A team on a three game winning streak facing off against a team on a three game losing streak. There could only be one result right? Well this is MLS, so no. And it was also a Cascadian derby, so a double no there.
Form goes out the window for derby games and Portland – Vancouver games don’t need much to spice things up at the leanest of times. The ‘Caps self-destructing defensively and being masters of their own downfall again didn’t help, and neither did the performance of referee Ted Unkel.
All things considered though, Portland were simply the better side this time around.
Three penalties, a sending off and six goals. Just your typical Cascadia derby. Except it wasn’t as those stats make it sound like a wild afternoon in Portland, but it was actually a game with less intensity than some other recent ones we have seen down there, as the Timbers saw of the Whitecaps 4-2 by the end of it all.
Portland led 2-0 at half time thanks to a third minute Diego Valeri penalty and a second from Jack McInerney. Both came as results of mistakes from the ‘Caps central defensive pairing of Kendall Waston and Pa Modou Kah.
Kekuta Manneh pulled one back for Vancouver four minutes into the second half and it looked like the Whitecaps were going to get back into the game in style before referee Ted Unkel adjudge Kah to have given away his second penalty of the afternoon, which Dairon Asprilla dispatched with 12 minutes remaining.
When Darlington Nagbe hit a stunning free kick four minutes later, after another contested call by Unkel, it was game over. Pedro Morales hit a consolation penalty for the ‘Caps, on another poor decision, but there was no way back.
Vancouver made one change from the team that did so well in Toronto last week, with Tim Parker moving to right back for the suspended Fraser Aird and Waston returning from his own suspension to partner Kah in the middle of the defence. It was to be a pairing that had a nightmare game and played a significant part in the Whitecaps downfall.
That defence soon found themselves under Portland pressure from the kick off and it paid off in the third minute when Kah brought down Jack McInerney right on the edge of the box as they chased down a loose ball. It was a clumsy challenge and referee Ted Unkel pointed to the spot.
Valeri stepped up to take the penalty, and although David Ousted guessed the right way, it was clinically dispatched to give the Timbers a fourth minute lead.
The Whitecaps fought back right away and Kekuta Manneh flashed an effort wide left moments later.
As close as Manneh came, Darlington Nagbe came even closer for the Timbers in the 21st minute, with his curling effort landing on the roof of the net.
Manneh got a chance to show his pace for the first time in the 26th when he latched onto a giveaway and headed to goal. He got into the box, and could have gone down, but stayed on his feet and just couldn’t get the room for a clear shot.
Vancouver were pressing but Portland were looking dangerous on their quick breaks and it was the home side grabbed their second in the 29th minute.
Lucas Melano got goal side of Kah and sent a fairly innocuous low cross into the box. Waston looked to have time to clear it with ease but slipped and McInerney nipped in and fired past Ousted into the bottom left corner.
Erik Hurtado had the ball in the net for Vancouver moments later but it was correctly ruled out for the striker bringing it down with his arm.
Melano nearly added a third in the 35th minute when he was slipped in but Ousted’s foot turned his goalbound effort away.
Cristian Techera cut inside and made room for himself at the edge of the box, but curled his effort over the bar with three minutes of the half remaining, before Nagbe’s chip shot flew over at the other end.
And that was the first half. Portland headed in with a two goal lead and Vancouver were left with a mountain to climb to get anything from this one.
The Timbers continued where they left off, with Nagbe firing a shot wide just 20 seconds into the second half, as they pushed to kill the game off.
But the ‘Caps weren’t going to let them do that without a fight and Pedro Morales had a shot from a tight angle saved after a lovely pass from Christian Bolanos.
Vancouver kept the pressure on and they got their reward in the 49th minute, getting the lucky break they needed when the Timbers defence were all at sea and Manneh’s shot hit the leg of Nat Borchers and looped over Jake Gleeson in the Timbers goal.
2-1 and game now well and truly back on.
Kah was presented with a great opportunity to make amends for his earlier error when the ball came to him at the back post in the 54th minute, but he couldn’t get a decent shot off.
Two minutes later and it was Portland’s turn to threaten, with McInerney taking a touch inside before unleashing a rasping curler that Ousted acrobatically tipped over.
