“We need to be more mature”: Vancouver Whitecaps’ tough 2022 campaign continues with wild 3-2 loss to Portland Timbers

The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the Portland Timbers in MLS action on Saturday. Here’s our match report from that one. 

It was a tough reality check. 

A week after getting off the mark for the 2022 MLS season with a big 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City, the Vancouver Whitecaps came crashing back down to earth on Saturday, as they fell 3-2 to a struggling Portland Timbers side at BC Place.

On a night where they could’ve actually leapfrogged the Timbers in the Western Conference with a win, putting them back right into the mix despite a tough start to the MLS season, they were instead left with a tough reality check, as they now sit with just 1 win through their first 6 games. 

Which, considering that they’re now getting set for a 3-game road trip, is less than ideal, especially considering that the ‘Caps won just 2 of their 17 games on the road last year. 

So because of that, they’ll most definitely rue how things went down for them against the Timbers, where despite an overall decent performance for them, they found themselves undone by some sloppy defence at the wrong moments. 

“I’m pissed,” ‘Caps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said afterwards. “I thought we played a lot in their box, we had chances, we could’ve scored more goals.”

He added: “But we need to be better, we need to be 100% every time, because we (only) conceded three situations, but those three situations became huge chances.”

But alas, that’s been the story of their season so far, as there have just been far too many instances of missed opportunities, and this was just the latest example of that. 

Returning to the match, however, while the scoreline indicated an entertaining game, let’s just say that the start didn’t really match that, as both teams came out slow. 

Despite that, the ‘Caps would nearly get the party started in the 10th minute, as Cristian Gutierrez did well to whip in a ball off a set-piece, where he’d find Ryan Gauld in behind the Portland defence, but the ‘Caps attacking talisman would just snatch at his right-footed shot from in-tight. 

A few minutes later, Gauld would then try to play provider, instead, as he’d do well to tee up Brian White for a breakaway, and the 2021 ‘Caps leading scorer looked likely to open his 2022 account, if not for a scuffed shot that he’d most definitely want back. 

At the other end, the Timbers would get their first decent look of the game in the 27th minute, as Cristhian Paredes did well to open up space for himself at the edge of the box, where he’d send a powerful but saveable shot right at Thomas Hasal in the Vancouver goal. 

Right after, they continued to grow into the game in the 30th minute, as the ball would fall to Yimmy Chara in transition, where he’d do well to look up and unleash a strong shot, one that he’d sent just over the target. 

And thanks to that sustained pressure, that’d allow the Timbers to open the scoring in the 41st minute. After a nice driving run into the box from Marvin Loria, he’d be fouled by a reckless challenge from Cristian Dajome, who’d have no control over his body, taking down Loria. 

It wouldn’t be called right away, as it took an intervention from the VAR to make the call, but eventually, the penalty was given, where Dairon Asprilla would convert home coolly to give his team the lead. 

With that, it’d put the guests in a great position right as halftime neared, because while there wasn’t much to split between the two teams, they’d taken advantage of the biggest moment of the match, and thanks to that, found themselves on top right at the perfect time. 

So for the ‘Caps, it left them with a tall task after the break, because while they certainly weren’t out of the game, they’d shown nowhere near enough to suggest they’d have a goal in them, let alone the two required to win, meaning that they needed a big wake up call during the break. 

“In the first half, we fell into the trap of since they were a sleepy team, we were sleepy too,” Sartini explained. “And that cannot happen, because we are a better team when the other team comes at us, so we can break them and go as fast as we can, but we need to do the same when the other team is (sitting back and) waiting for us.”

And to give them credit, they seemed to realize that. As a result, they came close to opening the scoring right in the 53rd minute, as Ryan Raposo would do well to curl in a dangerous ball towards the front post, where it’d meet the head of an onrushing Gauld, who’d get good power on his header, but sent it just past the near post. 

But then, that’d prove fruitless, as the Timbers would then extend their lead to two in the 61st minute. 

Off a great individual effort from Jaroslaw Niezgoda, he managed to grab the ball in a dangerous area, turn Florian Jungwirth inside out and rifle home a shot on his left foot, burying home with no hesitation. 

With that, it seemed to spell good night for the ‘Caps, who barring a minor miracle, seemed very unlikely to get back into this game, leaving them with a lot of work to do with 30 minutes to go. 

Despite that, they’d keep slowly chipping away at it. Because of that, Deiber Caicedo would come close on an attempt in the 64th minute, as the ball would fall to him on a volley, and he’d make great contact on it, but his shot would sail just over the goal. 

Less than a minute later, Sebastian Berhalter would also then get in on the action, as he’d unleash a rifle of a shot on his right foot on distance, doing well to get everything on his shot, only finding himself denied by the strong hands of Aljaz Ivacic in the Timbers goal.

Then, in the 71st minute, White would come close on a header, getting great contact on a looping chance, but he’d be denied by a fantastic stop of Ivacic, who would then deny Gauld in the box from a tight angle in the 72nd minute. 

