Post-Match Review #26– Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Portland Timbers FC: Rained on by the Timbers

With the skies opening up to deliver a passionate pre-match storm, this match had all of the elements to create a classic derby. And it certainly delivered on that promise, with both teams combining to provide fans with a night to remember. 

The Vancouver Whitecaps will feel hard done by the result, as they came into this one with 4 points in their last 6 games, but instead, it was Portland, fresh off back-to-back losses, that would bring the thunder on this rainy evening. But the result was not without a good fight from Vancouver, who did their best to challenge Portland, giving their rivals a good matchup after what was a tough week for them. 

So while the result was not one the Caps wanted, with it pretty much extinguishing what was left of their dwindling playoff hopes, they can build on it heading into next week, where they return home after 3 games away from BC Place. With the season all but over, they will need to put an entertaining product on the field to give fans a reason to get out to games. Dos Santos had always termed this a rebuilding year, so in a sense, the results are almost expected, but progress in terms of idea assimilation and tactical development will end up making it worth it in the long run, provided the Caps can assure the lessons of this season can find their way into next year’s campaign. 

Recap:

Vancouver would have to withstand early pressure from Portland, as the Timbers were able to win a couple of corners, not really threatening Max Crepeau’s goal, but putting the Vancouver backline under a lot of stress, with their persistent attack looking likeliest to find the first goal. Marvin Loria had a nice curled effort in the 5th minute for the Timbers, but it went just past the far post, unable to test Crepeau. 

Sebastian Blanco found some room at the top of the box less than a minute later for Portland, but his lashed strike lacked control, sailing over the bar rather harmlessly. While Vancouver held strong, the Timbers were doing well to fuel an already juiced Timbers Army, with every action drawing a passionate roar from their faithful. 

Soon after, Fredy Montero did well to win a dangerous free-kick deep in the Portland half, which both he and Ali Adnan stepped up to take. Montero ended up running over the ball, which allowed Adnan to curl one in, which did well to find Derek Cornelius flying into the box, but the Caps defender bundled the touch off of his arm for a handball. 

Portland came close in the 20th minute, crafting an attack down the left side, opening up space for Sebastian Blanco to craft a cultured strike at goal, which Max Crepeau did well to extend and get hands to, pushing the ball out. It fell right to the wrong man, however, with dangerman Diego Valeri pouncing immediately on the ball, plotting a shot. He hit the ball well, slamming at it first time, sending a missile towards a goal, with the shot only being stopped by an incredible Ali Adnan block, who jumped to put his face in front of what appeared to be a sure goal, deflecting it out for a corner. 

Despite what had been a relatively even game up to that point, the Timbers would be the first to find a goal, finding the back of the net in the 29th minute, as Blanco would once again find himself in space about 25 yards from goal, and he struck the ball well, sending a knuckleball towards goal. While it was the kind of strike one would expect Crepeau to save routinely, it eluded him, with the conditions probably playing a big role in the mistake, as the ball would bounce off of his gloves and in. 

Jake Nerwinski came close to tying the game in the 32nd minute, as he did well to head the ball off of a Fredy Montero corner, but he couldn’t keep his header down, sailing the ball well over the goal. While the result was not where they had wanted, down 1 away from home, Vancouver did well to keep spirits high after conceding what was a pretty demoralizing goal. 

Vancouver would find a lifeline in the 39th minute, however, as they would win a corner via Russell Teibert’s hard work high up the field. Montero would whip a good ball in, but it was unable to find a Vancouver head, bouncing out harmlessly towards the edge of the box. But it was on that clearance where the magic would happen for the Caps, as the ball would fall to Theo Bair, who would hit the ball off of the volley from just a couple of feet inside the box, sending the ball back over his shoulder and into the top corner first time, opening his MLS account. It was the kind of goal he was due to have, with his strong play being one of the lone bright spots of this dire Caps summer, and it was great to see him so happy as he was rewarded for all his hard work, with his strike being an instant candidate for MLS Goal of the week. 