Techera should have done better midway through the half when the ball was cut back to him in front of goal but he took a touch instead of shooting first time and his shot was eventually blocked when it came,
Valeri played in Nagbe with a delightful chip in the 75th but he blasted over from close range.
It was just to a brief reprieve for the Whitecaps and the Timbers grabbed their third three minutes later when substitute Asprilla drilled home Portland’s second penalty of the day after Kah was adjudged to have used his arm on a pass back to Ousted.
Substitute Blas Perez nearly pulled one back right away with a low scissor kick that went narrowly wide but it was to become 4-1 to Portland in the 82nd as the Whitecaps started to lose their cool and gave away a cheap free kick on the edge of their box which Nagbe spectacularly hit home.
Vancouver kept pushing though and grabbed a goal back in the 84th minute with a penalty of their own. Who knows for exactly what, but Morales dispatched it with ease.
There wasn’t to be any further way back though for the ‘Caps and their miserable afternoon was compounded when Kendall Waston was sent of for chopping down Dairon Asprilla after the referee had blown for full time. Waston hadn’t heard the whistle, but it was a reckless tackle to begin with.
So an afternoon to forget. Not the first the ‘Caps will have this season and likely not the last. That’s just the nature of this team right now. But there are some big concerns right now.
The ‘Caps have conceded two thirds of the amount of goals through 14 games that they did all of last season. That’s 24 goals shipped right now. Last year they led the league with the fewest amount of goals conceded. This season, they lead the league again, but this time it’s with the most goals conceded. Quite the turnaround and no-one can really put their finger on why.
They need to and soon. The attacks has scored ten goals in the last four games, but that output is hard to sustain.
Interesting times ahead in the wild West.
FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 4 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
ATT: 21,144 (sell out)
PORTLAND: Jake Gleeson; Zarek Valentin, Nat Borchers, Liam Ridgewell, Jermaine Taylor; Diego Chara, Ben Zemanski, Lucas Melano (Dairon Asprilla 62), Diego Valeri (Jack Jewsbury 86), Darlington Nagbe; Jack McInerney (Neco Brett 90+3) [Subs Not Used: Wade Hamilton, Jack Barmby, Chris Klute, Ned Grabavoy]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah (Nicolas Mezquida 90+1), Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Pedro Morales, Christian Bolanos, Kekuta Manneh, Cristian Techera (Blas Perez 67); Erik Hurtado (Octavio Rivero 67) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Jordan Smith, Andrew Jacobson, Russell Teibert]
General thoughts on the match…
“Great game. Good game to watch. Good game to be involved in. We gave them two goals. Credit to them in the first half they were better, a lot better than us. But we made two mistakes and when you make bad mistakes like that and you give a good team a 2-0 lead, it’s going to difficult. We responded in the second half. Great character in the second half. Thought we were the better team in the second half and then it was other gifts.”
On what it will take to fix the individual mistakes in the Vancouver defence…
“Cut out the individual errors might help. Rightly so, the first two goals were not like us. You don’t give a good team an early lead. We did. It’s a penalty, the first one. Without a doubt. [Pa Modou Kah]’s mistimed it. Second one… come on. Do me a favour. Please. Do me a favour.”
On his thinking behind the defensive line-up…
“Just because the wider guys, Darlington [Nagbe] and [Lucas] Melano, they’re pacey and Darlington on the left likes to cut in, so we wanted to be little more solid. Obviously [Tim] Parker was up to speed and Pa’s played last week as well. That was the reason behind it.”
On if the game was taken out of Vancouver’s hands after being back in the game with the score at 2-1…
“We were, yeah. Well I’ve got to be careful, probably, what I say. But 100% it was taken out of our hands. We didn’t play well. I can’t sit here and say we played well the first half. We were not at the races. Second half, we were at the races. We had good momentum, we were playing well, we were creating chances. Then a key decision at a key moment and if you’re not sure, I’ve been told a thousand times, if you’re not sure, you can’t give it. And it was given. I think our penalty at the end as well. Is that one? I don’t think so. Two wrongs don’t make a right I’ve been told, in life.”
