VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps woke up Saturday morning sitting in the final playoff spot in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference.
Now that could change by the end of the weekend, and there’s a lot of games left in the season, but head coach Marc Dos Santos likes the direction his club is heading, especially after a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers Friday.
"Slowly it has the DNA of what I think a team would look like," said Dos Santos.
Forward Fredy Montero scored in the ninth minute, then the Whitecaps withstood some relentless Portland pressure in the second half as Vancouver won it’s third game of the season.
"It’s an important win," said goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau, who made a key stop on a shot from Portland’s Diego Valeri late in the game to preserve the win. "It’s time to enjoy it and back to business tomorrow."
The Whitecaps overhauled their roster after missing the playoffs last year. Besides a new coach in Dos Santos, 18 new players were brought in while 21 others left.
Vancouver started the season with four consecutive losses and were winless in six games.
The win over Portland came on the heels of a 3-2 victory at Colorado last week. Vancouver (3-5-3) is 3-1-1 in the last five games.
Dos Santos said patience was the key.
"We live in a micro-wave society," he said. "We are all little babies and sometimes we all want everything so fast.
"This team went from having so many players going out, so many players coming in, and we believe in the process. When the team lost three games in a row, (was) waiting for that first win, the group never pointed fingers at each other. The group stuck together, believed in the process, worked hard in training, kept their heads up."
There was a fan protest in the 35th minute. A whole section of Portland followers joined two Whitecaps supporter groups and some Vancouver fans in leaving their seats to show solidarity with female players impacted by allegations of bullying and harassment by a former coach.
Similar protests were held at two previous Whitecaps matches.
More than a dozen women who played for the Whitecaps and were part of Canada’s under-20 talent pool around 2008, have come forward to allege Bob Birarda, a former coach for both squads, acted inappropriately with members of the team.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Montero’s goal came after midfielder Hwang Inbeom sent a pretty ball forward. Veteran Russell Teibert chipped the ball over to Montero who scored with a left-footed shot over the shoulder of Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark, bringing a cheer from the crowd of18,356 at BC Place Stadium.
Montero has now scored in back-to-back games. He had a team-leading three goals on five shots.
"I try to work hard," he said. "I know my value. I know what I can do to help the team."
The Timbers (3-6-1) saw a three-game win streak snapped.
The Timbers found their pace late in the opening half. Portland looked dangerous off a pair of corner kicks around the 26th minute. Both Larrys Mabiala and Bill Tuiloma connected with headers that tested Crepeau.
The Timbers continued to challenge in the second half. Early on Sebastian Blanco took a left-footed shot that a diving Crepeau stopped.
"We had so many chances," said Portland coach Giovanni Savarese. "It was unlucky not to be able to find a goal.
"I (leave) the game knowing that the guys played a very good match."
NOTES: Friday’s game was the second of seven MLS matches in May for Vancouver. After allowing nine goals in their first five games, Vancouver has given up just four in their last six matches. Forward Brian Fernandez, signed on Monday as a designated player, didn’t dress for the Timbers as he’s serving a suspension for getting into a shouting match with a fan while with his former team in Mexico.