PORTLAND, OR (April 22, 2017) – The Portland Timbers started their Cascadia Cup campaign with a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at Providence Park. A goal of the year candidate from Darlington Nagbe and a Darren Mattocks finish on a quick counter attack made sure Freddy Montero’s rebound off a missed penalty did no damage in the end.
Nagbe Golazo Helps Timbers Win in Cascadia Cup Clash With Vancouver
The Timbers saw some changes to their normal Starting XI. Fanendo Adi was retroactively suspended for this game for an elbow during the Sporting Kansas City match, so he was replaced by former Whitecap Darren Mattocks. Sebastian Blanco also didn’t start. Dairon Asprilla played the right wing in his stead. Liam Ridgewell and Vytas Andruskevicius returned from injury and were starting in the back four. Finally, Jake Gleeson was dropped from the team and Jeff Attinella made his Timbers debut in his goal.
Strong Portland First Half
Darlington Nagbe uncorked a goal for the ages to get the scoring started in the 18th minute. He received a David Guzman pass about 30 yards from goal before cutting inside around three Vancouver defenders and firing the ball off the crossbar and in from well outside the corner of the penalty area.
The Whitecaps were gifted some questionable defending right after the goal. Christian Bolanos drifted past Lawrence Olum in the penalty area to collect a cross, but couldn’t get his header down and floated it over the goal. That would just about sum up the Vancouver chances for the first half.
Portland would double their advantage five minutes before the break. A turnover in midfield led to a break from the speedy Portland attack. Nagbe played a long ball to Diego Valeri along the right flank, who crossed for Mattocks, who buried the tap in against his former team.
That goal capped off a strong first half for Portland. They controlled possession and were able to finish off their best chance. Vancouver did outshot them 10-7 in the frame, but most only one was on target and many were from non-threatening areas.
Vancouver Surge Falls Short
Vancouver came out on the front foot in the second half and were rewarded for their efforts in the 59th minute. Bolanos was bolting into the penalty area when he was cut off by Alvas Powell, drawing the whistle on an obvious foul in the box. Freddy Montero saw his initial attempt from the spot saved, but the rebound fell right to him for the easy goal to cut the lead in half.
Portland responded well after conceding. They only created a couple half chances of their own, but, more importantly, they kept the ball off Whitecap feet. Vancouver would threaten with a couple of dangerous free kicks during stoppage time, but they failed to execute on either of them and the Timbers escaped with the 2-1 victory.
Nagbe the Star
Nagbe provided the opening goal, but he also contributed in every facet of the game to earn Man of the Match honors in my book. Although he doesn’t get credit for an official assist (only an MLS level secondary one), his pass to Valeri before the Mattocks goal was just as picture perfect as hit bar down opener. It takes a special talent to loft a ball half way down the pitch with such pinpoint accuracy, and it’s a talent that Nagbe is full of.
Defense Still a Work in Progress
Although the Timbers had their normal starting back four out there, they still looked a little shaky. It was the two players that hadn’t missed any time making mistakes, too. Powell had a rough game overall. He conceded the penalty that led to Vancouver’s lone goal and was slow on the outside all day long. Lawrence Olum was also an issue at the back. He provided a couple suspect moments, none more than the free Bolanos header he allowed just after Nagbe scored.
Valeri Injury Scare
Trouble arose for the Timbers just before the 80 minute mark when Diego Valeri was stretchered off the pitch. He had taken a beating right from the opening whistle and eventually succumbed to an apparent leg injury. Nobody wants to see such a talent carried out of a game and the Timbers are hoping it isn’t anything serious.
That said, Vancouver may be on to something when it comes to keeping Valeri at bay. Their plan was to play physical on him right from the beginning. His most dangerous moments came when he was allowed space to work, like his assist on the Mattocks goal. Vancouver was able to take him out of the game by closing down on him and fouling him if necessary.
The Timbers will take the Cascadia Cup win to the bank to maintain their hold on the top spot in the Western Conference and the Supporters Shield standings. They will travel to Texas for one of the biggest games on their schedule next week. They will take on FC Dallas next Saturday in a potential Western Conference playoff preview.