Portland, OR - As Providence Park was bathed in the last golden rays of a Cascadian summer the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps took to the pitch to face each other for the final time of the 2014 season. Once again the Whitecaps found themselves out-coached and out-played by the Timbers, and just as we witnessed at BC Place a few short weeks ago the end result was nothing short of a complete disaster.
This was a match that was ripe with implications for the MLS playoff race and the Cascadia Cup, and with Vancouver losing last week away to FC Dallas this match had become one of the "must-win" variety.
Carl Robinson opted to start the match with a 4-4-2 diamond with Matias Laba at the base of the diamond and youngsters Sebastian Fernandez and Erik Hurtado up top. Despite how the match, and score, ended up the Whitecaps actually started the match well and looked the better of the two teams through the first twenty minutes.
Both teams traded chances early on owing to the high tempo and lot of space on the pitch and the Whitecaps had a couple of chances to score an early goal on their hosts. Sebastian Fernandez had a chance to opening the scoring almost right from the start of play and then ten minutes no one was in position to take advantage of a Jordan Harvey pass that skipped across the face of a wide open Portland goal.
In the 28th minute possession of the ball was turned over, very cheaply might I add, by Erik Hurtado. Portland fullback Jorge Villafana crossed the ball into the Vancouver box and it was blasted into the top of David Ousted's goal by an unmarked Diego Valeri.
That was it really. There is no doubt that the Whitecaps did get off to a very bright start in this match. Again they had a couple of good chances to take the lead, but they did not do so. After the Timbers opened the scoring the momentum started to shift Portland's way and that's where it stayed.
It was a hot afternoon in Lower Cascadia and the tempo slowed as the game wore on. The Caps felt that they were perhaps denied a penalty when Diego Chara hacked down Fernandez in the box, but referee Hilario Grajeda kept his whistle in his pocket and play carried on.
In the end the half-hearted appeals for a penalty did not matter. Shortly thereafter Fanendo Adi got behind the Caps' defense on a lethal counter attack and slid ball under Ousted to extend the Timber's lead and effectively put the game beyond reach of the Whitecaps. Three minutes after that Adi scored his second of the match and put the final nail in the Whitecaps' coffin.
Robinson made use of all three of his substitutions in this match, but Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks and Nicolas Mezquida had little impact on the game. Mattocks, in fact, did his very best impression of the Invisible Man the entire fifteen minutes he was on the pitch at the end of the match. His performance again in recent weeks leads this writer to wonder how much desire Mattocks has to play for the Whitecaps because he looks completely disinterested and disengaged whenever he plays.
The Caps will now have to win in Seattle on October 10th to keep the Cascadia Cup in Vancouver for another year and the playoffs seem like a less likely proposition each and every week. Next week the Whitecaps face Real Salt Lake at BC Place while the Timbers are off the Centre of the Universe to play Toronto FC. The Whitecaps are now two points behind the Timbers for the fifth and final playoff spot and if results continue to go against them Vancouver's post season aspirations could be over pretty damn quick if they aren't already.
Well, that's about all I have for this one. To coin a phrase I'm "gutted" right now. I'll let the rest of you take it from here.
Man of the Match: Kendall Waston
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