Timbers Beat Whitecaps 1-0, But Season Still Ends
In a fitting end to a bitter-sweet season, the Portland Timbers won their final match as a lower division team, winning the second leg of their first round match-up against the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0, but were still eliminated from the postseason, losing the two-game series on aggregate goals 2-1. In Game One, Vancouver would score twice in the first 13 minutes to take a 2-0 lead, and although the Timbers would leave everything they had on the field for the next 170 minutes plus of the series, ultimately, those first 13 minutes proved to be the difference maker.
“Devastating,” said team captain Ian Joy after the game. “I feel a bit empty inside.”
“Very disappointing,” added Doug DeMartin.
“I can’t believe the season is over.” said Ryan Pore.
In front of nearly 5,000 vocal supporters and with the University of Portland’s Merlo Field providing an intimate setting, the Timbers provided a thrilling conclusion in their last moments as a Division-2 franchise. After playing one of their worst games of the season in the first leg of the series, the Timbers responded with one of their best performances of the year.
“We played a near perfect game tonight,” said Joy. “The boys played some great soccer and above all, they showed great passion.”
The first half of the match would be filled with close chances for the Timbers, as they easily dominated action and controlled possession against a Vancouver team that was content to sit back and play prevent soccer. Portland would outshoot Vancouver 8-3 in the opening period, relentlessly attacking up the sidelines and sending crosses and long-balls into the box.
The Timbers did a great job of getting all their players involved offensively, bringing multiple players up into the attacking third and building runs patiently. Portland received solid individual performances from many players on Sunday evening with seven different players taking shots on goal. Forward Doug DeMartin would take three shots alone in the first half. Two of his attempts were crosses from 19yr old midfielder Kalif Alhassan, both header shots getting past keeper Jay Nolly, but rolling wide of the post. The speedy and wiry-framed Alhassan was extremely active in the first half, keeping the ball moving and finding teammates, as well as tracking back to create disruptions on the defensive side.
“Kalif tonight, I think was the best player in the park,” said coach Gavin Wilkinson.
Vancouver would survive the first half onslaught, but things would get interesting quickly in the second half. After a rough performance in Game One, Joy would rebound with one his best games of the year, serving up crosses, free kicks, and corners into dangerous positions inside Vancouver’s box all evening. His work would pay off early in the second half. In the 49th minute, Joy sent a high cross into a crowd in front of the goal that midfielder James Marcelin would take out of the air with his head, knocking a shot into the far post past keeper Jay Nolly for the game’s first goal.
With the aggregate score now at 2-1, Portland would have over 40 minutes to try and score the series equalizing goal and force extra time. The Timbers would pour on the attack, outshooting Vancouver 7-2 in the second half. Perhaps, the team’s best chance in the second half, came on a series of set pieces around the 60th minute. Joy would put three consecutive balls inside the Whitecaps box, including a bending cross that would fall dangerously into traffic, the eventual loose ball being picked up by forward Bright Dike, but his shot would be blocked in front of the goal.
As the game reached its closing stages, Portland made desperate attempts at long balls and deep throw-ins into the offensive third, but Vancouver’s defense was tough, packing as many as eight men around the box and doing whatever they could to prevent the Timbers from scoring one more goal. In the end, despite Portland’s best efforts, the Whitecaps were able to hold on and win the series, celebrating in front of their small contingency of fans that had made the trip down. Vancouver will now move on to the next round of the postseason and play the Puerto Rico Islanders.
“I honestly felt like we were going to get (another goal),” said Coach Wilkinson after the match. “And that just adds to the disappointment.”
“We were knocking on the door all night.” said DeMartin. “But sometimes it’s just a matter of a getting a lucky bounce here or somebody coming up with one great play.”
“The guys showed a lot of character coming out and playing a hard fought match.” added Pore.
“We were criticized very heavily (after Game One), but to come back and put on the performance we did tonight was fantastic and the guys should be proud of themselves.” said Joy. “We can hold our head up high after the performance we put up tonight.”
Sunday evening’s contest was not without some controversy. In Vancouver’s frenzied attempt at preventing another goal, the Whitecaps resorted to a physical and aggressive style of play resulting in 34 total fouls in the game, 22 of which were blown on the Whitecaps. There were multiple instances where Vancouver seemed to get away with rough takedowns, tackles from behind, or simply moments where they were allowed to stall the match and waste time off the clock.
“I didn’t think the ref did a great job of handling the game to be honest,” admitted Pore. “But anytime you’re playing in a playoff game against a rival its going to be a physical match.”
“The referee lost control of the game.” remarked Coach Wilkinson. “It would have been nice to have a more experienced referee. We were trying to dictate the tempo of the game and they had a few players who spent a little too long on the ground.”
For two years in a row, Vancouver has dashed Portland’s playoff dreams, however, the Timbers have won the Cascadia Cup at the Whitecap’s expense for the past two seasons. Undoubtedly, Vancouver fans will claim they are the better team, but many Timber fans will hold to the argument that Portland was the stronger team throughout the season. These are some of the things that help to deepen a rivalry.
Still, the Timbers are aware that their first round loss can’t be solely blamed on poor officiating.
“We created the problem for ourselves,” said Coach Wilkinson. “And we couldn’t solve it.”
Keeper Jay Nolly also had a top-notch outing, forced into action all evening by the Timber’s attack and recording five saves for the match.
“Jay Nolly was their best player by far.” noted Coach Wilkinson.
When the Timbers and their fans look back on the 2010 season, they’ll remember a season where the pressure and expectations surrounding the team were at an all-time high, but the team was able to push through, finish the regular season in fourth place, and still make the playoffs. Perhaps the extreme highs and lows of the season can best be summarized by the fact that the team went on a 9 game winless streak earlier in the year, only to finish the regular season on a 10 match unbeaten streak.
“There was a lot of pressure on the team this year, the spot light was a little brighter, and it definitely was a roller coaster year.” said Pore.
“It’s been an up and down year.” Said DeMartin. “But overall we had a good season, its just frustrating for it to end this way.”
After the match, the Timbers walked around the field, honoring and applauding their loyal supporters, as the fans cheered back, saluting the team for all the hard work and heart they showed all season out on the field.
“The players just wanted to repay the amount of support that the fans gave us.” said Coach Wilkinson.
* Photos provided by Allison Andrews @ Soccer City USA
Posted by Kevin