Yes, it's a meeting between two expansion clubs tied for the most losses in MLS this season, but tonight, standings matter little.
When the Timbers welcome the Whitecaps for a 7 p.m. Cascadia Cup clash (Fox 12, TSN, 750 AM, 101.1 FM), a 36-year-old rivalry will makes its Major League debut.
The standings table? Playoff chances? Franchise futures? Save it all for Sunday.
Of course, once the pageantry fades into 90 minutes of soccer, the Timbers ought to win this match: Vancouver (3-12-9, 18 pts) is dead last in MLS and will start next season with the third coach of its one-year MLS era. The Whitecaps enter the House of Pane having lost six of their last eight, including a pair of 4-0 drubbings in their last three games.
Portland (7-12-5, 26 pts), meanwhile, has earned Valedictorian honors for MLS Expansion Class of 2011, but the Timbers haven't put their best footy forward lately after teasing fans with a 3-0 thumping of league-best Los Angeles and three-match unbeaten streak. That stretch of positive appeared to signal the beginnings of a potential playoff run, but faced with a three-match week that could've vaulted them straight into the thick of things, Portland stumbled through a pair of lackluster away losses and turned the glow of playoff hopes into a cold reality.
But Canuck all that noise. It's the first 90-degree day of the year here in sunny Portland, and we have ourselves a derby. The Cascadia Cup is still up for grabs, there are Canadian accents oot and aboot and the eyes of Cascadia are focused on the Rose City.
So join me after the jump as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch. Eh?
Portland should expect to pick up three points here today, plain and simple. At this point in their expansion noobness, the Timbers boast the better roster, the clearer direction and more experience winning at this level, while Vancouver has yet to find victory away from British Columbia.
The 'Caps have also given up 10 goals in their last three matches, while the Timbers are second in MLS with 23 home goals in 12 matches. Portland would do well to to score first tonight (they're 7-1-2 with the first strike and 0-11-3 without) and prevent strikers Camilo Sanvezzo and Eric Hassli from getting any sort of mojo going.
By the way, how big is this rivalry? Well, 10,000 fans are expected to show up for tomorrow's RESERVE GAME.
Some history from the match notes:
Dating back to the first matchup between the Timbers and Whitecaps in 1975, Vancouver leads the all-time series—contested in the NASL, A-League, USL/USSF and now MLS—with a 34-23-11 mark against Portland. However, the Timbers have controlled the games contested in Portland, holding a 17-10-8 mark. ... The Timbers went 4-0-2 over their last six regular-season meetings against the Whitecaps in the USL/USSF era but were knocked out of the playoffs by Vancouver in both 2009 and 2010. Four players on the Timbers' current MLS roster scored against the Whitecaps in 2010, including Futty Danso, Kalif Alhassan, Bright Dike and James Marcelin.
Vancouver—Joe Cannon in goal. Davide Chiumiento and Eric Hassli at forward. Camilo, Peter Vegenas, Gershon Koffie and John Thorrington at midfield. Jordan Harvey, Jay DeMerit, Michael Boxall and Jeb Brovsky on defense. DeMerit is the captain.
Portland—Troy Perkins in goal. Jorge Perlaza and Kenny Cooper up front. Kalif Alhassan, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chará and Sal Zizzo at midfield. Mike Chabala, David Horst, Futty Danso and Lovel Palmer on defense. Jewsbury is the captain and typical starters Eric Brunner, Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe start this match on the bench.
The large patch of sun across Timbers Army has mercifully faded into the Northwest corner of the stadium, and the TA is packed as usual. A nice showing by Vancouver's official supporters' group, the Southsiders, who are tucked into the Southeast corner. They're in the shade, which is the place to be today.
No tifo for this one, but it appears Timbers Army bought out a flag shop and picked up every City of Portland flag it could find. The whole section is waving back and forth with the Rose City's green, blue and gold banner, and it looks pretty epic. Nicely done.
And we're underway ... The Portland-Vancouver MLS era is officially on.
1st minute—Perkins with two goals kicks to start this one.
2nd—TIMBERS GOAL It's Chará! Portland strikes right away, just 1 minute, 14 seconds into the game and the 'Caps are furious. They were looking for a foul behind the play. Jewsbury played it to Perlaza who drops it for Diego and he hits the top right corner. Chará has his first MLS goal. That was quick—the fastest goal in Portland MLS history. Portland leads 1-0.
