Report and Reaction: Whitecaps dramatic three goal comeback chops down Timbers to propel them into playoff place

Report and Reaction: Whitecaps dramatic three goal comeback chops down Timbers to propel them into playoff place

(Photo Credit: @WhitecapsFC/Instagram)

Football is sometimes so lost in hyperbole that when a truly standout performance happens words can often not do it justice. But it’s impossible not to wax lyrical and offer up superlatives galore to talk about Vancouver Whitecaps three goal second half comeback against their Cascadian rivals Portland Timbers down in Oregon on Wednesday night.

Two down to Yimmi Chara and Dairon Asprilla goals at the half, it felt like that there was unlikely to be a way back for a fairly uncreative Whitecaps side. But second half tinkering by Vanni Sartini, both on a personnel and tactical front, saw a completely different feel to the second half, and a Vancouver team that looked not only capable of getting a goal, but leaving with some points as well.

Deiber Caicedo started the Cascadian comeback kings on their way with a fantastic solo goal just past the hour mark that saw him run half the length of the pitch. That sparked Vancouver’s belief and the talismanic Brian White made it 11 goals for the season when he headed home the equaliser with 15 minutes remaining. Cristian Dajome then won and scored a penalty with eight minutes remaining to secure all three points and what could prove to be a massive victory for Vancouver in their postseason charge, one which currently moves them above the playoff line with five games left in the regular season.

Sartini made six changes to the Whitecaps starting line-up from the team that beat Sporting KC on Sunday night. Of particular note, Cristian Gutierrez returned to the team for the first time since August 4th, Marcus Godinho got his first MLS start, and the in-form Brian White was rested for the returning Lucas Cavallini.

Portland came out the stronger of the teams, forcing three corners in the first 10 minutes and seeing Sebastian Blanco’s 9th minute effort crash of the ‘Caps crossbar.

The Whitecaps felt a step off the pace, and it was no surprise when they fell one behind in the 15th minute after failing to deal with a Blanco lob into the box. Unable to clear the danger, the ball came to Christhian Paredes just inside the box, who in turn played it to his right for a wide open Chara to drill the ball home into the bottom left corner. It was a great finish and Vancouver already had a tall task ahead of them to get back into this one.

The Whitecaps have proved their fighting spirit on several occasions this season, so they certainly weren’t a team to write off, but it was the Timbers who were creating the best scoring chances.

Asprilla forced Max Crepeau to get down to his right to turn the ball away in the 26th minute and while the Whitecaps started to enjoy a little bit more possession and forays forward, they weren’t posing any threat to the Timbers goal.

As the minutes ticked down to half time, Portland doubled their advantage in the 42nd minute.

Paredes picked up a loose Javain Brown at the half way line and powered the Timbers forward. Again the Whitecaps couldn’t get a foot in to clear and the ball broke to Asprilla, who easily fired past Crepeau to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead.

Cavallini had a chance to immediately half the deficit, but he pulled his effort past the left post and Vancouver headed in for the break two down and a clear second best.

The Whitecaps badly needed some spark and Cristian Dajome was the man tasked to give them it, coming on for the second half for Javain Brown.

And it worked, with Vancouver the better team to start the second half, without creating much goal threat.

That suddenly changed in the 63rd minute thanks to a piece of individual magic from Caicedo. The Colombian picked up the ball inside his own half and powered forward towards the Timbers goal unchallenged before tucking the ball away into the far corner to throw the Whitecaps a lifeline.

Now it was Portland’s turn to look a step off the pace, as Vancouver sensed an equaliser could very much be on the cards.

And their spidey senses proved correct.

Bruno Gaspar had come on to add some more attacking threat up the right wing and he sent an inch perfect cross into the box from the byeline and onto the head of White who rose to head home the equaliser, and his 11th of the season, in the 76th minute to complete the comeback and send the Whitecaps bench into raptures.

It was an astonishing turnaround, and the first time that the Whitecaps had overturned a two goal deficit all season.

And they weren’t finished yet.

Vancouver were now fully in the ascendency and if any team was going to go on and grab the victory it felt it would be them. Portland seemed a bit shellshocked and that was added to in the 81st minute when Dajome powered into the box and was sent clattering to the deck by Josecarlos Van Rankin. It was a well won penalty by Dajome, who stopped his run and started to fall, drawing contact from the Timber.

The Colombian picked himself up to easily slot home the penalty and the Whitecaps now led.

It was an amazing turnaround, the kind of comeback that propels a team to postseason glory but the Whitecaps still had to see out the remaining eight minutes of regulation and what ended up as eight minutes of stoppage time on top of that. There were a couple of scares along the way as the Timbers tried to get the equaliser but solid defending and some great game management saw the final whistle eventually come and Vancouver were leaving with all three points in perhaps their most vital victory of the season so far.

Wins from the LA Galaxy, Minnesota United, and LAFC earlier in the evening had seen the Whitecaps fall into 9th spot in the West and two points shy of the playoff line. But with RSL not playing midweek, Vancouver’s victory in Portland saw them leapfrog their former landlords and move into the playoff places, where they now sit just four points off fourth and a home playoff game.

