Chopped: Vancouver Whitecaps receive cold welcome in new home from usual hosts Portland Timbers with 1-0 loss

Days after getting trounced by LAFC, the Whitecaps looked to bounce back with a win over the Timbers on Sunday. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to find all 3 points, but they did look a lot better in a 1-0 loss. Here is our report from that one, as they suffered a narrow defeat at ‘home’ in Portland. 

Despite being nicknamed the ‘Timbers’, Portland decided to do the chopping in this one. 

It wasn’t much of a chop, in fact, it was more one good swing of the metaphorical axe, but it was enough to get a big victory, as the Portland Timbers beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 at Providence Park on Sunday. 

In a unique ‘home’ game for the Whitecaps, who are calling Portland home for the next couple of weeks, they were unable to take advantage of their new digs in their first game as the home team, as Portland rode an early goal to a narrow victory. 

Fresh off of a 6-0 spanking from LAFC in midweek, it was a good step forward from the ‘Caps, but at the same time, it was a tough result in a game they could’ve done better at stealing away from Portland, and in a tight playoff race where every point counts, the loss certainly will hurt them.

As for the game itself, the ‘Caps headed into this one reeling, but confident in their chances at snatching a result, as they looked to use some squad rotation to help them find some magic at ‘home’. 

After playing a 4-2-3-1 for the last few games, the Whitecaps would start out in a 4-4-2, making 5 changes to the side that lost 6-0 to LAFC in the midweek, as Andy Rose, Erik Godoy, Ali Adnan, Leonard Owusu and Fredy Montero came in for Derek Cornelius, Rank Veselinovic, David Milinkovic, Michael Baldisimo and Theo Bair. 

On the other side, the Timbers made 6 changes from their lineup that beat the Seattle Sounders a few days prior, as Felipe Mora, Andy Polo, Marvin Loria, Cristhian Paredes, Marco Farfan and Larrys Mabiala came in for Jaroslaw Niezgoda, Jeremy Ebobisse, Yimmy Chara, Diego Valeri, Julio Cascante and Jorge Villafana. 

And to start the game, it would be deja vu for the Whitecaps early on, as they got a slight flashback to their loss to LAFC on Wednesday by giving up an early goal, with Portland’s Felipe Mora doing a good job at getting his head on an Eryk Williamson free-kick, flicking it past Bryan Meredith to open the score 5 minutes in. 

But while it was a slow start for them again on Sunday, they did a lot better job at bouncing back from it, and they nearly were rewarded for their efforts in the 7th minute, as Andy Rose did well to get his head onto a whipped wide set piece from Cristian Gutierrez, only finding himself denied by the post. 

The game would slow down after that, as both teams settled into a rhythm, with the only other chances through the first 30 minutes being a harmless Williamson strike from distance that stung Meredith’s hands, before Lucas Cavallini did well to get onto the end of a great cross from Jake Nerwinski, heading just wide. 

Not long after, the game would wake up in the last 15 minutes of the half, as both teams traded some high-quality chances to close out the first 45 minutes of play. 

First, it would be the Timbers through Marco Farfan, who would force a real nice block from Erik Godoy in the 32nd minute, with the Argentine defender doing an excellent job to deflect a dangerous strike from inside of the box just wide, much to the relief of Meredith. 

Next, it would be the ‘Caps turn to get some good chances, with Fredy Montero doing well to get off a dangerous low shot from inside of the box in the 38th minute, but his shot was just blocked, before he found himself all alone behind the defence to meet an Ali Adnan cross a minute later, with a great save from Steve Clark being the only reason Portland didn’t relinquish their 1-0 lead. 

Overall, it was a decent half for the Whitecaps, despite the early goal, as they did well to avoid an early disaster, such as the one that plagued them against LAFC. 

Against a heavily-rotated Portland team, you would’ve liked to see them have shown more dominance, but it was definitely a good step forward, provided they could do something to grow off of it in the second half. 

To start the second half, the Whitecaps would continue to generate chances, but they struggled to find the breakthrough they needed, much to the relief to the Timbers. 

