Cascadian rivals Portland and Vancouver opened their rivalry for 2017 on a typically rainy February night in Providence Park. It was the last of 3 games in the preseason tournament with both teams fielding strong sides, though Vancouver probably had a few less certain starters.
The home side dominated most of the game and were fully deserving of a 2-0 half time lead. The visitors, who had not threatened much, pulled one back with ten minutes to go, but Portland held on for a 2-1 victory.
The Timbers had Gleeson in goal with Powell, Olum, Ridgewell and Vytas in defense behind the much vaunted midfield axis of Diego Chara and David Guzman. Prodigal son Dairon Asprilla was given a chance to start on the right as Blanco had returned to Argentina to move up his family. Valeri, Nagbe and Adi rounded out a formidable looking attack.
Portland created some early chances especially down the left side, where they took advantage of an inexperienced Vancouver right flank. Sixteen year old Alphonso Davies and newly drafted rookie Jake Nerwinski had a tough first half as the Timbers constantly switched to that side.
The visitors made a few changes to start the second half with Giles Barnes moving to a more familiar role on the left wing having started the game in an unusual play-maker role. Vancouver upped the physicality giving the Timbers some set-piece opportunities around the box.
But the home team continued to dominate the chances with Nagbe putting a header on target from Powell’s cross and soon after ripping a shot from the top of the box. On the hour Mattocks came in up top for Adi, with Arboleda replacing Asprilla on the right and Rennico Clarke taking over from Ridgewell in the center of defense. It took a great save from Ousted to deny Arboleda a goal 10 minutes later following a goal-mouth scramble.
The Timbers defense remained largely untested as Guzman took some chances to sneak forward into attack, interchanging nicely with Valeri on a few occasions and taking some set-pieces as well.
Valeri took a Whitecaps clearance full in the face with 15 minutes to go, he seemed to recover, but was replaced by Jack Barmby. Substitute Christian Techera handed Vancouver an undeserved lifeline with 10 minutes to go netting a superb free-kick after a rare visitors foray in the Timbers half.
It was a great night’s work for Portland and will be satisfactory for the coaching staff as theory morphs into reality.