PORTLAND, Oregon: Vancouver Whitecaps FC (5W-3L-2D) grinded out their league-leading fifth clean sheet of the season on Saturday night in a scoreless draw with Portland Timbers (2W-3L-4D) at Providence Park.
There were some scary moments for the visiting ‘Caps, including a missed Darlington Nagbe penalty in the first half, but another strong defensive showing helped the Blue and White secure their 10th point away from home this season.
Carl Robinson’s side are now 3W-1L-1D on the road in 2015. They’re also in a four-way tie atop the Major League Soccer table after 10 matches.
Robinson made three changes to his starting lineup for Saturday’s match. Two of them were made out of necessity, as Gershon Koffie replaced a suspended Matias Laba and Ethen Sampson came in for an injured Steven Beitashour (glute strain) at right back. Left back Jordan Harvey also drew back into the team in place of Sam Adekugbe.
There wasn’t much between the Cascadia rivals in the early going.
As has become the norm away from home, the ‘Caps surrendered the bulk of possession but defended well and managed to limit Portland’s opportunities at goal. It was a similar story at the other end, however, as Whitecaps FC struggled to break down the Timbers’ back line.
In fact, the first real chance of the match came in the 30th minute, when Portland was awarded a penalty afterPa-Modou Kah was called for a handball in the box.
Fortunately for the Blue and White, Nagbe struck the ensuing penalty off the base of the post as the ‘Caps breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Just a minute later, the Timbers came close again when Maximiliano Urruti headed a Rodney Wallace cross over the goal from point blank range.
After a cagey opening 45 minutes, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter turned to his bench early in the second half, introducing attacking midfielder Diego Valeri. It was the Designated Player’s first appearance of 2015 – the Argentine suffered a torn ACL late last year.
Valeri had a pair of half-chances on crosses from the left flank, but misfired one and sent the other wide of goal.
Robinson also made an early second-half substitution in the form of Kekuta Manneh. The 20-year-old winger injected some life into Vancouver’s attack, but the visitors still weren’t able to find that final ball.
The Timbers pushed numbers forward in the closing stages, but Whitecaps FC managed to hold them off to secure another valuable point away from home.
Of note, Whitecaps FC defender Tim Parker, who was subbed on in the 88th minute, helped the ‘Caps keep a clean sheet in his first MLS regular season appearance.
Another positive from Saturday’s match was the play of Budweiser Man of the Match Kendall Waston, who was his usual dominant self on the back line without picking up a yellow card. As a result, the Costa Rican will have one caution expunged for good behaviour and is no longer on the verge of suspension.
Next up for Whitecaps FC is the away leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal with FC Edmonton (Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT – Sportsnet 360 and Sportsnet World).
In league play, the ‘Caps return to BC Place next Saturday to host Eastern Conference side Philadelphia Union (4 p.m. PT kickoff). The inaugural Whitecaps FC Alumni Match will be held prior to the match.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Kendall Waston
Referee: Allen Chapman
Shots: Portland 13 – Vancouver 7
Shots on Target: Portland 1 – Vancouver 2
Saves: Portland 2 – Vancouver 1
Fouls: Portland 6 – Vancouver 16
Offsides: Portland 1 – Vancouver 0
Corners: Portland 8 – Vancouver 3
19′ -VAN – Ethen Sampson
44′ – POR – Rodney Wallace
57′ – VAN – Pa-Modou Kah
12.Adam Larsen Kwarasey; 2.Alvas Powell, 7.Nat Borchers, 24.Liam Ridgewell, 19.Jorge Villafana; 21.Diego Chara, 13.Jack Jewsbury; 18.Ishmael Yartey (8.Diego Valeri 52′), 6.Darlington Nagbe, 22.Rodney Wallace (10.Gaston Fernandez 78′); 37.Maximiliano Urruti (9.Fanendo Adi 66′)
Substitutes not used
33.Andrew Weber, 15.Jeanderson, 23.Noberto Paparatto, 26.George Fochive
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 27.Ethen Sampson (26.Tim Parker 88′), 4.Kendall Waston, 44.Pa-Modou Kah, 2.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie, 31.Russell Teibert; 7.Mauro Rosales (9.Nicolás Mezquida 78′), 77.Pedro Morales, 11.Darren Mattocks (23.Kekuta Manneh 58′); 29.Octavio Rivero
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 13.Cristian Techera, 20.Deybi Flores, 88.Robert Earnshaw