On what coaches in the league can do about controversial refereeing…
“I’m shouting at Caleb [Porter] down the sideline. I said ‘it’s never a penalty.’ You know, we swing our arms at each other and I don’t know what we’re supposed to do, what I’m supposed to do because I’ve got to sit here, respectfully and I will. The performance of my team is down to me, but the other things aren’t down to me, but they need to be down to someone.”
On the incident after the final whistle between Kendall Waston and Dairon Asprilla…
“I’ve just asked him what happened and he said he tackled. He didn’t hear the whistle. I don’t know what’s gone on. That’s why I’ve run onto the field and got my players away. He said he won the ball, he took a throw in or something and they all surrounded him. I’m not sure whether [the referee] sent him off for the tackle or the throw in or the elbow. [Waston] said he didn’t hear the whistle, so we’ll see because they haven’t told me what they sent him off for. The fourth official, David, told me he’s not sure and the linesman said he’s not sure and the referee… [Waston] does, without a doubt, need emotional control. In games like this, 20,000 great fans putting you under pressure, putting everyone under pressure, big game, you need big personalities. You need big people to be involved in it. He needs to show more emotional control. I don’t condone that. I can’t.”
On whether he’ll play with two strikers in the games to come…
“I don’t get caught up in strikers and formations. Erik [Hurtado] and Kekuta [Manneh] played as a front two and Blas [Perez] and Octavio [Rivero] played as a front two. Whatever system you play, it’s about the personnel in the system. Blas and Octavio are totally different to Kekuta and Erik. So I’ll miss Blas now, which is unfortunate, so I have two forwards left.”
On his message to his attacking players with such fierce competition right now…
“They need to play well. If you have the shirt, you’ve got to keep the shirt. If you haven’t, you’ve got to fight your way in. That’s what I want. I want competition. We have got a lot of good, attacking guys but they’ll go in and out of form.”
General thoughts on the match…
“We weren’t close to good enough in the first half. Second half was a lot better, especially up to their pk. I thought we showed a little bit of grit, we showed that we could play in that game and we were close to nicking the 2-2 goal. But at the end of the day, we give up two easy goals.”
On Portland’s danger on the counter attack and Darlington Nagbe’s free-kick goal…
“Quality. It was a quality free kick and a great goal from him. I told him afterwards as well. I think Portland tonight knew that they had to bring something. They’ve been on a bad run lately and they did. I thought they were offensively a threat, but I also think we gave them the game a little bit unfortunately. Not taking anything away from them. I thought they played a good game tonight.”
General thoughts on the match…
“I thought it was a difficult one for sure. We gave them two goals. We shouldn’t have done that. You never want to be chasing the game. I thought we made mistakes and they punished us. They have a lot of players that can do that. We needed to be switched on the whole game. The whole team defensively needs to be better, everyone across the board. I thought we played well. Portland is a good team. They had their rhythm today. We let them play. I thought we gave everything to them today. We were not at the races today and that’s what happens. I thought we came in second half, got back in the game, but positives are we’re playing well. Keeping the ball, creating chances still. We just need to tidy up a few things.”
On playing around two target players up front…
“Like I said, I’m very happy I can fit into a bit of both systems. Whatever coach calls me up to a role to play. Then coach makes a tactical substitution, brought in two target forwards and I went to the wing. I quite enjoy playing off Blas [Perez] and Octavio [Rivero] as well. Playing on the left side as a flank player, I enjoy that. The game changed a bit when they came in. That’s what we need all season. But I thought Erik [Hurtado] did well today too. Created chances, but we just didn’t take them. He worked hard and helped the team as well.”
On Portland’s danger on the counter attack…
“They’re very good. Quality players. [Darlington] Nagbe was fantastic. Diego Valeri, Jack McInerney, they understand their roles for the team. They’re a very, very good team. They were MLS champions last year and it’s always going to be hard, coming here, playing against Portland in a rivalry game like this. They’re a very good team. I thought they played well. They punished us when they needed to. That’s the way you’re supposed to play at home in MLS. When you get your chances, you take them. Give credit to them for sure.”
