PORTLAND, OR - motivated by last week's draw at home against the Seattle Sounders and a large contingent of travelling support, the Vancouver Whitecaps battled to a thrilling victory over the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.
The First Half
The evening certainly did not start well for the Whitecaps after they found themselves down by a goal after only three minutes courtesy of Portland's leading scorer, Maximiliano Urruti. Instead of stepping up to pressure Urriti, Nigel Reo-Coker pulled away from the Argentine midfielder and allowed him the time to tee up the ball and blast an absolute stunner beyond the fingertips of a diving David Ousted and into the top corner of the Vancouver goal.
The Timbers dictated the match in the early stages, and almost scored a second goal in the seventh minute when Will Johnson had a close range shot batted away by the sprawling Ousted.
By the quarter hour mark the Timbers' furious pace, as if it were lulled by the almost tribal rhythms of the Timbers Army's drumming and chanting, began to ease. The Whitecaps, who were lucky to be down only by a goal at this point, were given the opportunity to level the score in the sixteenth minute when Diego Chara brought hometown boy, Erik Hurtado, down in the box. Referee Kevin Stott awarded the Whitecaps the penalty, which was calmly converted by Vancouver's midfield maestro, Pedro Morales.
As the balance of play began to even out between the two sides Urruti came close for the home side in the nineteen minute when his header from a Portland corner hit the angle on the Vancouver goal and stayed out. The Whitecaps, however, were able to assume the lead just minutes later when Sebastián Fernández was brought down by Jorge Villafaña for Vancouver's second penalty of the match.
Once again the cool-as-ice Morales scored from the spot, and slowly but surely the Whitecaps began to take control of the match. In minute thirty-seven Morales came close to curling a shot past Donovan Ricketts after some excellent work by Whitecaps' fullback Jordan Harvey to win the ball deep in the Portland third.
The Caps were not finished scoring and extended their lead in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time when Huratdo tapped home his own rebound after some excellent build up play through the Caps' midfield.
The Second Half
The Whitecaps were not content to sit back with a two-goal lead and went up by a score of four to one just five minutes into the second half when Harvey brought down a Morales cross and rifled it into the back of Rickett's goal.
With fifteen minutes left in the match, the Timbers were given a lifeline when the flat-footed Whitecaps defense was punished when Gaston Fernandez headed home Diego Valeri's cross to cut Vancouver's lead to two goals.
Fernandez's marker triggered an intense period of pressure from the Timbers, which culminated with a spectacular volleyed goal by Will Johnson in the eighty-sixth minute (yes, here at Eighty Six Forever we are well aware of the irony). Despite the pressure put on Vancouver at the end of the match, the Whitecaps were able to hang on and survive the late onslaught for their first-ever MLS win in Portland.
The Final Word:
Tonight's victory over the Timbers has put the Whitecaps into fourth place in the MLS Western Conference. Vancouver, who has played only 12 games so far this season, has at least a game in hand on all of the other teams in the top five. In addition to their move up the table, the Whitecaps are now also leading the standings for the Cascadia Cup with four points.
Man of the Match: Pedro Morales. Seriously, is there anything we can add to try and describe the brilliance of our Chilean maestro? Without a doubt Pedro has to be the most talented player we have seen in the Caps' brief MLS history.
Portland Timbers FC: Ricketts (GK) - Jewsbury - McKenzie - Kah - Villafaña (Kalif Alhassan 77') - Chara - W. Johnson - Nagbe - Valeri - Zakuani (Fanendo Adi 57') - Urruti (Fernandez 66')
Referee: Kevin Stott
Attendance: 20, 814
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