Report and Reaction: Whitecaps playoff hopes hanging by the thinnest of threads after week of Halloween horror

Report and Reaction: Whitecaps playoff hopes hanging by the thinnest of threads after week of Halloween horror

Yimmi Chara’s goal at Providence Park on Sunday evening may have been the final nail in the coffin that is Vancouver Whitecaps’ playoff hopes.

The Colombian’s 61st minute strike gave Portland Timbers a 1-0 win over the Whitecaps, bringing to an end a Halloween week of horror for Vancouver that saw their playoff aspirations hit hard and drastically change over the last few days, after developments both on and off the pitch.

Tuesday night’s loss to Seattle was the start of it, quickly followed by San Jose’s win over Real Salt Lake the following night. Then came the news on Thursday we all expected, but were hoping that may not come to pass – the final playoff positioning would be decided by Points Per Game (PPG) first, and not final points totals due to the imbalance of matches played by Western Conference teams.

To add an extra kick to the gonads, no missed matches would be made up after Decision Day on November 8th.

That decision benefitted Colorado Rapids massively, meaning they will only have played 18 of their 23 scheduled matches come next Sunday, but the Rapids have also got it done on the pitch when they needed to, coming away with a 3-1 win over Seattle on Sunday evening to all but secure their postseason berth.

That, coupled with San Jose’s match against LAFC on Sunday getting postponed due to positive Covid tests on the LA side, meant that the Whitecaps had to take at least a point against Portland to keep their playoff hopes alive, and ideally all three.

It wasn’t to be, but they are still clinging on to the hope that the league will reschedule San Jose’s match for midweek. They need the Quakes to lose twice, then beat for themselves to Galaxy next Sunday to make it into the top eight. It’s a faint hope right now, but at least it’s better than it being a definite season over moment.

Marc Dos Santos made seven changes to the team that started Tuesday night’s loss to Seattle, bringing back in his potential big hitters and reverting back to the 4-4-2 with Lucas Cavallini and Fredy Montero coming back in to lead the attack.

The Whitecaps created the first real excitement of the match when Cavallini turned and whipped a shot from the edge of the box narrowly over in the 11th minute.

The Timbers though forced the first save of the game three minutes later when Evan Bush came up big to turn away a fierce Larry Mabiala strike from 12 yards out.

Aside from that, both teams huffed, with very little puff in the first half, with that Mabiala shot being the only one on target for the first 45 minutes.

Colorado’s 3-1 victory over Seattle meant that Vancouver needed to take at least a point from this match to keep their playoff hopes alive, ideally all three to not only give themselves a fighting chance, but to put them into the driving seat for a postseason berth.

The ‘Caps certainly came out with more urgency after the restart, take the play to the Timbers and creating some chances, but again without being able to muster a shot on goal.

The Timbers were looking the more dangerous and they made it pay in the 61st minute when Yimmi Chara finished off a great team goal with a nice finish from eight yards out, swivelling to fire home a Jorge Villafana cross.

As the game hit the 80th minute mark, the Whitecaps had managed to record just one single attempt on target, a weak Cavallini header that could barely be described as a shot. The ‘Caps DP though did force a save from Timbers keeper Steve Clark when he got his outstretched foot onto an Ali Adnan cross, but aside from a couple more half chances, that was to be it for the Whitecaps and likely their playoff hopes.

There is still a slender chance. As mentioned, they need the league to reschedule the postponed LAFC v San Jose game midweek, for the Earthquakes to lose that and then next Sunday’s game against Seattle, and for the Whitecaps to beat the LA Galaxy next Sunday. If that scenario plays out, the teams are tied on Points Per Game and the ‘Caps grab a playoff place on the most wins tiebreaker.

For a year like this, it’s perhaps just par for the course that nothing is straight forward. You can argue that the team don’t deserve to be in the playoffs and couldn’t compete there, or that if they’d actually got the job done on the pitch to begin with then this wouldn’t even be an issue. And both statements are true. But when it’s not a level playing field, it just doesn’t sit right.

But that’s 2020 and it is what is, which right now is a waiting game.

FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 0 + one very irritating chainsaw

PORTLAND: Steve Clark; Pablo Bonilla (Marco Farfan 84), Larrys Mabiala, Dario Zuparic, Jorge Villafaña; Eryk Williamson, Diego Chará; Yimmi Chará (Andres Flores 84), Diego Valeri (Cristhian Paredes 90+6), Andy Polo; Felipe Mora (Jaroslaw Niezgoda 78) (Marvin Loría 90+6) [Substitutes not used: Aljaz Ivacic, Tomas Conechny, Bill Tuiloma, Renzo Zambrano]

VANCOUVER: Evan Bush; Jake Nerwinski (Theo Bair 84), Ranko Veselinović, Érik Godoy, Ali Adnan; Cristian Dájome, Janio Bikel (Michael Baldisimo 79), Leonard Owusu, Russell Teibert (Tosaint Ricketts 69); Fredy Montero, Lucas Cavallini [Substitutes not used: Bryan Meredith, Cristián Gutiérrez, Derek Cornelius, Andy Rose, Ryan Raposo, Patrick Metcalfe]

STATS:
Possession: POR 58% – VAN 42%
Shots: POR 11 – VAN 12
Shots on Goal: POR 3 – VAN 2
Saves: POR 2 – VAN 2
Fouls: POR 16 – VAN 7
Offsides: POR 2 – VAN 0
Corners: POR 4 – VAN 2

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

MARC DOS SANTOS

On tonight’s loss:

“Very equal game. In the first game, it was that set play. I felt like we didn’t press well. They came out easily and then they got wide and in that action, they scored. For me to give overall thoughts, it was a close game an equal game, a game that we pushed after we conceded the goal. We continued believing and pushing, trying to get in behind. We got some crosses in, some good chances, one with Fredy in the first half that Chara is there on the line. The other one with Cava. And then there was some balls into the box that could’ve been dangerous with Erik Godoy. Close game, unfortunately some of those details made a difference and their goal was one of those details. We are disappointed because we needed to get out with at least a point. We still have a chance but we depend a lot on the results of Colorado and San Jose.”

On lack of quality in the final third:

“The effort was there but that’s why I don’t look a lot at the stats of shots because shots, we are pretty much the same, I think it ended 12-11, something like that. But then you look at that but you say, ‘okay but what’s the real chance?’ I feel that free kick at the end, it was a great chance for us. We had to do better there. The chance of Cava and Fredy are good chances for us. The effort was there, the commitment was there, the trying to go and get something from the game was there. What I felt is in key moments, the lack of somebody that can make the difference, somebody that can only with one play, unlock something, and that didn’t happen tonight.”

On whether he’s talked with Bob Bradley regarding LAFC vs. Quakes game:

“It wasn’t through Bob. Of course, I speak with Bob, but when I speak with him, it’s not about the game. I speak with him to know how he’s doing and how the guys are doing. Because when you have cases, there’s level of concerns that are health related. What I’m hearing is that there’s a possibility that game is played. Of course, right now we want that game to be played to have the chance of, I would say, cheer for LA. And for LA to get the result that we want to keep us alive. But we don’t know, but it’s such a weird season, such a difficult one when it comes to that, that at least we’re here. We’re keeping on pushing, we’re trying to get the results that we need but it’s not easy. You’re always playing away, the two games against Portland were in their stadium. But we kept it close, we tried, we pushed. But we lacked somebody that could have made the difference.”

On whether the Rapids win affected the game plan:

“We didn’t look at the score. The game was 0-0, we wanted to win the game. I don’t think that Portland either created incredible or very good chances, I think it was very equal. We always felt that we would have a chance to score. Unfortunately tonight, the last pass, the last action, just that difference to score wasn’t there, and then, them, in one of their good actions, they scored. And that’s the difference tonight. But we don’t want to create levels of anxiety to open up and then put yourself in trouble. The only thing that we were concerned is controlling our destiny. That’s what we tried to do tonight. The team has become better in the last eight games, and grown in the last eight games, and we’re in every game close but we still have the same problems and we still have the same guys pushing so at least what we’re seeing is a growth inside with everything that’s been happening in this schedule and in the last few months for us.”

On the growth shown this year:

“I feel good about how much we’ve grown during a difficult season and we’re slowly finding an identity and we’re slowly finding a way of being and a way of playing. And I want this to grow, but I’m not delusional either thinking that we don’t have to make other steps also to grow. What’s been incredible and what I praise the players, and what I’m very proud of these guys is that, man, they they’re not giving up. They keep pushing, they want to do well, they want to win. Tonight, in the last 20 minutes I felt we tried, we got in their half, tried to play balls in, crosses in, and tried to get in behind. What I’m saying is that we lacked someone to make a difference in a play because when games are so locked, not a lot of chances and kind of equal, there’s always someone that’s going to find the last pass, a one-v-one, something that kind of gives a spark. Although we were good getting in their half and getting in the last third, then it lacked something. That’s the disappointing part. Now, we have to wait. Now we have to wait but like I said to everyone, we’re still alive. And as long as we’re alive and as long as there’s a chance, you don’t know what could happen. Until there’s hope, there’s a chance. We’re still alive today, we put ourselves in a position this season to go to the last games having a chance and that’s what we hold ourselves to, but at the same time, we think about the steps we’ve done inside a season like that to build for next year and to do the right moves for next year.”