On the competitiveness for attacking places in the ‘Caps squad right now…
“Everybody should be on the same page. If you’re not playing well I don’t think you should be playing. This is a team. We want to win. If you’re playing, and you deserve to play, you play, and if you’re not performing well then coach should give a chance to some of the guys we’ve been seeing throughout the season. Coach is encouraging everyone. It’s a team squad. We need every single one if we’re going to be successful this year, any year. Coach made that clear – if you’re performing, you’re going to play, if you’re not performing you’re going to sit on the bench or not even be in the squad. I think that’s helping us as a team. You can see everybody wants to be in the squad, playing for their jobs.”
General thoughts on the match tonight…
“We gave them the first half. Second half was completely different. We play the style we know. I think that was key.”
On whether it added to the frustration of the loss that Vancouver got back into the game with the score at 2-1…
“I don’t think it was a pk, because Pa [Modou Kah]’s hand was behind. I see that the referee, not even him, knew it was a pk, but whatever. After Jordan [Harvey]’s tackle, was a completely good tackle, he took the ball, I don’t know how Jordan was going to do something else that doesn’t touch the guy. But he touched the ball first, cleanly. But it’s okay. It was a good free kick. Nobody can say anything. That’s it. I think from the pk, everything changed because we were there, pressuring them. We almost scored and the pk changed everything.”
On whether he knows if his red card was because of the intensity of the tackle or because the final whistle had blown…
“No, I don’t know why the red card came. The referee asked the linesman and the linesman told him ‘red card.’ And after he gave me the red card, I asked ‘why?’ I didn’t hear the whistle. He told me, ‘I whistled.’ But I didn’t hear the whistle. Not even [Dairon] Asprilla heard the whistle because he was continuing.”
On whether he needs to show more control at that point in the game…
“No. This is football. This is football. If I have to tackle in the first second, I’m going to do it the same as the end. I don’t care how the game goes. If we need to defend, we gotta defend.”
On whether he needs to change his game because of the way MLS referees are this season…
“I think that now, we don’t know if we can play free. Now, with these types of decisions, they’re going to take our freedom with our own style. Sometimes when we tackle the ball, they blow a foul, so now it’s difficult.”
On Jack McInerney getting the start and the importance of his play setting the tone for the match…
“He’s gotten the job done. We brought him here to be the guy that we can rotate in for [Fanendo] Adi and we knew there would be these situations; in this case it was injury. Great out of him to get a goal and I thought, not just the goal, his work rate was outstanding, his pressure. I thought that was a big part of us playing so well again in this game. If you look at the last game and this game, even the first half at Dallas, it started with the pressure from the front. Then also when we won the ball I thought our passing game has been much better. There will be a lot of talk about the PKs and probably you can say maybe one of theirs is a little bit soft, but I think ours is soft, but ultimately we were the better team anyways. And easily at halftime we could have been up three or four to zero. So outside of the PKs, I thought we were the better team and I thought we were deserved winners today.”
On the response from the group and that performance after a three-game losing streak…
“I think I said it all week and it wasn’t fluff – these guys looked confident and they also looked like they had a bit of an edge. That edge comes from us not getting results. Sometimes with teams when you’re not getting results you lose confidence, but when you have a good group of guys, when you don’t win games you get a little pissed off. Our guys looked like they were confident this week but had that little bit of extra hunger to go into this game and prove that we are better than we’ve been. These guys know we’re a good team. They know we’ve had some unfortunate things happen. But I was really pleased to see what I saw this week out of the guys. That gave me a lot of confidence, because I saw they looked sharp and that gave me a lot of belief that we were going to have a similar performance and I felt like if we had a similar performance like the last game then we would get the result and we did. I believe in the process of when you play well eventually you get results. And we played well again and I thought we were deserved winners. There are a few things still to get better, no doubt. I thought we gave up another fluky goal and we all thought ‘here we go again’ when it goes 2-1, and I think that did change the game for about 10-15 minutes. But the nice thing is we weathered that and we broke the pattern and that’s a real key because now moving forward we have that experience, we have that confidence of managing games in the second half. Nice thing is we won this game with a good performance.”