And that pressure would pay off in the 75th minute. After some great running from Caicedo down the flank, he’d manage to find an onrushing Dajome with a low cutback, and from there, he would make no mistake, burying home to cap off the all Colombian goal. 

Plus, with that, he’d seem to give new life back to his team, too, who were already starting to look much better, giving fans hope that they could make the unlikely comeback a reality. 

But then, as soon as they had hope back, the Timbers would manage to take it away in the 78th minute. After some nice interplay, the ball would fall to Yimmy Chara in the box, and much like his Colombian counterpart had done at the other end, roofed home a great shot, restoring his team’s two-goal lead. 

Not only that, he really sucked the life right back out of the ‘Caps sails, as they’d immediately lost all momentum that they’d had after the goal, making a late comeback all but impossible. 

Yet, the game wouldn’t be over for the ‘Caps despite that. They’d get a glorious chance to get right back into it in the 86th minute, as Ryan Gauld did well to win a penalty after a check from VAR, and Dajome stepped up to take it, but he’d be denied by Ivacic. 

Then, in an unlikely sequence of events, the ‘Caps would then somehow win another penalty deep into extra time, this time via Caicedo, and Gauld would step up to take it, doing what Dajome failed to do earlier – bury home. 

But from there, it would be too little, too late for the ‘Caps, who despite a late push post-penalty, just couldn’t put the ball into the net, leaving them to rue their missed opportunities. 

Overall, it wasn’t a bad game for them, as they certainly had their chances to make this interesting, but they just didn’t convert their chances offensively, and couldn’t keep the ball out of their net defensively. 

And that just summed up their night. After making progress in their last 4 games, it was an unfortunate step back, one that cost them a great chance at 3 points. 

So now, that leaves them with lots to ponder before they head to Montreal next weekend, where an in-form CF Montreal side awaits them, which could further compile their misery from this game. 

“Unfortunately, we didn’t make points (tonight),” Sartini said. “So I think you can say that in the next three games on the road, we need to do at least four points.”

Player of the Game: Deiber Caicedo

But while there might be a lot for the ‘Caps to stew on from a negative standpoint after this game, one bright light that they can be happy about has to be the play of Caicedo, who was a spark plug all night for his team. 

Right from the opening whistle, he brought great energy up front, and was dangerous every time that he touched the ball, doing well to threaten the Portland defence on several occasions.

And through that, he would be able to have a breakthrough game offensively, picking up an assist to go along with a penalty won, turning his effort into results.

So while it wouldn’t be enough to help his team win, it was an effort to be commended, making him a deserved player of the game. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Florian Jungwirth

Otherwise, our player to watch in this game, Jungwirth, certainly lived up to the distinction for this game – for the wrong reasons. 

Overall, he didn’t have a bad match, to be fair, as he mostly kept Portland quiet all night, but he made a key mistake at the wrong moment, that being that second goal, which unluckily for him would stand up as the winner. 

And that just overall summed up the night for the ‘Caps. They might not have been bad as a whole, but they did not win the key moments, and Jungwirth’s mistake on the goal was just an unfortunate example of that for them. 

The Big Question:

Can the ‘Caps find a multi-goal effort?

It might not have been the way that they drew it up, but surprisingly, for the first time in 2022, the ‘Caps managed to score more than one goal a game. 

Yes, it took two penalties for it to happen, but considering that it’d been 8 games since they’d breached the opponent’s goal more than once in a match, it’s a good start.

So now, they just need to find a way to do it more than once on non-penalty opportunities, something that’s proved to be difficult for them all season long, leaving them with a bit of breathing room defensively in games. 

Stat to Watch:

The ‘Caps lone loss at BC Place since the start of 2021? A 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers in September of 2021. 

When revisiting this stat, all of a sudden this result makes a lot of sense, as much like that Portland loss last year, the ‘Caps just couldn’t find a way to get a win over the line in this one. 

So seeing that, maybe it was just fate for the game to end the way that it did, even though it was deserved for the Timbers…

Miscellaneous: 

Counting Stats:

xG Plot: 

Heatmap:

Looking Forward:

So now, the ‘Caps will have a week to pick up the pieces from this game, before getting set for their trip east next week to Montreal. 

And after this game, they’ll certainly have a lot to ponder, showing what kind of game this is. 

But it’s just been that kind of season so far for Vancouver. Other than a nightmare start to the season against the Columbus Crew, they actually have done well to win in most games, but continued to come out on the wrong side of certain moments, which in this league, makes it hard to win. 

Because of that, it’s imperative that they find a way to change that ahead of this next game, especially as they get set to take on a Montreal side that is certainly getting the most of their moments right now, which could give the ‘Caps a stiff challenge next week. 

“We need to be more mature,” Sartini said. “We need to be more aware of the fact that even if we have four points in six games, we’re not a bad team.”

“We need to believe in it.”

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs CF Montreal, Saturday, April 16th, 12:00 PDT, 15:00 EDT (Stade Saputo, Montreal)

Cover Photo via: Vancouver Whitecaps

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