It's derby day in Cascadia! Or, as it's known across the rest of the footy-loving country, a meeting of the two Northwest teams who didn't land Clint Dempsey. (Too soon?)
No matter, there's plenty at stake when your Portland Timbers host the middle ingredient of the bonfire, the Vancouver Whitecaps, tonight at 8 p.m. PTFC could vault into the lead of the Cascadia Cup standings and put a sorta-stumbly July firmly in their rearview with a win over our BC buds. After a historic 15-match unbeaten streak dazzled Soccer City, Portland went 1-2-1 last month. Still, they've lost only three games all season and sit tied for second place in a Western Conference with just 10 points between first and eighth position.
Vancouver has followed a similar path as Portland 313 miles south into J-WF tonight: After a six-match unbeaten run of their own, the 'Caps have lost dropped straight and face their share of lineup questions this evening. Striker Kenny Miller is still nursing a groin injury, while midfielders Jun Marques Davidson and Gershon Koffie are sidelined with suspensions. Throw in long-injured centerbacks Jay DeMerit and Andy O’Brien, and the 'Caps are a bit light up top.
“There’s like five of your best players," said Caps coach Martin Rennie earlier this week. Indeed. So what might buoy Vancouver tonight? The MLS debut of keeper David Ousted is a good place to start. Since arriving in July from the Danish Superliga (which I can only assume means "SuperLeague!"), Ousted had admitted to his hatred of riding the bench, while looking forward to experiencing Timbers Army in his first match stateside.
“If there was some good spectators there and a couple of boos in there, that’s something I thrive on,” Ousted said. “I love that. It just makes me play even better. So I’m not nervous getting in there. I’m just waiting for my chance to prove myself.”
He'll have that opportunity against a Timbers side that'll again be missing ever-moving midfielder Diego Chara, who's working through a toe injury. And in a rivalry match that's expected to be as "wonderfully reckless" as ever, coach Caleb Porter is pointing toward his team's ability to press—and finish—as a renewed focus.
"Not that it's been poor," Porter said. "For me, we haven't been quite as aggressive in that part of our game."
"It’s time to take it to another level...The guys know this is the time of year you separate the good teams and things start to shake out."
Man-oh-man, it's a drop-dead gorgeous day in Goose Hollow. So if you're not here (seriously, where are you?), click past the jump and follow along, as I deftly describe the action—on and off the pitch.
Vancouver (9-7-5, 32 pts)—David Ousted in goal. Lee Young-Pyo, Carlyle Mitchell, Johnny Leveron and Jordan Harvey on defense. Nigel Reo-Coker, Brad Rusin and Daigo Kobayashi at midfield. Russell Teibert, Camilo de Silva Sanvezzo and Kekuta Manneh up front.
Rounding out the 18: Brad Knighton, Matt Watson, Erik Hurtado, Aminu Abdallah, Corey Hertzog, Tommy Heinemann and Greg Klazura.
Portland (8-3-10), 34 pts)—Donovan Ricketts in goal. Alvas Powell(!), Pa Madou Kah, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Michael Harrington on defense. Jack Jewsbury, Diego Valeri, Will Johnson and Darlington Nagbe at mid. Frederic Piquionne and Rodney Wallace up front.
Rounding out the 18: Milos Kocic, Raushawn McKenzie, Ryan Miller, Kalif Alhassan, Ben Zemanski, Ryan Johnson and Jose Valencia.
PREGAME: A bit of surprise to see the newly 19-year-old Powell, who allows Jewsbury to go to the middle to cover for Chara. We'll see if Vancouver goes after him early.
The press entrance is the same as the visiting team's supporters, and there's a bit of extra security and a plastic fence quarantining the Southsiders. J-WF is typically set up in such a way for Seattle matches, but against the docile Canadians? Better safe that sorry I guess.
A banner hanging behind the Timbers bench illustrates the frustration some fans feel with the Dempsey/Seattle marriage (Portland was technically first in something called "allocation order," which would've allowed them to have first dibs on the USMNT star—but MLS is saying that the whole allocation thing doesn't apply to Designated Players...confused? PERFECT NOW CARRY ON).
It looks like we'll have some tifo tonight: 10 ropes hang from the North End and a crew of TA is gathered below. Indeed, a banner rises and it's an instant classic: "Big Hearts, Brass Balls"
FIRST HALF: And we're underway! Timbers heading South.
1st minute—Piquionne tests Ousted right away with a quick shot from about 25 yards. No problem for the keeper clad in pink from head to toe.
3rd—Rusin and Valeri getting to know each other early. Some smack talking and shoving by both, and we're just getting started.
