Whitecaps continue points hunt vs. Portland Timbers

Vancouver Whitecaps' Jake Nerwinski, right, fails to prevent a pass from reaching Portland Timbers' Lucas Melano during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver, on Sunday October 28, 2018. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

VANCOUVER – Coming off their first road win of the season, the Vancouver Whitecaps return to BC Place Friday night to renew their Cascadia Cup rivalry with the Portland Timbers.
 
Even after his club went winless through its first five matches, coach Marc Dos Santos has continually stressed to his players to stick with the process and keep their mental focus. That paid off in a big way last weekend when Vancouver posted a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rapids.
 
“When you look at our last seven games, we’ve grown into a team,” Dos Santos said of his team that is now 2-5-3. “When things were difficult, the guys’ mentality was always good. What I liked about the Colorado game was how difficult it was to manage the game mentally.”
 
Getting their first road win was the end-result of a roller coaster ride of a match for the Whitecaps. Vancouver built up a 2-0 lead on goals by Freddy Montero and Lucas Venuto before conceding a late first-half penalty to Kei Kamara. In the second half, Kamara equalized with another penalty awarded after video review, the Rapids then had a player sent off, and Vancouver had a goal disallowed after VAR confirmed Andy Rose was in an offside position.
 
Just when it looked like the Whitecaps were destined for another draw, Rose was able to drive home the winner with three minutes remaining. For Rose, the feeling of scoring could not have felt sweeter after having just returned from a six-game absence with a head injury.
 
“To come back into the squad and contribute that way felt great,” admitted the 29-year-old midfielder. “I felt we were the better of the two teams. Going up 2-0 on the road, you have to come away with three points.”
 
“To go through a little adversity at times early on in the season (with a new group) sometimes helps,” added the native of Bristol, England. “Winning games in that sort of fashion help a team grow, so we’re raring to go Friday.”
 
Friday marks the second leg of the Cascadia Cup series for the Whitecaps, which also involves the Seattle Sounders. Vancouver, who have won the trophy six times, earned a 0-0 draw at home to Seattle March 30.
 
“They are great to be a part of,” said Rose who has experienced Cascadia matches in the past as a member of the Sounders. “We go into this week with an understanding of what these games mean. I’m sure the crowd will be right behind us.”
 
“Any time we go there or they come here, it’s a big matchup,” midfielder Russel Teibert said. “Both teams are in good form at the moment. I don’t think the standings tell the story of how teams are doing.”
 
Undefeated in their last two games at home (1-0 vs LAFC and 0-0 vs Philadelphia), the Whitecaps prepare for the Timbers (3-5-1) who have played all nine matches away from Portland. Similar to Vancouver, the Timbers had a slow start but they enter the weekend having won three straight matches, including back-to-back 2-1 victories over Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake.
 
“It’s going to be a game between two teams that are going to be organized,” Dos Santos said. “It’s a game where the level of concentration needs to be very high.”
 
Former Major League Soccer MVP Diego Valeri continues to be the driving force leading the Timbers offence, with two goals and six assists so far.

However, all eyes will be on newly acquired Designated Player Brian Fernandez. The 24-year-old joins the club after scoring 12 goals in 15 games for Club Necaxa in Mexico’s Liga MX this year. Portland acquired the Argentinian striker in a club-record transfer pegged at close to $10 million.  
 

Get your weekly dose of news and analysis on the Vancouver Whitecaps by listening to Fine Lines live on Sportsnet 650 every Monday from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. PT. Hosted by Dan Riccio and J.J. Adams.

NOTES & TIDBITS

Friday’s match will be the 23rd regular season meeting between the Whitecaps and Timbers in MLS play. Vancouver is 6-10-6, including a home record of 4-4-2.

Vancouver won both meetings with Portland in 2018. A 2-1 road win on August 11 snapped the Timbers’ 15-match unbeaten streak while Alphonso Davies had both goals in a 2-1 victory in the regular season finale.

With renovations taking place at Providence Park, the Timbers will not play their first home game of the season until June 1. That means they wind up playing 17 of their final 21 matches in the Rose City.

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