goal.

The game was way more end to end than we expected to see in such hot conditions, and you had to wonder if both sides could keep up that pace.

Manneh nearly broke the game open in the 27th minute when he was played in from a sublime ball from Rosales, rounded Kwarasey but saw his shot cleared off the line by a fantastic last ditch foot from Nat Borchers.

Although Portland had threatened, David Ousted hadn’t had a lot to do so far in the ‘Caps goal but he was called into action in the 31st minute to keep out a close range shot from Valeri.

It was to be the Timbers who finally got the breakthrough in the 33rd minute. Fanendo Adi broke forward after Laba gave the ball up cheaply and Dean was pulled into the middle to try and close him down along with Parker. That left Valeri completely unmarked and when Adi found him with the outside pass, the Argentine had the fairly simple job of firing past Ousted for the opening goal.

The Caps pushed for an equaliser, creating a couple of half chances, but Adi flashed one just by the left post with four minutes of the half remaining to let them know not to leave too much room at the back.

Rivero had another opportunity in the closing moments of the half, doing well to pull the ball down but then taking too long to try and walk it around Kwarasey, who was able to grab it off the Uruguayan’s feet.

Behind at the half, and with a slew of good opportunities behind them, you felt it was going to be a struggle for the ‘Caps to get back in to this one. And when Portland came out all guns blazing to start the second half, it looked even tougher.

The ‘Caps defence bent but didn’t break though and they came back to launch several attacks of their own.

That pressure paid off in the 57th minute when the Whitecaps hit the equaliser from out of nowhere.

Portland failed to clear a Vancouver attack, Laba played a slow one-two with Manneh but with the Timbers giving the Argentine all the time and room in the world to takes a few touches, he unleashed a low 30 yard curler that nestled into the bottom right hand corner of the net, with Kwarasey likely put off by the shielding run in front of him from Rivero.

The game was now there for the taking for both teams and both sides made substitutions to freshen up their attack.

Rosales got his head on a cross in the 70th minute but it was just a bit high for him and he steered it wide, then Portland had a great chance to retake the lead from their sub Rodney Wallace, but Dean was quickly in with a crucial and perfectly timed last man tackle clear the danger.

Portland made their final substitution with Gaston Fernandez and he nearly made an immediate impact but his dipping shot from the edge of the box, picked up a deflection and nestled on the roof of the net.

Neither team looked set to grab the winner as the game entered stoppage time, but there was still some fireworks to come when Jordan Harvey saw a straight red for a reckless, but not vicious, tackle on Valeri.

With not long left, the man disadvantage didn’t hurt the ‘Caps and the game ended one apiece.

Harvey tackle, and some others just before it, seemed to rile up the Portland players and fans for the closing seconds and it continued after the final whistle, when Will Johnson first saw a yellow card for dissent, following some postgame argy bargy, but that was quickly followed by a red for foul and abusive language!

An explosive end but overall, all things considered, a good point for the Whitecaps and one that keeps their head above water in the Western Conference playoff race.

FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 21,144

PORTLAND: Adam Kwarasey; Alvas Powell, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana; Will Johnson, Diego Chara, Dairon Asprilla (Rodney Wallace 67), Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe (Gaston Fernandez 83); Fanendo Adi (Maxi Urruti 76) [Subs Not Used: Andrew Weber, Norberto Paparatto, Taylor Peay, Jack Jewsbury]

VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Tim Parker, Christian Dean, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Gershon Koffie, Mauro Rosales (Russell Teibert 84), Nicolas Mezquida (Cristian Techera 67), Kekuta Manneh (Kianz Froese 90); Octavio Rivero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Diego Rodriguez, Deybi Flores, Erik Hurtado]



On another wild game against Portland:

“They usually are. Again, it didn’t disappoint today. It was a very good game of football by two good teams trying to win the game. Obviously it had a little bit of everything. An enjoyable game to watch if you’re a neutral.”

On fighting back from trailing at the half:

“I’m delighted for the guys in there. So proud of them today. We’ve got a number of players missing, but we rolled our sleeves up and we showed that we’ve got great young players at this football club. That’s they way we’re going to develop, that’s the way we’re going to move forward and they got their chance tonight and they didn’t disappoint.

“It’s pleasing because after the first half, I thought we were the better team but we were one-nil down and that’s what happens when you play against experienced teams that have got experienced players. They took their chance from a sloppy turnover from us and we missed four or five gilt-edged chances. It happens sometimes.”

