The Caps’ saw an eight-match league unbeaten streak end on Saturday, falling 3-1 to Portland Timbers in a disorganized effort from the away side.
The Timbers got revenge for their loss at BC Place, using a brace from Evander to lift them to a win, giving them a boost in the Cascadia Cup standings. Despite some crosses bearing fruit in the box, including one that led to an own goal, this was one where Vancouver simply could not match their attacking effort.
Our 𝙎𝙏𝘼𝙍𝙏𝙄𝙉𝙂 𝙓𝙄 vs @timbersfc 👊
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 14, 2023
In a nod to the mid-week rotation and Brian White’s injury, Sergio Cordova returned to the starting lineup alongside Ryan Gauld and Pedro Vite. Alessandro Schopf also slotted back into the midfield, with the remainder of the starting lineup looking mighty familiar.
Portland started on the front foot from the word go and an Andres Cubas turnover led to the chance Franck Boli needed to snatch an early goal. It was a simple through ball to find Boli and Yohei Takaoka would likely want his attempt back to keep the ball out.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) May 14, 2023
The Caps got a shock to the system and Pedro Vite ought to have equalized immediately, finding himself with a free header off a great Cordova ball. The Timbers still had the better of the chances, usually after the Caps got loose in the midfield or defensive thirds and Portland was able to effectively bite back.
The defense remained shaky and that helped Portland grab a second. It was a nicely worked goal between Santiago Moreno, Juan Mosquera and, ultimately, Evander but it was some rather shambolic defending that allowed them the space to pull off the flicks and tricks that fed the goal.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 14, 2023
The Caps kept getting the ball into good positions, even if they couldn’t quite make the right decision, and it was a couple of super balls that got Vancouver back into it. The channel on the righthand side was bearing fruit for the Caps and they finally made it count.
Javain Brown found Gauld, who pinged a perfect ball forward for Gressel, whose cross forced Zac McGraw to turn the ball into his own net. In fairness to the defender, Cordova would likely have tapped it in if he didn’t and it was a much needed lifeline for Vancouver.
There were generally too many players trying to occupy the same spaces when playing up the middle but the wings offered lots of space for the Caps, including a fabulous free header for Cordova that he just whiffed on and a 1v1 for Gauld, where a stray touch did him in.
The Caps set a different tone to start the second half, bringing on Simon Becher for Cordova in what the club said was a planned substitution to help Cordova regain match fitness.
A middling start to the half allowed Portland to restore their two goal advantage off a brilliant goal from Evander. Another mistake out of the midfield, where Cubas tried to get stuck in and the Brazilian spun around and wound up to beat Takaoka at his near post. It was a great strike all the same to earn Evander a brace.
Another one for Evander! 😤
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 14, 2023
The Caps settled into possession more and more as the Timbers defended their lead but were largely unable to get Gressel and Gauld involved in the play, instead relying on Brown and Ali Ahmed to try and create chances.
- There was a lot of negativity towards the “lump it into the box and inshallah” tactics and I get it when the target is Gauld or Deiber Caicedo. But I would argue it actually kind of worked? There were at least three free headers or looks in the box that were left wanting (Vite with two and Cordova with one). The Caps also had a couple really nice long balls through the right channel that tested the Timbers back line, just like the ball that led to the own goal. Not converting those was obviously the issue, as was some concerning defensive play. This was not a good performance but there certainly were chances left on the table.
- Cordova’s performance will be somewhat colored by missing a free header that he really probably should have put away but I thought it was a decent showing for a first match back from injury. He clearly brings something different than Brian White and was happy to drift into wide areas and whip balls in, which was a decent strategy at times.
- Cubas had some moments of Cubas-ness but also got burned multiple times in ways that were very much out of character. The Timbers’ pace gave him issues and his aggressiveness burned him on the second Evander goal. Cubas’ assertiveness is his biggest hallmark and you live by it and die by it, usually to good effect. That just wasn’t the case tonight and is a reminder of how crucial Cubas truly is to the Caps — when he is off, it is a lot tougher for Vancouver to win.
- The shutout streak was, naturally, a bit of a magical thing that is not necessarily the defensive baseline for this team. But the fact that we now have had three straight halves of soccer in a row where the defense has been disorganized and flat footed is certainly not idea. For the majority of this season, this team has been marked by its solidity and cohesiveness — there has been a division of duties defensively, where every guy knows what he has to do. And while the Caps had periods where they cut down the passing channels well, this was one where the Timbers’ quick passes really caused problems.
- Given the travel demands this week this was a performance that can be easily written off as a failure to launch, though this team continues to look like a different entity away from home. And a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions was bound to end eventually. The demanding schedule won’t let up, as two match weeks are back on the menu.
Man of the Match
Luis Martins was defensively solid but was a buzzkill going forward. Ryan Gauld and Julian Gressel were solid in the first half but went silent in the second. None of the subs really made an impact. If required to fulfill my obligations here I would go with Gauld but the pickings are slim tonight.