The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the Portland Timbers in MLS action on Friday night, falling to their Cascadian rivals 1-0 in a tight game. Here’s our match report from that one.
It was a tough way to end their run.
But at a certain point, the luck was bound to run out for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who were riding a 10-game unbeaten run in MLS play, including a 4-game winning streak, heading into their Cascadia Cup clash with Portland Timbers at BC Place on Friday.
Coming into a massive 6-point game against the Timbers, who were sitting just 1 point above the ‘Caps in a congested Western Conference table heading into this one, it was hoped that the ‘Caps could keep the good vibes flowing on Friday, but alas, it was not meant to be for the home team, who’d fall 1-0 to their rivals, widening the gap between the two sides to 4 points.
Having made a habit of starting games slow before coming back with gusto in the 2nd half during this streak, the ‘Caps were just unable to find that late magic that they’ve started to be known for as of late, failing to react to a strong Timbers start, leaving the home team to pick up their first loss since July.
“I think we had more chances than them, and we at least deserved a tie,” Whitecaps interim head coach, Vanni Sartini, lamented after the game. “I thought the 2nd half was much better (for us) than the 1st half”
It’s not all doom and gloom for the home team, however, as they remain very much in the playoff race with 11 games to go, but it was a tough blow to stomach in a game that could’ve given a big boost to their postseason hopes, one that they might rue in a few months time.
Returning to the match itself, though, as mentioned earlier, it’d be all Portland to begin the game, as they looked to catch the home team by surprise with a good start.
As a result, the Timbers would have the first good chance of the match right in the 5th minute, as they found a bit of space to roam in transition, and they’d nearly make the Whitecaps pay for it, as Dairon Asprilla managed to get open for a shot attempt, but his attempts would be nicely blocked by the ‘Caps Erik Godoy. On the subsequent rebound, Yimmy Chara then had a go towards the ‘Caps goal, but his shot was also blocked, this time by Florian Jungwirth, before Felipe Mora ended the sequence by blasting the ball over from close range.
After that, though, the games settled into a bit of a lull, before the Timbers came alive once again in transition in the 25th minute, continuing to find some joy via that avenue. This time, Sebastian Blanco found a bit of space at the edge of the box, and he did well to pick out Asprilla with a lovely ball over the top, but the Portland winger didn’t get enough on his header, nodding right at Maxime Crepeau in the Vancouver goal.
Then, the ‘Caps finally started to get in on the action a bit, as Ryan Gauld found a nice pocket in the box for a low cross in the 36th minute, but his flick towards goal wouldn’t threaten Steve Clark in the Portland net, allowing the veteran keeper to make an easy save.
A few minutes later, the ‘Caps Brian White found a similar pocket of his own on a cross, but much like with Gauld, his headed attempt would harmlessly dribble towards goal, once again giving Clark an easy save, keeping the game 0-0.
But other than that, though, the game would make it to halftime without a goal, leaving both teams to ponder a new approach heading into the 2nd stanza, as they both chased 3 points.
Through 45, Portland had probably gotten the better of the chances up to that point, but the ‘Caps mostly kept them out of dangerous areas, leaving the game at quite the impasse at the break.
Because of that, the question loomed heading into the 2nd half – could one of these teams find enough juice for a breakthrough?
And to start that 2nd half, the answer would be yes, as the game would finally find a bit of life, with both teams really finally beginning to chase that opening goal.
The ‘Caps first came close, as they had a few good wide set pieces deliveries from Gauld, but none of them managed to find a target and go in, although Ranko Veselinovic came close with a nice chipped attempt in the 50th minute. Along with a few penalty shouts that could’ve easily gone their way, the ‘Caps looked like a team that wanted to chase all 3 points, making up for the slow start.
Soon after that, though, the ‘Caps attacking rush would end, allowing the Timbers to claw back a few chances of their own.
First, Claudio Bravo came close with a speculative long shot with his left foot from well outside the box in the 55th minute, before Asprilla then whizzed one right by the post in the 56th minute, giving Crepeau a slight scare in each instance.
Continuing their good run, Blanco then came close in the 64th minute, as he found a nice pocket of space at the edge of the ‘Caps box, but his left-footed strike would be too close to Crepeau, allowing the ‘Caps goalkeeper to make a comfortable save.
And that consistent pressure would pay off in the 65th minute, as Portland finally found their breakthrough. Blanco would find a bit of space at the edge of the ‘Caps box, and he’d do well to find Mora with a lovely ball over the top, one that Mora managed to bring down nicely before striking a low shot, one that’d deflect off of Veselinovic and into the net for the own goal.
For the ‘Caps, it was a tough blow, as it left them to chase the game with 25 minutes to go, but it was fully deserved for the Timbers, who were much the better team in the game up to that point.