Did he feel it was going to be another one of those days after those missed chances?:

“I did because the first goal is crucial in any game. We’re very good when we get the first goal and we didn’t want to give them the initiative. Kekuta had two fantastic opportunities but we didn’t take them. But we win as a team, we lose as a team. We went behind and I challenged them at half time to step up another level and continue doing what we were doing. You’ve got to weather the storm when you come to Portland. They’re a fantastic team. Very well coached and they put you under pressure, and that’s what they did today. We bent but we didn’t break.”

On the performance of Tim Parker and Christian Dean:

“Absolutely outstanding, both of them. They’re both young players. They’ve got five or six games between them, so to come in to arguably one of the most hostile environments in Major League Soccer and perform like that against Adi, to start with, then Urutti and playing Diego Valeri in behind. It’s credit to them. I’m pleased but I want them to kick on now.”

What Dean’s performance, especially his second half tackle on Rodney Wallace, will do for his confidence:

“His performance will judge his confidence. He played very well today, and I told him he was outstanding, but I don’t want my young players to get comfortable. One performance doesn’t make you an experienced player. The reason why we have Kah in there, Mauro Rosales, is because they continually perform with exceptional performances and young players have got to do that. Unfortunately with young players they have inconsistencies, but it’s important that you stick behind them and encourage them and teach them and make them learn. That’s what we’ll do at this football club.”

Thoughts on Jordan Harvey red card and will Dean now be the left back next week?:

“I don’t know. I’ve got a number of options. I ain’t thinking about that at the moment. I’m glad Diego’s okay, because he’s coming back from injury. I think it was a rash challenge, rather than a nasty one. There was no intent in it at all and I’m glad he’s fine. We’ll look at it but I can’t comment on it until I see it.”

Did the referee let too much go early on resulting in a feisty finish?:

“I like it. [There are] two ways of looking at it, two schools of thought. I did think he let a lot go for them and then Tim [Parker] gets booked for a little tug when I think there are two or three things that went beyond that, that should have been called. It’s a derby game. Two passionate teams, two passionate managers and a passionate crowd. They put you under pressure, this crowd, as a referee and [referee] Juan [Guzman] did very, very well today. [It’s] easy to criticize a referee, sometimes publicly or behind closed doors, but you have to give them credit. It’s not easy to be a referee in this game. I thought he maybe let a few things go but I don’t mind that. I’m from Wales.”

The importance of taking any points from these matches now with such a tight Western Conference:

“It was important that we didn’t get beat today because we had two defeats on the trot. But the character on this team and in this young group is absolutely fantastic. We might not win every game, which is clear, but when I ask them to respond they certainly will respond. It’s credit to the guys today.

“Mati Laba pops up with the goal, which is an absolutely phenomenal strike. He can do it. I saw him score one in Toronto in 18 months, so I know he can do it. He’s had 18 months here now, so that’s his goal tonight!”


On his goal:

“I looked forward and I had space. I shot the ball with confidence and it was nice to score. I got lucky too!”

On the team’s fightback for a point:

“In the first half we played better than them. We played with confidence, we had the ball, we did a good job but we were [still] losing one-nil. So we just had to push more.”

On loving these derby atmospheres:

“I love playing these games. The atmosphere is amazing. It’s similar to South America too, so I like these games.”


On coming back and getting a point:

“I thought we played extremely well today and I thought that with the number of chances we had you can even argue that we might have gotten away with three points but one point in Portland is good.”

On if watching the first half chances thinking it’s the same old story:

“No, I’m standing there watching thinking, ‘put it in the back of the net’ because I know we can do it. I know the guys up front can do it. Coming here and creating that number of chances is a feat in itself but we need to be more cynical now. We need to have that killer instinct and put these chances away. That’s going to make or break the season for us and I still believe we can do it. I still see it every day in training so put those chances away we’re looking good.”

On how he saw Portland’s goal play out:

“We tried to play short out and it played into Laba who gets pressured really well, I think by [Diego] Chara. He takes it and then suddenly they’re breaking and he gets to [Diego] Valeri and Valeri has a guy in the middle and he opts to take the shot and puts it short corner up against the post. A little bit of error from our point but also a good goal.”

