Toppled by the Timbers: Vancouver Whitecaps see playoff hopes put on life support in 1-0 loss to Timbers

The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the Portland Timbers on Sunday, in what was a big match for the ‘Caps playoff hopes. Here is our recap from that one, as the Timbers eked out a narrow win over their rivals in Portland. 

All of a sudden, things are looking bleak. 

While the Vancouver Whitecaps do technically still have a chance to make the MLS playoffs, their chances at doing so were all but put on life support on Sunday, as they lost 1-0 to the Portland Timbers. 

In a game where a draw would’ve kept them in the driving seat heading into the last week of the season, a second-half Yimmy Chara goal would prove to be the backbreaker for the ‘Caps, who were just unable to muster up any chances in Portland’s defensive end on Sunday. 

Now, heading into their last game, the ‘Caps find themselves in a tough spot, as they must await other results before knowing where they stand in terms of making the playoffs. 

But until then, they can only ponder what went wrong in this game, as they put up a good fight against a good team, but didn’t find a way to break the game open when they had the chance to. 

To start the game, the Whitecaps made 7 changes to their lineup that lost to the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday, as Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, Cristian Dajome, Ali Adnan, Erik Godoy, Jake Nerwinski and Leonard Owusu came in for Ryan Raposo, Michael Baldisimo, Theo Bair, Tosaint Ricketts, Derek Cornelius, Andy Rose and Cristian Gutierrez. 

In a must-win game, they went with a lineup that had recently won them big matches against Real Salt Lake and LAFC, hoping they could refind that magic in this one. 

On the other side, the Timbers made 2 changes to the side that beat the LA Galaxy 5-2 on Wednesday, as Andy Polo and Felipe Mora slotted in for Andres Flores and Jaroslaw Niezgoda, giving Portland a strong group of players to roll with. 

While it maybe wasn’t their best 11, it was definitely very close to it, and it was certainly better than the rotated side that beat the ‘Caps in the first match between these two teams this year. 

The ‘Caps had the first good chance of the game inside a few minutes, as they put together some nice build-up play, with Fredy Montero doing a good job to find Lucas Cavallini with his back to a defender. From there, the Canadian turned nicely on the ball, opening himself up for a shot, which he sent just over. 

Not long after, Portland found a good chance of their own, as Andy Polo whipped in a nice ball from the right side, finding centre back Layris Mabiala’s feet for a volley. Despite being a defender and having no business being that far up the field in open play, Mabiala showed some impressive feet on the shot, as well, forcing a really nice save from Bush. 

After that, the game hit a bit of a lull, as both teams settled into a slower rhythm in which they’d struggle to find any quality chances. 

Cavallini continued his strong start to the game in the 30th minute, as he found some space at the top of the box after an incisive Cristian Dajome ball, but he sent his right-footed shot well over the goal. 

At the other end, Yimmy Chara had a chance of his own in the 38th minute, as he sent his shot high and wide after cutting in onto his left foot. Inspired by that chance, Dajome had a go of his own, but much like Chara, he was unable to threaten the goal with his strike. 

To end the half, the ‘Caps put together an excellent piece of build-up play in the 44th minute, finishing with Fredy Montero being played in 1v1 versus Clark via a nice Cavallini through ball, but the Colombian’s chip was just cleared off of the line by Mabiala. 

At half time, the game was exactly where the ‘Caps wanted it to be, at least for the most part, as they’d avoided conceded an early back-breaking goal. 

They were yet to score, as well, but against a strong Portland team, to be still tied at half was certainly a positive sign, provided they could use that bit of momentum to find a result. 

But to start the half, the Timbers would be the stronger team, as they found some good chances in the first 15 minutes. 

First, Yimmy Chara forced Evan Bush to make a save in the 54th minute, as the Colombian winger’s shot harmlessly found the ‘Caps keepers’ gloves from a close distance. Soon after, Felipe Mora found some space at the top of the ‘Caps box, but the Portland striker’s shot would deflect just wide, keeping Vancouver alive. 

Once through that storm, the ‘Caps would find a decent half-chance through Leonard Owusu in the 57th minute, with the Ghanian midfielder doing well to find a pocket at the edge of the Timber’s box for a volley, sending his shot over the goal. 

Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, however, the Timbers would push back after that chance, finding the opening goal of the night in the 61st minute. Jorge Villafana made a nice run down the left-hand side, before whipping in a low cross towards the front post, which Yimmy Chara would get to first to slide home the opener. 

With their backs against the wall, and their season depending on at least getting a draw, the ‘Caps would start to fight back, however, showing some signs of life. 

They struggled to turn that life into any sort of chances, though, at least not until the 80th minute, when Ali Adnan went on a wavy run, finding Lucas Cavallini for a poked effort that forced Clark into a nice save. 

And aside from a Theo Bair header in the 84th minute that nearly caused some chaos in the Portland goal, the ‘Caps would be unable to muster up any more chances for the rest of the game, leaving them to lose 1-0. 

With the loss, and the point permutations due to MLS’s recent decision to use points per game (PPG) to decide the playoff spots in the Western Conference, this result all but ends the ‘Caps 2020 season, barring a midweek miracle. 

While they do remain alive until the San Jose Earthquakes find out what will happen with their game that was postponed on Sunday, even then the ‘Quakes would have to lose their last 2 games for the ‘Caps to have any chance, leaving them unlikely to even have the chance to play for the playoffs when they take on the Galaxy next Sunday. 

At the least, they’ve lost all control of their own destiny, which considering they had the chance to grab points in this game, has to hurt heading into this last week. 

But alas, they were just unable to find a way to be decisive in the big moments, which unfortunately for the ‘Caps, may end up being the story of their season. 

Man of the Match: Erik Godoy

Erik Godoy arrives at a ‘Caps game with Jasser Khmiri in preseason earlier this year (Keveren Guillou)

Godoy was a force to be reckoned with in this one, as the ‘Caps centre back seemed to be everywhere at the back for Vancouver throughout the 90 minutes. 

He wasn’t able to save the ‘Caps on the goal they gave up, but he didn’t really set a foot aside from that, making life easier for Evan Bush in goal, while also giving his attackers every chance to find a game-breaking moment. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lucas Cavallini

Cavallini goes up for a header against the Timbers in September (Craig Mitchelldyer/Vancouver Whitecaps)

It was a tough game for Cavallini against the Timbers, as he failed to hit the target, much less score, with any of the shots he sent towards the Portland goal. 

In a game where the ‘Caps needed any sort of offence, it was tough to see Cavallini held off of the scoresheet, but at least he was lively, just lacking that final touch in the box. 

Heading into the last game of the season, it’ll be interesting to see if he can finish the year off on a high note, scoring a few goals against the Galaxy. 

Heatmap of the game: 

Things were better for the ‘Caps in this one, as they had some good spells of possession, but much has been the case for them all season, they just struggled to consistently get into their opponent’s box. 

In tight games like this, it has to hurt, especially when the game is close like this. 

Cascadian Woes: 

And with this loss, the ‘Caps concluded a tough campaign against their Cascadian foes, Seattle and Portland. 

While the Cascadia Cup, the fan-driven cup given to the winner of the season series between the 3 teams, wasn’t given out this season, it’s still tough to see the ‘Caps put up a record of 0W-5L-0D against their 2 Cascadia rivals, getting outscored 10-1 in the process. 

Rivalry Woes:

And quickly to build off of the last point, that also puts the ‘Caps record at 3W-11-0D against rivals in 2020, which in this case, consists of Portland, Seattle, Toronto FC, the Montreal Impact and the San Jose Earthquakes. 

While the last rivalry is a bit of a made-up one, joking called the ‘Third Wheel Derby’, to see the ‘Caps struggle against the teams they’ve typically had a lot of history with in the past is rough, especially knowing some of the games the teams have gone through in the past. 

But alas, in a year with no fans in the stands, maybe that sort of derby energy was something that the ‘Caps sorely missed, leaving them to struggle against their closest foes. 

Looking Forward:

So now, the ‘Caps will have a week until their next game, as they’ll take on the Galaxy on Decision Day next Sunday. 

Depending on how things go this week, they could head into that game with everything still to play for, or their season could be over, so this promises to be an intriguing week for them.

But no matter what happens in the other games, this result has to hurt, especially when you see how close the ‘Caps were to snatching a result against a good team. 

If you want to make the playoffs in MLS, however, these are the sorts of games you have to win, and they just couldn’t find a way to get it done in this one. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Sunday, November 8th, 2020, 15:30 PST (Providence Park, Portland)

Leave a Reply