RANKO VESELINOVIC

Thoughts on the match:

“What can I say? Tough game against a good opponent in Portland. They are now first in our conference. I don’t know, in this game [it was the] details. They had a little bit more luck. They used their chances and they win three points.”

On the unknown of San playing LAFC and staying alive for the playoffs:

“It’s tough when you don’t know what you can expect. But I hope that they are going to play, because if they don’t play and they just go like that into playoffs, I think that would be unfair to us. We’ve played every game, we’re away from our families here in Portland, we play every game away, and now they just go like that to play out? That’s unfair. The guys who have had COVID, they shouldn’t play, [those] who are negative, they can play. I think that’s the only fair solution in this situation.”

JAKE NERWINSKI

Thoughts on the match:

“I don’t think anybody can fault our effort tonight. We knew how big this game was, we were ready. I felt we came out, we played tough. Some of our passes just didn’t connect and that was the key I think. We still created a few really good chances where we could have equalized. I think to the best that we could, I thought we defended pretty well. We didn’t give up that many big chances, unfortunately we didn’t come out on top.”

On not knowing if the San Jose-LAFC match will be played:

“I’ll be honest with you, this entire season has been a roller coaster. As of two weeks ago we were in the playoffs. Then the league changes the format, the rules to qualify, and unfortunately that goes against us, and now with this LAFC-San Jose game that’s going against us. We’ve been in a hotel away from our family, some guys have been away from their kids for 50 days now almost, two months. I think it shows what this team has and could have had if we were in a bit of a different situation. We fought hard to stay in this season, and to give ourselves a chance to even make the playoffs. I know a lot of people probably didn’t think that we had this chance.”

On any involvement from the players union on points per game decision:

“To be honest, I didn’t speak much with the union about this decision. I don’t have an answer for you there. The only thing I can think of is that they were trying to make it fair, but if I’m going to give my opinion, we had to go away from our homes, we played all of our games, we haven’t had any positives. positive COVID cases yet. We did our job and that’s the best that we can say, that we did our job on and off the field.”

PORTLAND TIMBERS

GIOVANNI SAVARESE

General thoughts on the match:

“Difficult match. We knew it was going to be tough. We knew that Vancouver was going to come with everything that they had. It took a lot of sacrifice and hard work to make sure that we found these three points. I thought that we put up a good fight. We sacrificed ourselves to make sure that we prevented them from finding good spaces. Then we tried a couple of times, I think created a few opportunities, but at the end Yimmi [Chara] was able to give us a very important goal to then get these three points that were very important for us. Unfortunately the situation with [Jarosław Niezgoda] otherwise it would have been a perfect day.”

On being on top of the Western Conference table…

“The most important thing is that we got the three points today. That we put in a good performance. That we sacrificed in the moments we needed to defend and did very well when we had to go forward. So, a good match to earn three points and now it’s for us to be on top of the table, but we know we still have two more games. We have to stay focused on the important part of these two matches that are going to be difficult. Manage the group in the best possible way to try to get the points that we need. It feels good to have won today because of the type of performance the guys were able to put in. I’m extremely proud of them for the work that they put in. The guys that came in the second half, they also came in to make sure that they worked to get this very good result for us.”

On Jarosław Niezgoda’s condition…

“Not good. We’ll see. We’ll find out a little bit more later, but as of now it’s not very positive. We’ll see.”

On securing the win after several draws…

“It was important for us to make sure that we finished strong. That’s one thing that I thought today was very good because, as you mentioned, the games against LAFC and Seattle unfortunately we gave up points that we felt that we had them and we earned them. But today, we made sure that we protected a 1-0, that we protected the result, that we protected the three points and the guys did a fantastic job to play a full match and a very, very mature performance again from everyone that stepped on the field and the guys that were ready also on the bench to give everything for the team.”

On Jorge Villafaña’s attacking contributions…

“We were expecting to find space inside the [Vancouver] fullbacks and try to play from there to be able to then find the spaces to create dangerous moments. But Vancouver did a good job to close those spaces and then the spaces that were open were more wide areas, the fullbacks getting a little bit higher. At that particular point, [Jorge Villafaña] found himself in a perfect situation. Winning the ball in the space and I think the most important part was his decision making to make sure that he didn’t just put a cross in. We mentioned the fact that we wanted to put more crosses in that were looking toward the top of the box and that was a perfect cross and the finish from Yimmi was fantastic. A high-level finish and a very important goal for us.”

