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Match Preview: It’s Going to Be a Hot Night in Stumptown

The Whitecaps close out this week’s two-game road trip with a stop in Portland

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Portland Timbers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Gameday Number Twenty-One already as we get a two-fer this week! The Vancouver Whitecaps (7-9-4) stay on the road, taking on Cascadia rival Portland Timbers (6-6-8) where the winner could launch themselves into seventh-place and the final playoff spot.

Match Information

Where: Providence Park, Portland, OR

When: Sunday, July 17th at 7:30 pm PST

How: TSN1, TSN 4 (TV); AM730 (Radio); TSN App (Internet)

Despite the decimated roster, the Whitecaps keep on grinding out results and, perhaps more importantly, are proving they can rally on the road. Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against FC Cincinnati may not have been the most pretty game (for either team, really), with the Cody Cropper/Javain Brown collision really driving that point home, but it does reinforce how well Vancouver has fought back in games as of late. Of course, I say that with last week’s 3-1 home loss to Minnesota firmly planted in the back of my mind, but that was more a case of the wheels suddenly falling off the car.

All-time, the Whitecaps have earned points in 15 of 30 regular season matches against Portland, with 9 wins and 6 draws against 15 losses. Over those regular season matches, their goal differentially presently sits at -10.

As lopsided as those numbers may be, they only get worse when looking at Vancouver’s record when playing in Portland. Across 15 away matches and one “home” match during their nomadic COVID-19 season in 2020, the Whitecaps have earned only 3 wins and 6 ties in Portland, and hold a goal differential of, strangely, -10.

What Happened Last Time?

The Timbers marched into BC Place back on April 9th and left town with a 3-2 victory.

Dairon Asprilla opened the scoring from the penalty spot just before half time after Cristian Dajome awkwardly clattered into Marvin Loria from behind. Jaroslaw Niezgoda made it 2-0 at the hour mark with a near-post rifle past Thomas Hasal. Dajome made up for his earlier error by bending a one-timer into the top corner fifteen minutes later only for Yimmi Chara to get a lucky bounce in the box and immediately restore the two-goal lead.

The drama didn’t end there, however, as the Whitecaps were awarded two penalties in the closing minutes. Alas, only one PK was put past Aljaz Ivacic. The Timbers’ keeper guessed correctly on both attempts, but could only stop Dajome’s stutter-step effort, where Ryan Gauld cooly roofed his shot just before the final whistle.

The last match in Portland, however, had a much happier ending for our boys in blue: a come-from-behind 3-2 win, made even more famous thanks to Vanni Sartini predicting the win in a fiery halftime speech, despite his team being down by two:

Who’s Starting?

A lot of Wednesday’s preview was spent griping about the number of injured players, so what ends up happening in the Cincinnati match? More players got hurt!

Presently listed as Out on the MLS Availability report are Sebastian Berhalter (foot, stress fracture), Deiber Caicedo (knee surgery), Cody Cropper (concussion protocol) Cristian Gutierrez (calf), and Luis Martins (calf). Thomas Hasal (hand) and Javain Brown (orbital contusion) are both listed as Doubtful, and Andreas Cubas (adductor), Marcus Godinho (knee), and Leo Owusu (concussion protocol) are all Questionable.

However, Sartini announced that Cubas, Owusu, and Ranko Veselinovic will all be available Sunday night following a training session on Friday, so that’s pretty awesome!

Potential Vancouver Lineup - Boehmer; Nerwinski, Veselinovic, Blackmon; Dajome, Cubas, Alexandre, Raposo; Gauld, Vite; Cavallini.

Portland only had two players listed on the Availability Report: Diego Gutierrez (foot) is Out and Blake Bodily (hamstring) is Questionable. It’s worth noting that these two have played a combined total of fifteen minutes this season and none since April 30th, so I imagine the Timbers will get by without either player.

A potentially more significant absence will be that of Eryk Williamson, who’s been suspended for yellow card accumulation. For what it’s worth, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Chara are both a yellow card away from their own accumulation suspensions. Any chance the MLS Leader in Fouls Committed will dial it back a little?

Potential Portland Lineup - Ivacic; Bravo, Zuparic, Tuiloma, Van Rankin; Paredes, D. Chara; Y. Chara, Blanco, Moreno; Niezgoda.

What’s Up With The Enemy?

The Timbers have been on a bit of a roll since the start of the summer. After losing three straight to close out May, Portland have earned points in five consecutive matches (3 wins and 2 draws), with the most recent result being a 3-0 beatdown of the Sounders in Seattle.

To be fair, two of those goals came after Jackson Ragen was kicked out in the 46th minute, but they also held on for a 2-1 when centerback Bill Tuiloma pulled two yellow cards of his own ten days earlier. They can win when they’re up a man or down a man.

As a matter of fact, the Timbers have been a part of eight separate matches this season in which a red card was shown, but have only lost two of them despite Portland players being kicked out on five occasions. Tied with Chicago, that’s the most ejections in MLS so far this season, Nevertheless, it’s impressive that Portland has still gotten points in four out of five matches when a player has been sent off.

Who’s Worth Watching?

Jose Van Rankin

Realistically, it should be Yimmi Chara in this spot, seeing as how he leads Portland in xG, non-penalty xG+xA, shots on target, shot-creating actions, touches, and carries. The guy gets himself involved in everything.

However, I’m going with Van Rankin, solely because I want to see the Whitecaps run at the guy who’s tied for the league-lead in red cards and is tied for third in yellow cards. He doesn’t commit that many fouls and three of his defensive stats (pressures, tackles, and clearances) per 90 minutes are in the seventy-fifth percentile of MLS players over the past year. He also led the league last season in PKs conceded, so if Van Rankin is going to foul you, there’s a reasonable chance he’ll either get carded for it or give up a penalty.

Kind of Related & Kind of Hilarious

A profile photo of a smiling Diego Chara above the phrase “All-Time MLS Leader, Fouls Committed”

This picture always gets me.

Who’s Going To Win?

As great as it was to reminisce over Sartini’s speech the last time the Whitecaps were in Portland, I can’t help but think Gio Savarese will have a game plan built to handle Vancouver. It often feels like that game plan is sit back and let Vancouver get themselves in trouble before surgically cutting them apart on the counter. That plan could be even more distinct knowing that Sartini will have even less players to call upon.

If the Whitecaps can execute with precision, then maybe we’ll get a repeat of last October’s win. But with the roster thinner than it was midweek, I can’t help but feel this one will either go Portland’s way or end in a hard-fought draw. Officially, I’ll go with the latter for my guess and call it as Vancouver’s second 2-2 draw of the week.

Eighty Six Forever Predictions

Andrew: 2-0 Portland

Caleb: 2-1 Portland

Luis: 2-1 Portland

Sam: 2-1 Portland


Referee: Ramy Touchan; AR1: Chris Wattam; AR2: Matthew Nelson; 4th: Elijio Arreguin; VAR: Ismail Elfath; AVAR: Cameron Blanchard.