The game would open up to frantic pace after that, with both teams trading chances at high speed. Vancouver would nearly score in the 42nd minute, with a nice cross falling to Andy Rose outside of the box, but his left-footed shot flew into the chest of Steve Clark. Portland nearly found one at the other end, with Loria finding space at the edge of the Vancouver box, hitting a knuckling shot that nearly eluded Crepeau once again, but this time the Caps keeper kept it out, sticking a strong leg out to keep the game tied. 

Yordy Reyna would nearly score in the 45th minute, as he curled one just past Clark’s far post from outside the box. The half would nearly end without fanfare, but things got spicy in the 48th minute, with a Portland corner in bounced around in the box a couple of times before hitting a Vancouver hand, causing numerous calls for a handball, but there didn’t appear to be anything of intent on the action, making it look legal. VAR agreed, declining to call a penalty, sending the Timbers Army into a frenzy of boos, while the Portland players rushed the referee. While it was a huge display of petulance from Portland, it set a good tone for the second half, with both teams fired up heading into their respective tunnels. 

Despite the fiery end to the first stanza, the second half started slow, with both teams trading harmless chances, with a couple of shots sailing well over the goal from both sides, keeping things level. 

The game opened up in the 49th minute, however, as Portland would have a strong rush up the pitch, passing the ball around with pace and intent. They would hit a dangerous ball into the box from out wide, but they were unable to find a clear target, with the ball pinballing around before being blocked out by a sprawling Derek Cornelius. Vancouver would nearly reply on the other end, with Reyna hitting a nice ball back post for Bair, who nearly scored on the volley once again, but this time his shot was saved comfortably by Clark. 

Portland would find the half’s first goal in the 55th minute, as they would attack efficiently down the right. The ball would fall to Portland winger Loria, who has looked lively all game, and he finally delivered on the promise he had shown, curling a delicious effort from 25 yards out, swerving the ball passed an outstretched Max Crepeau. It sent the Timbers Army into a frenzy and seemed to give Portland a much-needed boost. 

But despite that, Vancouver would respond less than 5 minutes later, as they would counter well after a spell of Portland pressure, with Montero finding Reyna all alone in the middle, and he made no mistake with the chance, chipping the ball past Clark for a goal. Or at least he thought. Despite looking onside on the initial ball, the goal was called off by VAR, who felt that Reyna didn’t check his run properly. While the call itself was dicey, Vancouver had to have felt hard done by the decision, robbing them of a chance to get back into the game much quicker than they would have anticipated. Instead, they were left to chase once more. 

Vancouver would remain undeterred by the call, however, coming out flying after the restart, picking up a flurry of chances. While none of them tested Clark, they had done well to keep their heads up by a couple of moments that would have likely tanked them a couple of weeks ago. 

Portland would create a flurry of their own soon after, as they bounced back after the spell of positive play from the Caps. Each time that the Timbers would be on the ball it seemed like they would score, and they came close on a couple of occasions, but Crepeau and his defensive crew stayed strong. 

The Timbers would continue to keep the Caps under siege, with Sebastian Blanco pulling the strings like Carlos Santana, slamming away at the cords to keep Portland’s guitar wailing, desperately asking for a goal. But despite his best efforts, all his strikes at goal were met by an equally as sturdy Derek Cornelius and Erik Godoy, with Crepeau mopping up all that slipped through the wall in front of him. 

Andy Rose came close in the 77th minute for the Caps, as a deep ball from out left would do well to find his right foot, and he hit a strong strike towards goal, lashing out at the ball off of the volley, but the shot would sail just wide, tickling the outskirts of the goal. After being dominated by Portland for a long spell, it was positive to see Vancouver give a sign of life, and it seemed possible that they would find an equalizing goal before the end of the match. 

Vancouver would take over after that chance, continuing to press, but they were unable to test Clark with much in terms of a key chance, with most shots sailing harmlessly wide or right at the Portland goalkeeper. So when Portland would find their 3rd goal in the 92nd minute, via a great counter that led to a wide-open Jeremy Ebobisse finding himself alone in the box to score, it would put the cap on what was a merited result for the home side. 