We’ve talked for weeks that there is very little room for error at this stage in the Western Conference. The difference between being a postseason side and not hangs by the slenderest of margins for all the clubs in and around the playoff line. That makes Saturday’s trip to San Jose absolutely massive for Vancouver. Taking points of any team below them in the standings feels like must win territory right now, as does taking maximum points at home.

For now though, let’s just enjoy the win, the fight, and the spirit this team is showing, because it’s a joy we all need and deserve after the last 18 months. The only disappointment from tonight was that the ‘Caps fans couldn’t be down there in numbers to enjoy it.

FINAL SCORE: Portland Timbers 2 – 3 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 16.722

STATS:
Possession: POR 49% – VAN 51%
Shots: POR 12 – VAN 11
Shots on Goal: POR 3 – VAN 4
Saves: POR 1 – VAN 1
Fouls: POR 16 – VAN 10
Offsides: POR 0 – VAN 1
Corners: POR 7 – VAN 5

PORTLAND: Steve Clark; Josecarlos Van Rankin (Zachery McGraw, 86), Larrys Mabiala, Dario Župarić, Pablo Bonilla (Marvin Loría 86); George Fochive, Cristhian Paredes; Dairon Asprilla Sebastián Blanco (Santiago Moreno 63), Yimmi Chará (Diego Valeri 75); Felipe Mora (Jaroslaw Niezgoda 75) [Substitutes not used: Aljaž Ivačič, Hunter Sulte, Renzo Zambrano, Blake Bodily]

VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Jake Nerwinski, Florian Jungwirth, Cristian Gutiérrez; Marcus Godinho (Bruno Gaspar 61), Russell Teibert (Leonard Owusu 73), Janio Bikel, Javain Brown (Cristian Dájome 46); Ryan Gauld (Ranko Veselinović 88); Lucas Cavallini (24.Brian White 61), Déiber Caicedo [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Ryan Raposo, Patrick Metcalfe, Michael Baldisimo]

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

VANNI SARTINI

On the game:

“Well you know it’s beautiful. At the end of the first half, my speech was basically we needed to do a couple of tactical adjustments, that we did perfectly, and I said “we’re going to win. And I didn’t say that just because [I was] trying to, I would say, put them in the right spirit, but because I believed it. Because even in the first half I knew that we weren’t doing the things that we were supposed to do. And, even in that, I think that we were in control of the game in a way passed the first 15 minutes. So, the second half was amazing. Everyone did fantastically.”

On whether he and the team kept tabs on out of town scores:

“No, no, we don’t look at the other teams, we just look at us. They’re going to start to play against each other so they can’t win every game, every time, everything. And today, RSL didn’t play. But they need to win to get up, to be higher than us. So, if we keep playing well and not losing, we’re going to be above the line at the end of the regular season. So the only team that must interest us is the Whitecaps, and the next one, so at the moment, but not now because now it’s going to be relaxed, but from tomorrow morning it’s San Jose, the only thing that interests us.”

BRIAN WHITE

On the mindset of the team in the second half:

“I think it started a while back, I think you can tell that we’re a team that doesn’t give up. Especially on the road it’s always going to be tough, and unfortunately we got two goals [conceded] in the first half, so we knew we had to come in and react. I knew coming off the bench I needed to bring another level of energy and do my best to impact the game. So we’ll fight ‘til the last whistle for every game, every time we’re out on the field. Credit to the guys to hunker down, push forward for three more goals and for the win.”

On the team goal to capture a playoff spot:

“We want to take it day by day, game by game. We knew that coming into this game we’re one point out of a playoff spot so we wanted to get above that line and as far past that line as we can. So we’re looking to get three points every time we’re on the field and I think the team has great belief in that no matter who we go up against, no matter where we’re playing, that we can come out and put in a good performance if we stick to the tactics, stick to the system, and believe in everyone on the field. I think that’s a strong feeling among the group.”

DEIBER CAICEDO (through interpreter)

On his goal:

“First of all, I have to say thanks to God for this beautiful victory. I was telling Janio [Bikel] on the plane to give me the ball. I wanted the ball, and then when I looked up I knew what I wanted to do. I was waiting for White to open up the space and the opportunity presented itself for me to just dribble into the space and score a goal.”

On the atmosphere within the team:

“[We’re] super happy with the performance today. With the team we’re always thinking about getting better. We’re a very united group, and it’s important for a club like the Whitecaps to be united. As we continue to be united and get better, and strive to be better, the results will continue to come. As I said, it was a great performance from the team today.”

PORTLAND TIMBERS

GIOVANNI SAVARESE

Thoughts on the loss:

“We started losing the ball too easily in the second half. We started to allow them to get into good areas. Then, when you look at the three goals, the three goals for me are three goals that we, as a team, need to do much better [on]. It starts from me, as the coach, and then everybody has to take responsibility.”

DIEGO CHARA (through translator)

Thoughts on the game:

“We definitely leave [the game] with a bitter taste because we had a great first half with two goals that put us on top. We knew it was hard match, a very good team to play against, and they can definitely do that. They can complicate the match and score whenever they need to.”

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Authored by: Michael McColl

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