4th—Powell quickly picks up his first yellow card after elbowing Rusin in the face while dribbling down the sideline. Didn't look intentional, but certainly dangerous enough to earn the caution.
6th—Nearly an own-goal on a free kick by Sanvezzo. He bends it in and Piquionne gets a header on it that sends RIcketts diving. It sails wide and we'll have a corner.
7th—Rusin sends it in and Ricketts comes out to punch it away. Crowd is really into this one in the early going.
10th—Vancouver's first yellow as Will Johnson and Kobayashi come together near midfield. Free kick sent in, but nothing doing. Scrappy action early here, which is to be expected. Portland would do well to remain composed on their home turf and not let the 'Caps get in their heads.
14th—Long ball into the box knocked down nicely by Mennah, who gets past Powell and dribbles toward the center. Powell recovers nicely, however, and Portland clears.
15th—Big-time collision at midfield between Valeri and Rusin. The latter is calling for a trainer and Valeri is laying motionless, face down. Rusin being loaded on a stretcher, holding his right calf and Valeri eventually gets to his feet.
17th—Watson will enter for the injured Rusin, who's shown a yellow card to add insult to injury.
19th—'Caps nearly net one as Kobayashi crushes one from 30 yards out. Ricketts dives to his left, and the shot is just wide. On the other end, Wallace with some nice dribbling to get around Pyo, but his cross is cleared out.
22nd—Piquionne gets one in the box, but his attempt to dribble around the Vancouver defense is snuffed out right away. He's then called for a foul, and it'll be Vancouver ball.
23rd—Timbers get it right back and Wallace dribbles into the box and finds Valeri, who attempts a cross. Again snuffed out by the Vancouver backline.
26th—Timers earn a corner and Johnson quickly tries to catch Vancouver off guard. Too quick, according to the official, and it's sent back to him. Everyone gets set, and Johnson knocks it right to the middle of the box, but Ousted is there to leap and grab it.
30th—Wallace draws a foul just outside the half-circle. Good free-kick chance for Portland coming...Johnson lining it up. He strikes it right-footed, but it sails over the five-man wall and nearly everyone sitting in the south-end section. He'd like another crack at that one, for sure. Goal kick coming.
32nd—Now Nagbe is fouled about 45 yards by Mitchell. Another straight-on free kick for Portland and Valeri is lining it up. He lofts one into the box but no worries for Watson, who heads it away.
33rd—Sanvezzo on the counter and he gets into the box while Valeri and Harrington pursue. The latter somehow gets in front and dispossesses him.
36th—Watson shown a yellow. This one is getting testy down the stretch of the first half. Nagbe and Reo-Coker mixing it up, Johnson picking fights all over the place.
37th—Sanvezzo does well to get a header in the box, but it's right to Ricketts.
39th—Piquionne takes a knock and it slowed to get up near the midfield sideline. Trainer comes out and it looks like Ryan Johnson will come on for him.
40th—Indeed, Ryan Johnson is on. We'll see if he can spark something before the half.
44th—Harrington draws a corner kick and it'll be Will Johnson. He bends it in far post and Kah gets a head on it, but not as solid as he'd like. It bounces to the ground and over the line for a Vancouver goal kick...Timbers get it back and Valeri sends a cross to the pressing-forward Powell, but he whiffs on it.
Four minutes of added time...Nagbe leaves one for Harrington, who lofts one into the box for Powell. He gets a header on it, but it bounces straight to the ground. Good luck for the youngster there, his second in as many minutes...Valeri and Wallace nearly combine for something special, but after Valeri tries to bring it back, Will Johnson comes through with a head of steam and knocks it ahead into the Vancouver defense...Powell gets around his defender and fires a cross/shot that's no problem for Ousted.
HALFTIME: We're scoreless after a scrappy first 45. A couple of injuries, lots of knocks and some heated words flying around the pitch. It's just what you expect from a rivalry match—and this one is certainly no exception.
Some stats: Portland out-shot Vancouver 5-4 and maintained 56% of the possession. 17 combined fouls so far.
SECOND HALF: And we're back at it...Timbers headed toward their Army.
49th—TIMBERS GOAL! Ryan Johnson heads one in after a fantastic ball from Valeri. Johnson gets inside the Vancouver defender and knocks a wide-open header to the upper right corner of the net. And the Timbers lead, 1-0. Green and yellow smoke. Johnson leads the team with seven goals, Valeri with eight assists, and that one was clinical.
51st—Kah with a long ball near the top of the box for Wallace, who chests it down and fires. It's right at Ousted's gut, though. Portland pressing well, trying to keep this momentum up.