Lucas Cavallini came close with a flicked header in the 50th minute, sending his chance just wide, before he had the best Whitecaps chance of the game up to that point in the 52nd minute, as he did well to meet a Cristian Dajome cross at the back post, but despite being unmarked and wide open in front of Clark’s goal, he headed wide. 

And despite needing a goal to salvage a point, the Whitecaps would struggle to generate any more chances for the rest of the game after the Cavallini chance, as it would be all Timbers throughout the last 40 minutes, despite Vancouver having more of the possession. 

In the 70th minute, Andy Polo forced a decent save from distance out of Bryan Meredith, before Jeremy Ebobisse and Diego Chara were denied on back-to-back chances around the 85th minute, with Meredith doing his all to keep the Whitecaps alive. 

Meredith’s heroics would continue into the late stages of the game, as in the 93rd minute he made an excellent stop on Diego Valeri, keeping Vancouver in the game right until the last kick, but unfortunately they weren’t able to test Clark in the Portland goal, giving him a comfortable clean sheet. 

Overall, it was an improved performance from the Whitecaps, at least if you compare their last outing, but at the same time, it was far from a banner night either, as the scoreline probably showed. 

The same could be said of the Timbers, who were very quiet, but they got the goal they needed before locking things up, and considering they had a heavily rotated lineup, they will definitely not care about how this victory looked, as they find themselves tied on top of the Western Conference with this result. 

They don’t ask how, they ask how many, and knowing that they’re very fortunate that one of their away games on the schedule was technically a home one, they’ll be happy they took advantage of that scheduling quirk in this one. 

As for the Whitecaps, it’ll be all about building off of this one in their next game. Much as they have all season, they showed flashes, but they just need to find some sort of consistency over longer stretches of time, which has certainly been their biggest struggle this year. 

Man of the Match: Erik Godoy

Godoy does a throw in at BC Place last year (Keveren Guillou)

In a return to his natural position, Godoy had a strong game for the ‘Caps, as he did well to marshall the backline in what was a good bounceback performance for them after the 6-0 loss on Wednesday. 

As he returns to full fitness after dealing with injuries all season long, his play on Sunday was good news for the ‘Caps, as they could most definitely use the presence that Godoy can bring to the backline on a regular basis. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Cristian Dajome

Dajome gets stuck in for a challenge versus Portland on Sunday (Craig Mitchelldyer/MLS)

Overall, Dajome was solid on the night for Vancouver, as he had some good runs down the flanks, combined with some good balls into the box. Defensively, he also added 1 tackle and 2 interceptions, as he got stuck in as he tends to do, which helped the ‘Caps keep things tidy defensively. 

In a game where he wasn’t at his best, it’s encouraging to see him contribute in a multitude of ways, as he seems to have a consistency that most wingers don’t have, allowing him to be useful in matches where he isn’t feeling it as much offensively. 

Heatmap of the Game: 

On the positive side of things, the Whitecaps heatmap was decent, at least offensively. 

Yes, there is a giant gap in front of goal, but they did do a good job of generating offence down the flanks, so that’s certainly an improvement there compared to their struggles from the LA game. 

Defensively, they did allow Portland into some dangerous areas, but they did mostly keep them out of the box, so they did what they needed to do there, making the set-piece goal they gave up all that much more painful. 

Looking Forward:

Now, for the Whitecaps, another stiff test awaits them, as they travel to Seattle to take on the Sounders next Saturday, in what is going to be a real tough game for the ‘Caps. 

With Seattle tied at the top of the Western Conference with the Timbers, it’ll be another tough matchup for Vancouver, who will want to desperately get back in the win column after back-to-back columns, especially with how tight the playoff race has remained in the West. 

It won’t be an easy matchup, as they’ll be far from favoured to win, but if they can go into Seattle and leave with at least a point, that could be a huge morale booster heading into an important stretch of games. 

And with a week until that Seattle game, it’ll give the ‘Caps some much-needed rest and training time, which could allow them to come out stronger against the Sounders than they did against the Timbers in this one. 

Still very much in the playoff race, it’s imperative they grab points to have any chance at making the dance, making this Seattle game one where they’ll have to find a way to surprise and make some magic happen. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Saturday, October 3rd, 2020, 19:00 PST (CenturyLink Field, Seattle)

Cover Photo via: Craig Mitchelldyer/MLS

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