4th—Hassli fires a shot from inside the box, but it's well high and wide. And he has just a terrible mohawk. Is the 'hawk still hip in Canada? Doubtful.
5th—Alhassan attacking and gets an attempt off, but Cannon smothers it. Timbers are the aggressor here and Vancouver looks a bit shell-shocked.
7th—Timbers earn a throw in the 'Caps last third. Cooper very active early and goes for a header, but he's knocked down. Vancouver trying to match Portland physically early.
9th—Jewsbury with a free kick from 30 yards out but it's headed right back. Palmer with two shots, the first is knocked down, but the second sails high. Three shots for Portland so far. They've certainly come ready to play tonight.
11th—A long ball gets past DeMerit and Perlaza nearly chases it down before Cannon gets to it. Crowd lets out a big gasp as the speedy Perlaza gives chase, but the 'Caps have it.
13th—Very physical out there so far. No love lost between these two clubs despite the many new faces from last year on each side. I think everyone on the field is feeling what this rivalry is about.
14th—Clever back-footed re-direction from Chará, but it's just beyond Cooper's reach.
15th—Chumiento plays in a cross and Futty with a dangerous block in front and nearly sends it into his own goal. Corner kick played out.
16th—Timbers late to close and Koffie blasts one from 40 out. It lands with a thump against the advertising behind the goal and this place gets a bit quiet after Vancouver's first bit of momentum starts to show up.
18th—Zizzo speedily makes his way down the east side and creates space with a nice touch. His cross goes sailing in toward Perlaza, but it's high. Dangerous ball for Vancouver and Portland answers the 'Caps awakening now.
19th—Free kick for Vancouver from 40 out after Alhassan is called for a foul. Interesting call there as the refs are letting lots of physical play go so far. Alhassan then goes down and nobody seems to notice. 'Caps take advantage and fire off a couple of shots, but the Timbers D is on it.
21st—Alhassan walked off the field, but after a drink, he's back out there. And he gets the ball almost immediately. Some dancing and it's safe to say he's fine. Free kick earned by Vancouver on a Jewsbury foul. A bit out of control there for Cap'n Jack.
22nd—Alhassan trips Thorrington along the west sideline and earns the match's first yellow. A bit sloppy on Kalif's part, as Thorrington wasn't really threatening anything. But a free kick from just outside the top of the box could be dangerous.
23rd—Free kick comes in and Chabala knocks it down with his right thigh. He boots it away and the Timbers are out of trouble.
25th—Perlaza offside after Futty knocks a can of corn high into the Portland sky. He then picks up a foul at midfield.
26th—Corner kick comes in after Palmer is forced to play it over the line. Two crosses find their way in front and Vancouver is threatening.
28th—Things are getting chippy in front. Boxall pushing and shoving a bit. Corner comes in and Portland appears to get going on a counter but Chará is called for a tough foul. Free kick from 25 yards out coming. Straight on.
29th—The Timbers wall stands tall and knocks it away. Timbers looking to run, but Spencer keeps the ball away from Chará as if to slow the pace down.
30th—A Portland cross is headed toward the top of the box and Chará is there to get a solid volley on it. Cannon looks a bit surprised by the pace but he goes to his left and gathers it in. Another good chance for the Timbers, and Diego is having a very active match so far.
32nd—Zizzo takes his time setting things up and a soft pass to Palmer leads Lovel to a cross, but he's tackled and stays down for a second. Shaken up a bit, but he's OK.
33rd—TIMBERS GOAL Perlaza! A Jewsbury free kick off a Vancouver hand ball comes in and is deflected by a Futty header. In the ensuing scrum, Perlaza picks Hassli's pocket on what should've been an easy clearance and Jorge knocks one in from just outside the six-yard box. Perlaza's sixth of the year and Portland leads 2-0.
35th—Vancouver free kick played in and headed high, but Chabala knocks it away and Palmer clears it.
38th—Koffie went down and took his time exiting. Vancouver had earned a throw in deep in Portland's end after a great tackle by Horst, and the ensuing throw is defended by Portland. Timbers are a man up as Chará crosses into Perlaza, who nearly gets enough of a foot on it to put this match away.
40th—Hassli with his longest run of the night, but that's not saying much. He's tackled and Alhassan picks it up and leads the counter. Zizzo and Alhassan have switched wings.