54th—Sanvezzo with a spin move to get around Jewsbury and fires one from the top of the box, but Ricketts is there to go to a knee and grab it. Well struck ball by Sanvezzo, who you don't want to allow that sort of possession that close to the net.
56th—Wallace is dribbling with so much confidence. He gets around a couple defenders after a 'Caps turnover, but his attempted cross is blasted through the box.
59th—Vancouver pressing ahead for a moment, but Harrington forces a sloppy touch by Teibert gives it right back to Portland.
60th—Big foul about 25 yards out as AJ-B fouls...someone. Sanvezzo lines it up and fires off the Portland wall, and it's deflected out for a corner kick.
61st—Teibert sends it in and Ricketts leaps to grab it. Nice decision there by the big Jamaican. Timbers will go to the bench here, and Ryan Miller will come on for the rookie Powell.
63rd—Nice debut for Powell, who didn't look at all rattled. Had a couple moments that could've been better, but found himself in some nice positions. A few shaky touches, but Porter has to be pleased.
64th—Valeri in the corner of the 18 and finds Nagbe. He fires from the top of the box, but it sails a bit on him. Good luck there.
65th—Vancouver sub: Beaverton/Westview product Erik Hurtado is on for Manneh.
66th—Valeri is fouled and spins to the ground. Graceful! It's good enough to draw a yellow card for Reo-Coker, the sixth yellow of the night. Physical match? Uh, yeah.
68th—Another yellow! This time it's Kah called for a hard foul on Sanvezzo. Does the ref have any room left in his book at this point?
69th—Sanvezzo sends one into the box and it ping-pongs around a bit before crossing he goal line. Dangerous, and we'll have a corner. WHITECAPS GOAL! Sanvezzo sends it in and Harvey with a great run and header to the top of the net. We're all tied up after an impressive goal by Harvey, who was a bit too open there. No chance for Ricketts, really. Some blue smoke billowing out from under the press box.
72nd—Whitecaps on their front foot. Lots of possession in Portland's end. Plenty of time for each team to grab three points here, but Vancouver has the momentum.
74th—Sanvezzo nutmegs AJ-B in the box, but he can't get around him to make anything of it. Timbers give it right up and Hurtado fires one from the top of the box, but it's high. Way too much space there.
76th—Wallace gets around a pair of defenders and finds Ryan Johnson, whose shot is blocked. Nagbe ends up with it and fires one that looks like it was headed to the top right corner, but it's deflected out. Corner kick comes in and Nagbe again with a look. Ping pong action all over Vancouver's box as Portland has seized control of this one.
78th—Corner comes in and Jewsbury heads it down. AJ-B ends up with it and passes to Kah, who KNOCKS IT IN THE BACK OF THE NET...but he's offside. Fans don't like it, but the replay shows he was clearly a yard over. Portland really pressing ahead for the last couple of minutes—can they carry it ahead for 12 more minutes?
80th—Watson with a nice chip into the box for Hurtado, who's cut off by Miller just in time. Hurtado had Miller beat for a moment, but fortunately for Portland, he got there.
83rd—Bodies falling everywhere. First Leveron is knocked to the pitch and rolls around a bit. Then on the counter, Nagbe is tackled hard just inside midfield. We're in for a wild finish here, I think.
84th—Final sub for Portland: Trencito is on for Jewsbury. An aggressive sub for the Timbers. Porter wants three points.
86th—Long arching ball played ahead to Wallace, who finds Trencito running into the box. But his shot is off the side of his foot and we'll have a goal kick.
88th—Nagbe dribbling ahead like a boss and finds Ryan Johnson at the top of the box. He stalls and finds Wallace running down the left side, but his attempted cross is a floater that's easy pickings for Ousted...Timbers get it back and Trencito dances his way into the box and earns a corner. Here we go....
89th—Valeri sends one in for Kah, but his header is high. A Vancouver player is down and as the Timbers Army unrolls a "MLS Transparency = Legitimacy" banner just behind the capo stand.
Three minutes of stoppage...Kah with a long ball to Wallace, whose header ahead is over the line before Ryan Johnson can get there...Ricketts out of the box and Kah blasts it to the line but Wallace can't keep it in...Vancouver taking their time, and rightly so....Teibert with a cross from the sideline, but it bends past Ricketts. Goal kick driven forward and to Johnson, whose shot is blocked over the line. It'll be a throw and the last stand for Portland. Miller throws it in and Nagbe knocks it down before Harvey clears.
FULL TIME: It's a 1-1 draw. A gritty, physical match ends with fans raining boos on the pitch.