But then, the ‘Caps would start to wake up. Pushed on by the home crowd, they started to put Portland under the cosh, forcing them deep into their end.
That’d nearly pay off in the 77th minute, as the ball bounced up nicely for second-half substitute Deiber Caicedo on the volley after a corner, but his left-footed shot would be cleared off the line, much to the relief of the visitors.
Continuing his strong game, Caicedo would then come close in the 84th minute, as Gauld whipped in a lovely ball for him at the back post, one that Caicedo would do well to get his head too, although he’d send his attempt just wide.
Despite all that pressure, though, the ‘Caps were yet to find their goal heading into the 90th minute, so they then threw the kitchen sink forward, as they desperately chased an equalizer.
That’d nearly pay off for them, as they came close right at the death, but the Timbers held strong. Despite some chances right in the box from second-half substitutes, Leonard Owusu and Lucas Cavallini, along with a late strike from Gauld right at the edge of the six-yard box, the Timbers would block all 3 of those attempts, allowing them to pick up all 3 points.
It’d be a massive road win for the Timbers, not only in the playoff picture, but the Cascadia Cup standings, as well, leaving them both in a playoff position and atop the Cascadia Cup mini-standings with the result.
For the ‘Caps, it was a tough blow, but it was also an important learning experience for them, as they got a much-needed reality check after pretty much being unstoppable the last few games.
With there still being a lot of games left for them to push up into a playoff spot heading into the last few months of the season here, it’s not the end of the world now, but this game certainly taught them a lot of key lessons, lessons that they’ll need to take forward into their upcoming games.
In a congested Western Conference playoff picture, though, it’ll leave them scoreboard-watching for now, hoping that results can go their way, probably making them rue their missed chances across 90 minutes in this game.
“Sometimes we need a slap to find momentum,” Sartini said of his team’s slow start. “We need to work on that, and have more awareness that we’re a good team, we don’t need to be scared”
Player of the Match: Michael Baldisimo
Moving on, it was tough to pick a player of the match in a game like this, as it wasn’t necessarily a game where there was one person who stood out for the ‘Caps, but despite that, Baldisimo certainly had some of the most flashes of his teammates.
Despite some hairy moments at the beginning of the game, he settled into a nice rhythm as the game went along, playing some nice balls to his teammates.
It might not have been his best game in a ‘Caps shirt, but it was certainly not his worst, either, as he continues to show his value to his team’s ability to play the ball forward consistently when in possession.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Brian White
Otherwise, we picked White as our player to watch in this one, and he unfortunately didn’t live up to that distinction on Friday, participating in a pretty uneventful match up front.
Starved of service, he just didn’t get enough touches of the ball, and as a result, he didn’t get much of a chance to impact the game, before making way for Cavallini in the 2nd half.
So although Cavallini didn’t show much more than him, either, as it was overall not a kind of game striker’s would thrive in, White missed out on a good opportunity to lay claim to earning more minutes going forward, likely relegating him to a bench role in the coming match.
Heatmap of the Match:
Moving on, it was also a pretty uneventful match in this section, as neither team really grabbed a true stranglehold on the game, despite the result.
As seen here, the ‘Caps late push probably could’ve warranted a goal, as they really put pressure on the Timbers box at the end of the match, but alas, it wasn’t mean to be in this one.
xG plot of the Match:
That was also backed up in the Expected Goals (xG) plot, as well, which really shows how the ‘Caps came on at the end after their slow start.
At one end, they actually defended pretty well, mostly avoiding giving up any big chances, but offensively, they didn’t generate enough, either, especially not until late on in the game.
Did they deserve a goal? Probably, but you can’t consistently start games slowly and get away with it, a lesson they learned in this game.
Now, the ‘Caps will have some extra time to prepare for their game, which comes against the Colorado Rapids in 9 days from now, giving them some time to learn from the mistakes that they committed in this one.
Again, as mentioned earlier, this game is far from a fatal blow to their playoff hopes, but it’s certainly not good for them, either, leaving them to ponder what went wrong.
At the same time, though, they were certainly due a result like this, and although there are some other games where they maybe could’ve stomached dropping points, that’s just the reality of the business sometimes.
So with that in mind, they need to just make sure to put the nose back to the grindstone and have a good week of training, allowing them to get back on track versus the high-flying Rapids, who certainly won’t be an easy game, sitting 2nd in the Western Conference standings as of writing.
As they look to get back to winning ways, they’ll need to come out big in that one, all while learning the lessons they were taught in this one, making the next week quite important in the grand scheme of things for this ‘Caps team.
“If we keep playing like this, I guarantee we’ll be above the line at the end of the year,” Sartini said defiantly.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Colorado Rapids, Sunday, September 19th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City)
Cover Photo via: Beau Chevalier