Laba screamer gives Whitecaps draw in Portland

July 20, 2015 at 10:19 pm | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps season 2015 | Leave a comment
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Having lost two games on the trot the Vancouver Whitecaps set off for Portland knowing Kendall Waston and Pa Modou Kah would not be available in the middle of the back four. The former was called up by Costa Rica for the Gold Cup, And the latter has crocked his ankle.  Christan Dean and Tim Parker would have a baptism of fire in Oregon.

Veterans Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour flanked the green central pairing. Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie both looked to improve on their poor performances against SKC at home last week, where they both had trouble passing the ball out of deep midfield.  Octavio Riveiro, Mauro Rosales, Kekuta Manneh, and Nicolas Mezquida played the forward diamond.

Our top four looked like a very effective unit early on, keeping the ball in Portland’s half. Rosales, who sat at the bottom of the diamond, continued his good form of late, putting Manneh through alone. Manneh rounded the keeper and slotted the ball towards goal. Sadly for him Nat Borchers got there first and slid to stop the ball in a huge cloud of those little black tire bits that artificial turf has in it.

Manneh sprang himself loose from two Portland defenders in another chance, running parallel with the 18 yard box for a point blank shot at Portland’s goal but Timbers keeper Kwarasey was equal to the task, stopping the ball with his foot in a desperate save.

Parker and Dean were just getting settled in when Parker hit a poor ball off a free kick to Dean, who played a similarly telegraphed softie to Laba in midfield. The ball was so easy to read that Portland’s forwards were all over Laba immediately, stripping the ball off him and launching a lightning counter attack. Four Timbers charged down on a helpless looking Parker and Dean. Diego Valeri took the ball from Fernando Adi and crashed the ball past Ousted, who left the near post exposed.

Adding further anxiety was the fact Parker got himself in card trouble early with a desperate foul on a Timbers forward who slipped past him with the ball. It was 1-0 in the 33rd minute and the Parker and Dean show looked like it could turn out to be a dud.

Despite having carried the play and having two excellent scoring opportunities for Manneh, the Whitecaps had nothing to show at half time.

It was looking like it was going to be a rough night with the Timbers soaking up pressure from the Whitecaps with apparent ease in the second half when the most remarkable thing happened.

Laba played a ball forward to Manneh at the top of the box only to get it pinged right back to him. Laba found Portland’s defenders backing off of him, fulling expecting Laba to pass back to Manneh. Laba kept creeping up on goal and decided to shoot, something which is rarely heard of from the little Argentine. Laba let fly from well outside the 18 yard box and his shot headed towards the far corner like it had eyes on it. Riveiro and a defender were running across the Keeper’s line of sight, distracting him and making him dive late. As they said in Monty Python, “there it was in the back of the net.” Laba and the rest of us were just as surprised as we were happy to see that go in off of his foot. It was sensational.

In the 67th minute Robinson sensed he could win this match, taking off the Mosquito and and throwing on the Bug. It failed to pay any real dividends as Techera made little impression on the match.

In the 82nd minute Robinson decided to lock up the shop, taking a tired Rosales off for Canadian terrier Russell Teibert. Teibert’s tireless running and defensive harrying shut down the Timbers for good. In injury time Robinson Took Manneh off for Froese just to kill time.

There were some nasty tackles flying in late on and Jordan Harvey crashed into Valeri after putting the ball too far in front of him, and the ref immediately sent him off. It was quite unintentional on Harvey’s part and if the ref had actually took time to think about it, it was arguably a yellow and not a red.

After the match Canadian midfielder Will Johnson got himself sent off for cursing the referee after a shoving match between some of the players. That will help the Whitecaps cause in the Western Conference as well, and Johnson was left looking a bit stupid.

With this match the Whitecaps demonstrated great team spirit, with a willingness to battle for each other and their coach Carl Robinson. If they had lost this match the Whitecaps would have gotten themselves in a bit of a rut. Instead that inspirational Laba screamer will resound in the minds of the team and its fans for quite some time.

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