OFFICIAL MATCH STATISTICS
Timbers fall in playoffs, end season on winning note
Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Portland Timbers - October 10, 2010, 6:00 PM (PDT)
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OCTOBER 10, 2010|
Timbers 1-0 win not enough, and drop final second division playoff series 2-1 to Vancouver
It was a case of true elimination when the Portland Timbers hosted the Vancouver Whitecaps in the second leg of their playoff matchup, with the Timbers needing to win by two goals to force overtime, and the loser of the playoffs not only going home, but ceasing to exist as both teams will fold at the end of the season to emerge reborn next year in Major League Soccer. While many players and front office staff will move on to the new teams, it was the end of an era for two teams who have had a good regional rivalry for the last ten years, and faced each other in the playoffs after four of those seasons.
Without the NASL/USL split after last season, these teams would not have faced each other, with the Timbers having the 3rd best record, and the Whitecaps having the 5th. But with the winner of the NASL Conference Carolina taking the #2 seed despite the 4th best record in the league, it meant the Timbers and Whitecaps would face each other in the first round for the 3rd time in the last 4 years, with the teams having split the series in those two seasons, with the Timbers winning in 2007, and the Whitecaps advancing in 2009.
In the first leg of the playoffs on Thursday in Burnaby, British Columbia, the Whitecaps surged out to an early lead after the Timbers failed to clear an early corner kick, with Gershon Koffie putting a shot in off the crossbar to give the Whitecaps the early lead which the Timbers never really recovered from. The Whitecaps doubled their lead on a Martin Nash penalty kick twelve minutes later and tough the Timbers had several chances to pull a goal back, including a Kevin Goldthwaite shot from close range in the 84th minute that was only kept out by goalkeeper Jay Nolly's face, the Timbers had an uphill battle as they had to erase a two goal deficit just to force overtime after the second leg. But the Timbers had beaten the Whitecaps in the second leg of the 2007 playoffs by a 3-0 score, so it wasn't unprecedented, but it was a difficult hill to climb.
The match would not be typical as for the first time in the USL era of the Timbers, they would be playing a home match that "counted" (regular season, playoffs, or Open Cup) at a venue other than PGE Park, which is undergoing renovations for the 2010 MLS debut. So this game would be played at the University of Portland's Merlo Field, where the Timbers had played preseason games against college and MLS competition, and an exhibition this season against Manchester City, and a venue that Vancouver had never played it. It also meant a smaller crowd as it holds less than 5,000 compared to 16,000 at PGE Park. But it was a packed and rowdy crowd supporting the team in what could be the final game for this version 3.0 of the Portland Timbers.
It was obvious from the opening whistle that the Timbers were going to press hard to get an early goal, and it only took until the 8th minute to get their first good chance, when a cross from the right side from Kalif Alhassan was headed just wide left by Doug DeMartin. Three minutes later the Whitecaps had their first good chance off a free kick when Cody Arnoux had a chance after the initial shot was off the wall, but hit a shot well wide left from 25 yards out.
The Timbers continued to attack the north goal, and in the 14th minute, forward Bright Dike fought through two Whitecaps defenders, but his shot from a very tight angle was across the goal mouth with no Timbers there to threaten the goal. Six minutes later, Dike was bought down by what appeared to be a hard foul from behind which produced a free kick but no card, and Ryan Pore arguing the call produced the first card of the night.
The pattern of this match was already clear, as the Timbers were going to attack, the Whitecaps would look for a counterattack or set piece chance to steal a goal, and the visitors would use fouling (they would be called for 22), "injuries", and delay tactics to disrupt the flow of the game. While not a very sporting way to play the beautiful game, especially after last season's amazing 3-3 game at PGE Park between these two teams in the second leg of their playoff matchup, it was probably an appropriate strategy to try to protect a two goal lead in unfamiliar surroundings.
In the 30th minute, Vancouver would get a dangerous free kick, but a resulting shot by Martin Nash was over the crossbar. Seven minutes later, it was Alhassan once again giving DeMartin a good chance with a nice cross to the Timbers forward, but he couldn't get up high enough to get much on the cross and it went harmlessly wide right. Two minutes later it was Steve Purdy giving DeMartin a chance for the header, but the header slipped just past the left post.
The Timbers had a great chance to get a goal before the half when a James Marcelin pass found Kevin Goldthwaite just outside the box, but his curling shot was stopped by a nice diving save by Jay Nolly. Four minutes later it was Dike getting a chance on the header, once again slipping a shot agonizingly close to the left post. The Whitecaps had one more chance to steal a goal before halftime but Gershon Koffie was well over the crossbar, and the Whitecaps had survived the first half onslaught from the Timbers to keep the match scoreless at the half, and still held a 2-0 series lead.
But that all changed four minutes into the second half when a cross from the left side from Portland's Ian Joy was right into the head of recently blonde Marcelin, who rose above three Whitecaps defenders who didn't really challenge the cross, and he had an open look and headed it just inside the right post to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead, and pull back to within 2-1 on the playoff aggregate. Seven minutes later, the Whitecaps were fortunate to not allow a second goal when after a header by Dike was pushed off the crossbar by Nolly, and calls for a Whitecaps handball on the rebound went unheeded, the ball was cleared and the threat was ended.
In the 62nd minute, the Whitecaps had a counterattack chance as Ridge Mobulu had a breakaway down the right side, but defender Stephen Keel was able to slide in front of the shot at the last second and deflect it wide over the endline. Six minutes later, the Whitecaps had another good chance as Blake Wagner had an open look from 20 yards out, but his blast was a yard or two over the crossbar. Shortly afterwards, the Timbers had a good chance off a failed clearance of a free kick, with Pore chipping towards the net from 18 yards out with Nolly out of position, but missed badly, but the errant shot ended up at the feet of Goldthwaite whose attempt to turn and shot was blocked well, and the started the first of several injury delays to Whitecaps players which were frequent in the last 20 minutes of the match.
In the 72nd minute, the Timbers had good chances from Dike and second half substitute Takayuki Suzuki as the ball rebounded around the Whitecaps box, but Nolly made another good save to end the threat.
One minute later, the Timbers may have had a good argument for a penalty kick when it appeared after an errant clearance by a Whitecaps defender, Nolly appeared to punch the head of Pore instead of the ball when both were going for the free ball, with Pore having a knot on his head afterwards to show for it, but referee Fotis Bazakos called the foul on Pore instead, so the chance of a second goal off a penalty kick similar to what happened for the Whitecaps in Vancouver was waved off.
Ten minutes from time, Timbers midfielder Rodrigo Lopez had a chance to repeat his magic free kick he had displayed earlier this season in the game winner vs. Boca Juniors, but his attempt was punched clear by Nolly. By this time the match had no flow as Vancouver players were going down to the turf after just about every play, and every restart was only taken by Vancouver after a yellow card (the Whitecaps got three yellow cards for delaying restarts) or warnings by the center referee. Oddly enough the main offender of dealying restarts was Nolly, who receieved several warnings, but somehow evaded a card.
Only four minutes of stoppage were announced when it could have been twice that, but the center referee would apparently split the difference as the teams would play nearly six minutes. But the Whitecaps had just about every player packed into the box by this time, and the Timbers were not able to threaten again, and the final whistle would blow and this version of the Portland Timbers would fall just short of extending their existence at the second division level with a 1-0 win but a 2-1 series loss.
Jay Nolly recorded five saves on 15 shots by the Timbers, while Portland's Steve Cronin was never tested and did not record a save as the Whitecaps only had five shots and none on goal, with protecting their two goal lead their sole purpose.
So an era ends for the Timbers, and now on to Portland Timbers 4.0.