On the importance of patience for the Timbers…

“[Vancouver] do a good job to close spaces, to have a block together, to move from one side to the other side and not allow you to find too many spaces. That’s why it was very important for us to make sure that we move the ball, that we found those spaces by moving the ball from one side to the other. In the first half, it was a little bit difficult to find a penetrating ball vertical. We played more side to side, but then in the second half we were able to be a little more direct through the lines and we created a little bit more problems also for them. They tried to go a little bit higher and pressure a little bit more and we found a little more space. I think scoring the goal was very important for us because that pushed them to now try to get a little bit higher and try to get in the game. That allowed us to be able to create and find more spaces and find vertical balls that we didn’t find in the first half.”

On Diego Valeri’s condition…

“Valeri’s fine. All good. Was just a moment that he went down, but thank God he’s doing well. Unfortunately for [Jarosław Niezgoda] it’s just the opposite.”

On the mood within the locker room after winning a game and losing a player to injury…

“I’m extremely proud of the players. I’m extremely proud of what we achieved today. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been competitive and we stay humble and everybody has contributed to be able to be where we are right now, but you don’t want any of your players to go through a difficult moment. We’ve had so many moments like that this year and it’s very unfortunate. We feel for the player and so it makes it a little bit difficult to enjoy as much as you can this moment. Even though the sacrifice of the players was very important and, as I said, I’m so proud of them. This feeling of reward for what we got from the match, but nevertheless it’s difficult to feel happy when you know that one of your players went through a difficult moment right now and we’ll know more later. But as of now, it doesn’t look very good.”

JORGE VILLAFANA

On his assist tonight and the assessment of an increased attacking role with the team…

“I think the style of play, the way Yimmi [Chara] plays as well, having Yimmi in front… he’s a player that when he goes out wide I go in the middle, when he goes in the middle I’ll go out wide and I think we complement each other really well and we’re finding that chemistry and you can see it on the pitch. And having more freedom for me to attack as well, which I like to do, it’s paying off.”

On whether he knew Yimmi Chara would be open when he initially made the pass leading to the assist…

“I think when he played me the ball, I remember in the first half when [Diego] Valeri played me the ball and I pulled the ball back. I see all the players and defenders from Vancouver, they were going to wait for the ball in the first post, even the goalkeeper, so my thought was to play it back again. So when I play back I take a glance and I don’t see anyone in front so I played it back and Yimmi was there to put it back in the net.”

On the impact of Jaroslaw Niezgoda’s injury…

“Unfortunately, we don’t know what the situation is yet with Jaro [Jaroslaw Niezgoda]. I hope it’s nothing bad, but you never want to see a teammate go down like that right. It’s a really important player for us. So far, he’s been really important for us and I hope it’s good news. But we have players that can do the job as well. Any player that is going to get called in and be up top is going to perform and they’ve been performing, every player that has been given the opportunity to start, even so, the players that have come off the bench have performed. So I think we have enough players to cover the spot up top.”

On achieving high levels of execution such as in the buildup to the match’s only goal…

“Actually I think I was talking right now in the locker room. If I remember, I think it was a play where we played the ball a couple of times on one side, we rotate to the other until we find the space and we do the two v one on the side and finish with the goal. I think it was a great play and it talks about the confidence the team has. I think we played a really good game against a team that was playing for everything tonight. We knew that they were going to play tonight with everything they had to have an opportunity to stay fighting for a place for the playoff and we managed to get the result and cover our goal and maintain the result.”

YIMMI CHARA (through a translator)

On what he saw during the buildup leading to his goal tonight…

“Thank you to my team. They did a really good job in the right side of the field and [Felipe] Mora centered and then they passed it to me and I passed it back to [Jorge] Villafaña and then I run, and then he passed it back and thank God it went to the back to the net.”

On how been able to integrate well with the team following his injury earlier this season…

“I was a little unconfident because of the injury I had and then I had another injury after the tournament in Orlando. But then, little by little, I started playing and started doing my best with the minutes I had on the field and then my team has helped me with that. So I’ve been able to rebuild my confidence in the field.”

On the upcoming game against the Colorado Rapids this Wednesday…

“The game on Wednesday is going to be a hard game. They are playing very vwell. The comeback has been difficult, but we have been doing better each time and we need to keep fighting so we can get into those first positions.”

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Authored by: Michael McColl

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