While Vancouver did well to give them a great game, fighting to the end, they were unable to cook up much in terms of sustained offence, and while their defence conceding 3 goals would usually be the reason that a team could point to for a loss, the offence’s lack of ability to create chances would ultimately be the death knell for their squad, with the scoreline painting a fair picture of the match. 

Thoughts on Performances:

Starting at the back, Maxime Crépeau wasn’t quite his usual flawless self. On the first goal, he got fooled by the movement on Blanco’s shot, as he made a rare mistake that we have not come to expect from him this season. It wasn’t what you’d call a howler, but overall, not his best performance.

Vancouver defended with its three midfielders flat in front of the backline. As has often been the case this year, the Whitecaps sat in a fairly deep block. The backline had a solid outing. Notably, Cornelius was forced into some heroics to avoid conceding another. It is the midfield who will have more questions to answer defensively, as the two first goals were shots from distance and the third goal was conceded as the team was pushing for an equalizer. The Whitecaps have been pinned further back before, but with 39% of the ball, the counter-attack was still a key piece to Vancouver’s offensive hopes. However, the way the team lined up, Yordy Reyna was often left alone making runs downfield. That meant that most of the Whitecaps’ chances came in the second wave once enough players joined the play.

In the second half, Theo Bair jumped up a little sooner on the counter, which made the Blue and White look a little more dangerous on the first ball out from the back. It almost worked on a couple of occasions, but the closest he came was early in the half when his back-post volley was saved by Clark.

Later on in the match, the Whitecaps pushed more numbers forward and had the ball more in the Timbers’ end as they chased the equalizer, but despite the chances, it ended up costing them another goal.

Man of the Match: Theo Bair

It is not often that a BTSVancity Player to Watch also gets Man of the Match honours. But tonight, Theo Bair had “one of the most unbelievable experiences of his life”. He continues to express himself a little more game by game and his moment of brilliance finally came. After a lot of hard work and many near misses, it’s a deserved first-ever professional goal for him in a breakout performance.

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Theo Bair

Bair had been hitting posts and coming agonizingly close. everyone felt a goal was coming. Well, it seems we got our timing right this time, as tonight he found the big goal. The biggest challenge for him in MLS has been to become comfortable with his play. Tonight he showed a higher level of confidence, starting for the fourth consecutive match in a wide position. He is only the third Whitecaps forward to score this year (if we count Yordy Reyna), as Joaquin Ardaiz, is still yet to open his MLS account.

Stat of the Match:

In the front three Montero was lined up on the left side and Bair flanked the right. This stat backs-up Bair making more runs down his side. Montero was often involved in the play, but didn’t make as many forward runs and drifted infield more often, especially later in the game. It was Bair’s night tonight.

Heatmap of the Match:

Tonight’s heat map shows more of the obvious: a lack of attacking midfield. InBeom repeatedly sent the ball overtop to either of the front three, bypassing the rest of the midfield. The favouring of the right side attacking wise is also apparent here.

Looking Forward:

With the victory, Portland jumps above Vancouver into first place in the Cascadia Cup standings. The only match remaining in the competition this season is between the Sounders and Timbers, meaning Vancouver is out of contention for what is probably it’s last chance at a trophy this season.

A week from now, the ‘Caps are back home for the first time since the Voyageurs Cup disaster against Cavalry FC. DC United comes into town with a few known names, with Wayne Rooney headlining the show, with Felipe, Emmanuel Boateng, Lucho Accosta and Bill Hamid making up a solid supporting cast. With a short flight home, the Caps will look to use this week to recover, before they dive into next week’s match, with a couple of new signings in tow. 

Vancouver Whitecaps vs DC United, August 17th, 2019, 19:00 PST (BC Place, Vancouver) 

Written by: Alexandre Gangue Ruzic and Felix Todd

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