41st—A shot from distance by Camilo, but Perkins is all over it. His first save of the night. Camilo again earns a bit of space and gets a shot off, but Jewsbury immediately deflects it out. Harmless cross comes in, but Chabala mistakenly gets a bit of a header on it and a corner's coming for Vancouver.
42nd—Corner poked out and Portland's countering. Zizzo plays one long to Perlaza, but Cannon comes sliding in to get it. Very nice idea there by Zizzo, just a bit off on the angle.
44th—Chará steals one from Hassli and absolutely puts on a clinic with his run. Great pace and moves. He pulls it back a bit and plays one to Cooper, but he's offside.
45th—Hassli fires one, but Perkins goes down to his left and gets it.
Two minutes of stoppage ... Vagenas with a throw ball to Hassli, but he's offside. Futty was chasing him. Vancouver really working hard in these final couple of minutes. They'd certainly love to get one back. ... Timbers with a throw-in deep in Vancouver's end. Palmer taking his time to ensure no counter. It's played back out and Palmer crosses for Cooper, who goes down in a heap and is rubbing his temples.
HALFTIME—The Colombian connection has been the difference so far as Portland leads 2-0 after coming out of the locker room like it was a house on fire. Great start for Portland, which scored its quickest goal this season and dominated much of the first half. Vancouver showed a bit of life midway though, but Portland weathered the Whitecaps' attack and did well to score a second goal to put themselves in a comfortable position.
Some stats: Vancouver out-shot Portland 7-6 but the Timbers had three shots on goal to the Whitecaps' two. Vancouver had five corner kicks, the Timbers had none. Timbers come back on the field less than a minute before the second half gets underway.
And we're back at it ... Both teams unchanged from the first half.
46th—Hassli gets a shot off early and Vancouver looks more ready to play than they did in the opening minutes of the first half.
48th—'Caps controlling at midfield and Jewsbury looks a bit banged up. Cross goes in and Harvey goes for a volley, but whiffs. He then comes in late and makes contact with Perkins, who is not pleased. He gets all up Harvey's grill and Harvey earns a yellow. A bit of pushing and shoving in front.
50th—Chará breaks through the backline and leaves one for a wide-open Alhassan, who nails the left post with his strike. He's real unfortunate there. Kalif had Cannon completely beat, but he just misses left. Inches from his first goal as an MLS player.
51st—For Vancouver, Mustapha Jarju enters for Vagenas. A forward for a mid and the 'Caps need something to spark them.
53rd—Gambian teammates Futty and Jarju battle for one in the north end and Futty wins the battle. Timbers get a free kick and it's a long ball forward for Cooper. Zizzo controls and tries to flick one through, but it's poked away. Perlaza was there and that would've been a great chance for PTFC.
55th—Jewsbury called for a foul on Hassli. Dangerous free kick from 30 out coming here. Perlaza with a little gamesmanship on Thorrington, not stepping off the ball. Free kick comes in but it's knocked away.
56th—Hassli bends a shot in from 25 yards out, but Perkins goes down and gets it. Hassli very active early in the second half. If he gets loose, this becomes an entirely different match.
57th—Cooper with a long run down the west side, but as he gets to the goal line just outside the box, KFC finds the turf. Right on cue, and it's a Vancouver goal kick.
59th—Whitecaps maintaining possession here, biding their time. Nowhere to go really as Portland is holding its shape well enough. Chabala with a takeaway and Alhassan clears.
60th—Timbers with a throw-in right in front of Vancouver's bench, but nothing doing. Timbers get it back and earn another throw in deep in the Whitecaps' end.
61st—Long throw comes in, but it's knocked away. After a timid Vancouver possession, Palmer plays a long ball that Chará nearly chases down. Cannon has to come out and get it.
62nd—After a poor clearance by DeMerit, Alhassan gathers one in and fires from 25 out. It curls, but not enough and sails past the goal.
63rd—For Vancouver, Shea Salinas enters for Chiumiento.
64th—Some sloppy passing on both sides leads to a Cooper run, but DeMerit defends it well. Deflection finds Alhassan, whose shot is immediately blocked. Timbers bleeding some clock here, playing a bit of keep away.
65th—Long cross comes in and Perkins has to punch it out. Timbers clear as Alhassan gets a strong header on it. Some nice defending by Chabala follows.
66th—Hassli plays one forward to Jarju, but Perkins comes sliding in to grab it.
67th—Hassli plays one back from Thorrington, who fires from distance. Well high and no real danger to Perkins.