On Dairon Asprilla’s appearance and thoughts on his performance…
“Like I’ve been saying these are decisions you make and there’s a lot of things that go on behind-the-scenes, and in a team with players that change the dynamics of where a guy sits in the depth chart, in the pecking order. With Asprilla, there have been a couple situations that have meant I didn’t feel like he deserved to be in the 18. Those things were communicated with him and we had a good meeting this week. I felt his head was in a good spot and I told him I was going to put him on the bench and I told him to be ready because there’s a chance he gets back in. I’m not going to get into the details of what happened. But ultimately I have to lead a team with the right culture, and a culture is based on doing things the right way and making sure that performance but also overall behavior, attitude, those type of things are important. I do give players second chances as well. I’m not that stubborn. But I do have to manage this club in a way where I don’t sacrifice my principles or the culture of the club. To Asprilla’s credit, he stepped up today when he went in and now will continue to get more and more time and will no longer be in the doghouse as long as he continues down this path.”
On the decision about who would take the second penalty kick…
“Not sure on that, I didn’t ask him [Diego Valeri]. Sometimes when you get two PKs and the guy makes the first one, someone else takes the second. We always have a couple guys we assign, Asprilla wasn’t one of them. Listen, if a guy steps up and wants it, that’s why as a coach you don’t want to assign guys too much because when you have a guy who wants it the psychology of a guy wanting a PK is big. I think maybe with Valeri because he had to come out of the game, he’s got a little bit of tight hamstring, or glute, Maybe he didn’t want to take it because of that or maybe he just gave it to Asprilla. But I didn’t ask the guys, but I’m glad they both made them.”
On building on the performance…
“We talked about it during the week and spoke about confidence. Coming off the Dallas game in the first half I thought we played really well and let it slip in the second half. Taking that into the New York game, I thought the boys looked very confident. I thought we played really well in today’s game. The week leading up to the match felt good and it certainly showed on the pitch today. It was a good win and a good performance. We have to carry on what we’re doing so we can climb up the table and get those points.”
On the team playing with an edge…
“I think coming off the last three results we were 1-0 up at halftime and that’s certainly something that annoys me and annoys everyone else when you’re leading and go on to lose the game. That’s something we usually don’t do, especially coming off of last year. We wanted to make it right. It certainly shows the character of the team. We’ve had to grow into new players that have come in and they have to learn the character of the team as well, so it was good to see that today and hopefully we can carry that into the next game.”
On the team keeping their composure in the second half…
“There wasn’t any conversation after their first goal. It was just me saying, ‘Come on boys, keep going.’ I don’t need to say much on the pitch besides trying to get people going and grinding out the result. Like I said before the game, we had to make sure we won the game no matter what. That was the main thing to do today and we did it. It wasn’t going to be pretty but I thought we played well today and grinded out the result in the second half.”
On the result…
“It was a big win. It was a big game today for our fans, too. We knew that last week was bad for us. We had lost three games, but we knew that we deserved more last week, so we tried to play the same way. I think we did that in the first half. We scored two goals, we managed the ball and we had chances to score [more]. The second half was very different, but we meshed well and got the result.”
On scoring the penalty kick…
“[Fanendo] Adi usually takes the penalty kicks. For me, I like the strikers to score. I think it’s important for the team and I think it was important for us to score that PK. It was a goal that opened the game. I was happy to step up and take the kick.”
On Dairon Asprilla scoring the second penalty kick…
“He asked me for that PK. It was important for him to score and I think he was very confident. That’s important. When you have a player that wants to take the ball and kick it, he has a high percentage to score.”
On getting contributions from everyone on the pitch…
“It’s very important. Everyone is important on this team, and to me, that’s the secret in fighting until the end. The Western Conference is very tight and very competitive and we’ll need to fight until the very end with everyone involved.”
On securing three points against Vancouver…
“For me personally, it’s all about your locker room. We have good guys that really want to do well. We had some good practices leading up to this game and we were confident that we were going to come out and get the three points. It’s always good to get a win. Winning is the key. It definitely puts the team on a high. From now on, going forward, getting as many wins as possible will only help us.”