Whitecaps tough out 0-0 draw in Portland

May 3, 2015 at 10:08 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps | Leave a comment

This match was never going to be pretty. Both Cascadia sides went into this match missing key personnel. The Vancouver Whitecaps were without Mathias Laba, who had fallen victim to referee Dave Gantar’s over-zealous pocket reaching last week. While Diego Valeri was on the bench as a substitute for the Portland Timbers, their heart-and-soul Canadian Midfielder Will Johnson was unavailable, still recovering from his nasty leg break from last season.

While defensive players never get the credit that goal scorers and goal creators do, the fact is that Laba is an absolutely key player for the Whitecaps. When we consider that Steven Beitashour was out and Ethan Sampson was his replacement, the fact the Whitecaps managed to get a 0-0 tie out of this one was a testament to squad depth and to Whitecaps’ coach Carl Robinson’s sharp resource management skills.

The question in this match was whether Gershon Koffie and Russell Teibert could create the wall in central midfield that Laba usually constructs. Koffee stepped in and did a creditable job. Koffee and Teibert made Portland attack down the flanks, and Keeper David Ousted did well catching crosses that were knocked into the Whitecaps box. Anything else was taken care of by giant central defender Kendall Waston who, though perhaps undeservedly, got through this match without getting a yellow card. This in spite of the fact he tried to steal Portland player Adi’s brain using his own skull.

The Whitecaps managed a couple of scoring efforts in the first half, which were their sole offensive contributions to the match.

The big talking point of this match (were there really any others?) was the penalty awarded to Portland in the 29th minute. Timbers old boy Pa Modou Kah deflected a cross from Powell with his thigh up to his own arm. The linesman called the penalty after the referee had ignored it. It was yet another marginal call that went against the Whitecaps. Ousted dove the wrong way as Darlington Nagbe hit the goal post and missed the penalty. This is the kind of luck we seem to have these days, and if the penalty had gone in I doubt we would have gotten anything out of this match.

Portland’s Urruti missed a point blank header minute later, and the Whitecaps luck managed to hold out.

In the second half Portland brought Valeri out to the loud applause of Timber’s fans. Valeri had his tail up and did everything he could to repay the fan’s affection. He twice missed sitters in the Whitecaps box however, and it was lucky for the Whitecaps that Valeri’s timing was off.

Match statistics showed the Whitecaps had their usual on the road 35% possession of the ball. While the Whitecaps always seem to have less of the possession, they just did not feel that dangerous on this night. Pedro Morales and Mauro Rosales were both luke warm and created precious few chances. Remarkably, the statistics showed the Whitecaps had two shots on goal and the Timbers only one. These two numbers alone showed what this match was all about. The Whitecaps and the Timbers were both very good at cancelling each other out, but did not have the ability to break the other down to score.

Nicolas Mezquida replaced Rosales but was not as good as the man he replaced. It was hoped that Mezquida would help the Whitecaps keep the ball a bit, but he always seemed to do the wrong thing with the ball or be in the wrong place to get it.

In the last ten minutes there was the feeling that another smash-and-grab victory like those in Chicago or Orlando was on the cards, but it never materialized. In the second half a couple of moves by substitute Kekuta Manneh put Portland under pressure.

Defender Tim Parker rescued Sampson late in the match when the latter was running a bit ragged. Parker gave a good account of himself, as did Samson.

When the final whistle blew there was the satisfaction of knowing we had held up under a lot of pressure and had come away with a point. There is something satisfying about denying a rival a win in their own park. The point kept us level with Dallas at the top of the Western Conference, and one ahead of Seattle.

With a poorly performing Philadelphia Union coming a long way to play us next Saturday, it looks like we may be able to keep the pace up at the top of the league.

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