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Post Match: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

After the game against LAFC, the Whitecaps’ two consecutive victories seemed a lifetime ago. Marc Dos Santos had to inspire a team that looked lifeless to put them back on the right track for playoff hopes.

The Whitecaps lined up in ANOTHER new formation, finally playing Eric Godoy in his natural position. The return of Ali Adnan is also encouraging, but another deviation from the norm was the decision to let Russel Teibert sit out, something he hasn’t done for better or for worse this year.

Portland meanwhile, lined up with a less than full strength side:

Right off the bat, the Whitecaps seemed to be weighed down by the last result as a poor tackle outside of the box allowed for a free kick to connect with Felipe Mora’s head to put the Timbers up not even five minutes in.

Like their previous game, the Whitecaps quickly countered and almost got an equalizer themselves from a header by Andy Rose which hit the post.

The following 10 minutes were then all Portland. You have to hand it to the Whitecaps, they’re the team who has played the most consistent style of soccer all season. The only problem being it’s not a style that is pretty to watch or getting results for the most part.

In the twentieth minute, the Whitecaps intercepted a pass that was turned into an attack in which Fredy Montero launched a long range shot which was deflected into the hands of Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark.

The Whitecaps seemed a lot more settled in terms of possession midway through the first half and were more positive in the attack, which almost bore fruit following a Jake Nerwinski cross found the head of Lucas Cavallini that just put the ball over the bar.

At the least, the team seemed to have learned from their capitulation in California by rallying after the early goal instead of playing scared, making the game look balanced and even competitive in comparison to last week.

The Whitecaps had two very close chances near the 40th minute, showing the danger that is having Fredy Montero on the field. First was a ball that landed to his feet from a scuffle in front of the net, second being a cross to a header, saved again by Clark.

If it wasn’t obvious by now, Fredy Montero has transformed the team into something different. The Whitecaps look a lot more lethal than with him on the pitch than they have in probably the last two seasons. (Which is ironic considering that Montero also played for them last year, but the Montero from this season feels like a completely new player.)

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Closing out the half, outside of the goal, it looked like a promising half for the Whitecaps, as it looked like it could be anybody’s game. It’s a good place to be for the Whitecaps, even though the Portland team which lined up today is not anywhere near to their strongest possible lineup.

The second half began with the same intensity that the ‘Caps left the field with, with an early free kick leading to a shot on target. Another encouraging opportunity was from a cross from Colombian Cristian Dajome that flew just in front of a diving Cavallini.

This attacking positivity must have scared Gio Savarese, as he quickly put on regulars Diego Valeri and Yimmi Chara in order to take back the tempo of the game.

An injury to Cristian Gutierrez forced Marc Dos Santos to make a change of his own, as the Canadian-Chilean made way for Frenchman David Milinkovic, adding some much needed dynamism to the Vancouver attack.

The game continued its stalemate, even with the newly added players as neither side really tested both keepers thirty minutes into the second half.

Milinkovic did demonstrate his energy on some agile runs into the box that he made. He should be priority signing for the team once the season is over, as he could be a useful asset to this team when he’s happy.

The game seemed to tip to Portland’s favor with all of their subs on the field giving the first team flair that the Timbers were missing near the end. Vancouver tried to do this on their own with the introduction of Ryan Raposo and Tosaint Ricketts but it may have been too little too late as both players came on after extra time had begun.

Luckily for Brian Meredith’s ego, a breakaway by Yimmi Chara that was turned into a Valeri screamer was saved by the keeper, who according to some reports will be getting some backup in the form of an incoming transfer.

Unfortunately, the Whitecaps had to settle for the loss in their first home match at Providence Park.

Overall, it was an encouraging performance from the team, bouncing back from the 6-0 loss with a more inspired performance as some other teams in the league have failed to do following crushing losses. The team may have lost, but the energy from the players says a lot about their ambitions and resolve to not let this season go to waste.

The Whitecaps have some tough games up ahead, facing Seattle in their first match, while heading down to San Jose to face the Earthquakes. If anything, the latter match seems to be the can’t miss fixture for either side, as both sides have been conceding a bucketload of goals possibly leading to a multi goal affair.