|62' - Vancouver: Paul Dailly|
The Timbers chose to go against the norm and open up the 2002 A-League playoffs at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but the strategy backfired as the Whitecaps settled into a defensive posture for most of the game, then got a breakaway goal in the 62nd minute from Paul Dailly to escape with a 1-0 win over the Timbers in a match played in front of 4,071 at PGE Park. The Timbers outshot the Whitecaps 12-4, and had a late goal from Greg Howes disallowed for either an offside call or an off-the-ball foul on McKinley Tennyson.
From the opening whistle, the Timbers were pressing for an early goal, and in the 5th minute, McKinley Tennyson got behind the Whitecaps defense briefly, but his shot from 10 yards out was blocked over the endline by a sliding Chris Franks. Over the next few minutes, Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar and Scott Benedetti both had good looks at the Whitecaps goal, but neither could put their shots on net.
After keeping the Whitecaps from putting any shots on goal off three corner kicks, the Timbers had another good chance to score in the 19th minute when they had a free kick just off the corner of the box, but Keith Costigan's shot at the upper right corner was saved by Whitecaps keeper Jim Larkin. Four minutes later, the Whitecaps had one of their best looks at goal when Jason Jordan had a mostly open net to shoot on from 15 yards out, but put his shot well over the bar. In the 22nd minute, a ball dropped back to Jeff Clarke gave the Whitecaps another good look at net, but his shot sailed well wide to the right.
The Whitecaps were applying some pressure during this span of the first half, and Timbers goalkeeper Matt Napoleon had to fight off a body check from Whitecaps forward David Morris in the 24th minute to punch out a Vancouver cross. The Timbers had one good chance during this span, when Tennyson went over Nick Dasovic to get a glancing header on a cross, but the ball went across the face of the goal and wide left. Dasovic would be a thorn in the side of Tennyson all night, as he body checked him, held him, and shadowed him relentlessly throughout the night, a strategy which would keep Tennyson in check all night.
In the 36th minute, the Whitecaps had perhaps their best scoring chance of the first half when Alfredo Valente made a diagonal run into the box from the left side, but his low shot went across the goal mouth and just wide to the right. For the rest of the match, it would be the Timbers who would be in control of the ball as the Whitecaps went into a defensive posture that would continue until the final whistle.
In the 38th minute, Larkin came off his line to punch out a Benedetti cross to Tennyson, and though the ball did not rebound far away from Larkin, it rebounded far enough away that no Timber was able to put a follow-up on goal. In the 39th minute, Greg Howes played a hard shot from 25 yards out that was blocked by Clarke before it could get on net. The Timbers had one more good chance to score when Brent Sancho was tackled just outside the box in the 43rd minute, but the free kick was put well over the net by Alcaraz-Cuellar, and the half ended in a scoreless tie.
In the second half, it became obvious the Whitecaps were looking for a draw, as there were always at least five defenders across the box, and sometimes six. Dasovic was shadowing Tennyson, and the Timbers began to move more players forward in an attempt to break through the packed-in defense.
In the 52nd minute, the Timbers nearly payed for their pressure offense when Jordan got behind the Timbers defense and made a run from midfield towards the Timbers goal. But Sancho chased Jordan down after giving him a five yard head start, and slid in from the side and knocked the ball out of bounds, as well as knocking down Jordan with his follow-through, just as Jordan reached the top of the Timbers box.
But ten minutes later, an almost identical play paid off for the Whitecaps when Morris' through ball from just behind midfield hit Whitecaps midfielder Paul Dailly in stride, and he made a 50-yard run towards the Timbers net as the defense attempted to run him down, but Dailly was quick enough to get to the top of the box before they could catch him, and he slid a low shot just inside the left post from 18 yards out, and the Timbers crowd was shocked into silence as the Whitecaps had taken a 1-0 lead.
The Timbers offense really woke up at this point, and would keep the ball in the Whitecaps attacking third for almost all of the remaining time. In the 62nd minute, Tennyson turned on the ball and hit a hard low shot from 25 yards out that trickled just wide left. One minute later, a chip into the Whitecaps box from Alcaraz-Cuellar was about to fall into the run of Tennyson before Larkin lunged out to block the ball way just before it reached the Timbers forward.
In the 70th minute, the Timbers had a free kick from 30 yards out from Alcaraz-Cuellar that went over the bar by only a yard or two. In the 80th minute, the Timbers came very close to scoring when Tennyson got to a cross just in front of a charging Larkin, and deflected the ball wide to get around Larkin, but even though he had an open net, the angle was too extreme and his shot was over the bar.
In the 85th minute, Sancho had the Timbers threatening again when he made a diagonal run into the box to about 8 yards out, but his shot was deflected over the end line by Franks, who slid perfectly into the shot. One minute later, Tennyson got his head on a cross from 10 yards out, but his header was right at the Whitecaps keeper. In the 87th minute, Howes hit a dipping shot from 30 yards out that cleared the bar by barely a yard. Shortly afterwards, a cross into the box found the foot of Alcaraz-Cuellar, but he managed only a weak shot right at Larkin.
Just into stoppage time came the strangest call of the night, which may have cost the Timbers a tying goal. Check above for a video clip of this play. Benedetti, moving out from the top of the box, tapped a pass into the run of Howes, who let go a hard shot from 22 yards out that curled perfectly into the bottom left corner of the net. However, referee Brian Hall mysteriously called a foul (or an offside) just as Howes took the shot. The official description of the call in both team match reports is offside, though the assistant referee's flag never went up, and Howes was nowhere near being offside, nor were either of the Timbers attackers forward of him. But Hall made a call that negated the shot, and the threat was ended.
The final good chance the Timbers had to score was in stoppage time when an Alcaraz-Cuellar header went just over the bar, but the Timbers were not able to break through the Whitecaps defense, and the visitors held on for a 1-0 lead. The Timbers will need a one goal win in Vancouver on Sunday to force overtime, or a two goal win to win the series outright.