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Week #11 Match Preview! Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Cascadia Cup time! The second match of our PNW derby gets going Friday when the Vancouver Whitecaps (2-5-3), who have started to earn results this season, play host to the nomadic Portland Timbers (3-5-1), bearers of their own three-game winning streak.

Match Information

Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC

When: Friday, May 10th at 7 PM PST

How: TSN1 (TV); TSN 1040 (Radio); MLS Live on ESPN+ (Internet)

The 2019 season has been an odd one for the Portland Timbers so far, but for a pretty glaring reason. Though there are striking similarities to the opening of last season...

  • 1st 5 Games - 2018: 0-3-2 vs. 2019: 0-4-1
  • 2nd 5 Games - 2018: vs. 2019: 3-1-0*

*They’ve only played 4 so far. Still impressive turnaround.

...the oddity stems from the sharp uptick in results despite the Timbers opening the season on a twelve-game road trip, due to renovations and a seating expansion at Providence Park.

Three tiers!!

Regardless, it’s admittedly impressive that Portland has won three on the trot away to Columbus, Toronto, and Salt Lake, before visiting Vancouver at stop No. 9 of the road trip.

Despite the resurgent performance, the Timbers have still conceded in every match this season, giving up more goals (20) than every team outside the conferences respective #12s, Colorado (27) and New England (30).

It’s hard to say what we’ll get: a somewhat porous defense or a moderately battle-ready offense.

What Happened Last Match Season?

The Whitecaps claimed all six points off their Cascadian rivals in 2018, behind a pair of 2-1 victories.

In mid-August, first half headers from Kei Kamara and Cristian Techera got the ‘Caps out front, but it was far from smooth sailing: posts were hit, Vancouver was out shot 25-13 and out-possessed 69%-31, and Diego Valeri had a crack at two PKs. Thankfully, he needed a second one to make good, as his first effort was dragged wide.

Game #2 came at the end of the season, when the playoffs were out of reach and Seattle already raised the Cascadia Cup. Again, the Whitecaps made good on two in the first half, this time behind an Alphonso Davies brace. The statline was far more flattering for the Whitecaps this time around, leading 13-12 in shots and 59%-41% in possession, but that didn’t keep Andres Flores from defaced the scoreline with a ninetieth minute tap in.

All-time, the Whitecaps are 6-10-6 against Portland during the MLS regular season, though they hold a slightly more encouraging 4-4-2 record, with 15 GF and 15 GA.

Semblance of balance, that’s what that is.

Who’s Available?

For Vancouver, midfielders Michael Baldisimo (left ankle) and David Norman Jr. (right foot surgery), and centerback Jasser Khmiri (left knee) continue to be unavailable, while Yordy Reyna (left hamstring) will miss his second-straight game and, most likely, the rest of May.

As for the Timbers, two keepers, Aljaz Ivacic (left tibial stress fracture) and Kendall McIntosh (left thigh) are both out. Not that it matters: Jeff Attinella and Steve Clark have started all nine matches, with Clark backstopping the last two wins. And listed as Questionable for the Timbers is off-season signing Marvin Loria, who is also yet to feature this season.

To sum up, the Timbers are absent two goalies and a forward, three players in total with zero combined minutes of MLS experience.

Who’s Worth Watching?

Diego Chara vs. Hwang In-beom

This has less to do with stats and more to do with personality. Admittedly, Chara is a great defensive midfielder, but he’s also a gigantic pain in the ass. He’s Brad Marchand. He’s Draymond Green. He’s A.J. Pierzynski. It’s why his club headlines how odd it is for him to draw more fouls rather than commit them for once.

He’s never not going to play the game right on the line. If he’s on your team, you love him for it. Everyone else? Most likely seen him less favorably, to put it mildly.

And he’s a notorious ear flicker. Either way, he’s a hard man and a pest.

Which is why I firmly believe Hwang is in for a battle Friday night. He’s been one of our best players this season, and is capable of some tight turns in traffic and pointed through balls, but how well will that work when Chara won’t give him time on the ball? Vancouver is going to need a lot of fast-paced ball movement in the middle to draw Chara out of position and work the ball either up the wings or to whomever the #9 is on the evening.

Who’s Going to Win?

Considering how the Whitecaps are 4-4-2 at home all-time against Portland with a goal difference of nil, history won’t necessarily be an indicator in this one.

Neither will travel; it’s a derby match after all, with a club who’s fan base travels very well.

So much so that, after the most recent standstill between the Vancouver supporters groups and VWFC management, which only served to draw more attention to the club’s grossly simplistic responses to the alleged abuse suffered by the 2008 women’s team, not to mention the hiring of a racist youth coach, by attempting to manage the marketing perspective through limiting media representation and preventing meaningful discourse with ownership alone, the Timbers Army will be joining the Southsiders, Curva Collective, and Rain City Brigade in a third, 35th-minute walkout:

I get the feeling fan involvement will therefore be limited to tifos and the second half, where the Whitecaps have been outscored 8-4 this season. So, that’s no good.

And despite how the Whitecaps have shown signs of improvement results-wise over the last five matches, going 2-1-2, the Timbers have done just a little better at 3-2-0, with those three wins coming in the matches leading up to Friday.

All things considered, I would have been certain of a 2-1 result, as 9 of the past matches between these two have ended with that scoreline. Then again, the Portland defense is shambolic, so let’s call this one a 2-2 draw. The ‘Caps will find a late equalizer after the respective supporters groups return to their seats, but not before they endure an extra panicky second half bombardment.

Potential Lineups:

Vancouver - Crépeau; Adnan, Henry, Godoy, Nerwinski; Teibert, Erice, Hwang; Bangoura, Montero, Venuto.

Portland - Clark; Valentin, Tuiloma, Mabiala, Moreira; Blanco, Chara, Paredes, Flores; Ebobisse, Valeri.

Officials:

Referee: Allen Chapman; AR1: Logan Brown; AR2: Michael Kampmeinert; 4th: Elvis Osmanovic; VAR: Slviu Petrescu; AVAR: Joshua Patlak.