68th—Jarju plays one long and Perkins aggressively comes out of the box and clears it toward the Portland bench. Whitecaps bring it back and earn their sixth corner of the night. Portland still without a corner.
69th—Bright Dike enters for Perlaza. Great match for Jorge, with a goal and an assist.
70th—Dike's first touch and he barrels over Harvey. Think he got that plate number? He's then fouled and Chabala with a quick restart to Zizzo, who tries to cross but it's cleared.
71st—Palmer "fouls" Camilo, who sells it well. Free kick comes in and a Jarju header goes dangerously in front but is deflected out. Another corner coming.
72nd—Second corner's just like the first, finding a Vancouver header, but this time Portland gets the goal kick.
73rd—Thorrington with a hard foul on Zizzo and he's down. An easy yellow-card call and a Portland free kick just inside midfield. It's played in for Sal, but the pass is too aggressive and the knock-slowed Zizzo can't get to it.
75th—Long ball played for Hassli, but Perkins gets to it first. Futty is hurt on the play and looks like he's calling for his own sub. The stretcher's coming out. No contact on the play, it looks like Futty might have tweaked the hamstring. Eric Brunner warming up to come in.
76th—Timbers fans chanting "FUTTY DANSO" as he's carried off the field and Brunner enters.
78th—Vancouver looking frantic, but Timbers are composed and possessing pretty well. Whitecaps need to get something going quick here, which isn't out of the question against a Timbers team that's conceded its share of late goals this season.
80th—Long ball up the wing for Dike, but it's just out of his reach. Goal kick coming for Vancouver.
81st—Some nice defense by Palmer to give Portland a goal kick. Perkins plays it forward and Dike with a high flick ahead. Looks like James Marcelin is about to enter.
82nd—Whitecaps with lots of possession here, but Portland's defense is bending. Cooper with a steal and nice run to chew some clock and give Portland the ball.
83rd—Marcelin entering for Cooper. Fans with a "COOOOOP" for KFC.
84th—Omar Salgado enters for Hassli, who had a frustrating night. He walks straight off the field and into the locker room. His coach probably won't be happy about that one. Salgado, by the way, was the top pick in this year's SuperDraft. No. 2 in the first round? Darlington Nagbe, who hasn't seen any action tonight.
86th—Harvey with a cross and Camilo with a blatant handball in the six-yard box. Timbers all react and so does the ref: He pulls the yellow and Camilo will be suspended next week on accumulation.
88th—VANCOUVER GOAL Harvey plays one into Camilo, who makes a spin move and beats Perkins left. Great first touch and move and this one ain't over yet ... Portland leads 2-1.
90th—Vancouver possessing here and looking to take their shot. A long change is too long and Portland gets it back in their own end. Chabala, naturally, taking his time with a throw.
Three minutes of stoppage time ... Timbers earn a throw at midfield and Chabala taking his time again. Portland possessing well here and Vancouver is helpless to chase. ... A giveaway and the Whitecaps get situated in their own half. They earn a throw at midfield, right in front of Portland's bench. ... Ball is flicked through and Salgado gives chase, but Perkins gets to it first. That might have been Vancouver's best shot. Great punt by Perkins, and time is ticking for Vancouver. ... A big steal from Alhassan and him and Marcelin go back and forth a bit. Long ball played ahead, but Brunner heads it down.
FULL TIME The Timbers allow a bit of drama at the end, but they hang on to win this one. A huge victory for Portland, which maintain just a glimmer of hope for the playoffs. Hundreds of City of Portland flags flying as the Timbers win, 2-1. Solid defensive second half for PTFC, who did what they had to do to stay alive in the hunt for the Cascadia Cup. Heading down to the locker room, back with more thoughts in a few.
Back from a light post-match presser and a happy locker room. Spencer was in a joking mood (I'll have the full video in a few) and every player I chatted with agreed the Timbers needed this one. Horst went as far as to say the Timbers are approaching the rest of the season like a single-elimination tourney, which is just how a team in their position should be looking at things.
Man of the match has to go to Diego Chará, who was as active as I've seen him all season and really gave the team a boost with his early goal. Really, really impressed by how comfortable he looks out there (especially after a rough outing at KC), and apparently, I'm not the only one.
An impressive performance for Portland, despite being out-shot 15-10 and taking ZERO corner kicks. The Timbers shouldn't celebrate this one for too long, however: Chivas USA—a team ahead of PTFC in the standings—visits Wednesday.