On the performances from defenders Tim Parker and Christian Dean:

“Fantastic. I thought they looked like someone who’s played together for a number of years. [Tim Parker], I said before, looks older than he is, the way he plays. Dean came in today with his speed and with his physicality and did really well. A number of chances he cleared away and got tight so those two we’re really good today.”

On how crucial it is to get points from these games for down the stretch:

“It’s really crucial. We’ve played Portland three times now and I think we got five points so that in itself is great. It’s going to be so tight and it’s going to go down to I think the last day when you end up in this whole playoff race. Hopefully we can continue our run of form.”



On the overall performance:

“It was probably a fair result. We weren’t at our best first half, but found a goal. I thought that they were better in the first half and we were better in the second half, but they found the goal. It’s probably a fair result, a draw.”

On seeing your captain getting a red card after the game disappointing for you:

“It’s tough. You don’t usually see that. A lot of times guys are frustrated at the end of a game. You rarely see a ref red card a guy for saying something and it seemed to me that he was walking away when he was carded. So it’s disappointing obviously because Will [Johnson] will be out for the next game.”

On how big it is to get goals and assists from Diego Valeri:

“It’s great. Obviously he’s been in and out. He’s be out all year with the knee then he’s back, then he’s out again with the ankle.. So it’s great for him to finally be in again for multiple games to get 90 minutes and to now get his second goal. We are going to need that at the end of this year. He is a key player for us. That was big for him.”

On if he was surprised about how Vancouver came out in the first half:

“I think again you have to factor in them. They came out and were aggressive. I don’t know why we weren’t at our best first half, but you could say the same thing for them in the second half, ‘why weren’t they at their best the second half?’ So our response was good. It’s not always going to be perfect. We found the goal which was great. One of the things I said at halftime is, ‘I know we are going to play better in the second half but at the very least if we don’t find a second goal let’s make sure we get the clean sheet and get out of here with three points.’ That didn’t happen so that’s probably the most disappointing part of it, but it’s a draw, it’s probably fair. It’s not the result we wanted but we hold points with them and now we have to go and win on the road and get points there. We’ve been winning at home and maybe because of that we haven’t been getting points on the road, so now we didn’t get three points here so we dropped two and now we need to go and get points on the road in the next two games.”


His takeaways from the game:

“It was a tough game. We knew that. We were a little bit lucky in the first half because we were up on the score and I think they got a few chances. In the second half we played a little bit better with the ball and we created a couple of chances and they scored on a great goal. I think at the end it’s a fair score.”

On scoring a goal:

“I know when you score it’s always good, but like I always say for me if we don’t win it doesn’t matter. For me the most important is the team and getting three points, but we couldn’t [do that] so we have to watch the game, rest well tomorrow and start the week to beat Dallas.”

On what happened on his goal:
“I think Diego Chara got the ball on a good press and gave the ball to [Fanendo] Adi and Adi drove with the ball, he was very good with that, and he assisted me and I just had to finish.”


On if it was a fair result:

“It could have gone the other way. The first half we didn’t play well. They should have scored and we get a goal and we are up 1-0. The second half we play better and they get a goal. Soccer is a funny game like that sometimes. Fair result, maybe could have gone the other way.”

On what made the Whitecaps successful in the first half:

“I think there were a couple things. With the ball we weren’t very good. We were getting countered on and getting punished there. They were doing a great job of getting in behind us in the channels in between the center backs and the outside back. They made some great runs, put some great balls through and you know we just didn’t manage it very well.”

On what he can say to help get the team going on the road heading into a match against FC Dallas:

“The road is where the good teams become great and that’s what separates teams from making the playoffs and not making playoffs. We’ve got to find a way to get points on the road, to grind results out, to manage games and we’ve shown we can’t do that recently and I think now that’s the challenge.”


On tonight being a fair result:

“I think we probably scored against the run of play in the first half and they scored against the run of play in the second half. So a draw, probably ended up with a fair result.”

On what’s important for the team to do in the lead up to the next match:

“I think we have to get back to basics. The big thing for us when we were on our run was we were very solid, hard to break down, and we were attacking from the back, springing from the back, we’ve got to try and get back to that.”

On if Vancouver’s chances in the first half were surprising:

“Of course, we are at home, we want the run of play, but they pressed us very high and pressed us very well. We couldn’t really get in our rhythm and get going really. They’ve done well at that so you’ve got to give credit. So we tried to do that in second half and we thought we did, but we scored against their run of play and they scored against ours so it was a tough one to take.”


Authored by: Michael McColl

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