Caps need Pedro Morales to be the difference maker

 

 
 
 
 
Portland Timbers forward/midfielder Darlington Nagbe, right) takes the ball away from Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Pedro Morales as Portland Timbers defender Jorge Villafana closes in during the second half of an MLS western conference semifinal soccer match in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.
 

Portland Timbers forward/midfielder Darlington Nagbe, right) takes the ball away from Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Pedro Morales as Portland Timbers defender Jorge Villafana closes in during the second half of an MLS western conference semifinal soccer match in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

Photograph by: Steve Dykes, AP

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The best news for the Vancouver Whitecaps out of Sunday — besides Max Urutti hitting the woodwork in the 89th minute — was that Pedro Morales played the final 13 minutes and reported no problems with his balky hamstring.

Yes, there was a Pedro sighting at Providence Park in the 0-0 draw with the Timbers. The long lost captain, the club’s midfield talisman, may yet, it seems, play a role in the MLS playoffs.

The Chilean playmaker hadn’t seen any game action since Oct. 3, when he came off after just 19 minutes in San Jose after pulling up and reaching for his hamstring following a run into space.

He has started just 15 games this season and only two since June 6. His tactical brilliance, his ability to float perfectly weighted crossfield balls and his deadly accuracy on free kicks have been sorely missed by a Caps team struggling to score.

Perhaps he can be a difference maker in Sunday’s second leg of the Western Conference semifinal against the stubborn Portland Timbers.

“I certainly hope so,” said head coach Carl Robinson. “You see the quality he has when he comes on, Mauro Rosales as well. We’ve missed these players. It’ll set up nicely with him getting a full week of training.

“I’m sure he’ll be raring to go.”

Morales, sweat dripping off his face after 15 minutes of post-game sprints, said it felt so good to get back on the field.

“I feel very happy. I wait for this moment. Last two months, maybe, not play too much. I don’t feel pain now.”

He clearly, though, lacks game fitness. Asked if Sunday’s minutes set him up to potentially play at least a half back at BC Place, he said “I don’t know.”

“I need to train good this week and let Robbo (make the decision).”

Morales, who left the field in San Jose with a look of utter dejection, admitted he thought it could be his last game of 2015. He missed games early in the season to a calf injury. That and the hamstring troubles can all be related to issues he’s had with his back in his two years in Vancouver.

“Now, I feel OK.”

He said he’s eagerly anticipating a big crowd of more than 25,000 on Sunday at BC Place.

“We have a big chance for a win, for the city, for our families, for the club. It’s a big game, maybe the last game for us, for Portland too. You need to compete 100 per cent.”

gkingston@vancouversun.com

 
 
 
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Portland Timbers forward/midfielder Darlington Nagbe, right) takes the ball away from Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Pedro Morales as Portland Timbers defender Jorge Villafana closes in during the second half of an MLS western conference semifinal soccer match in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.
 

Portland Timbers forward/midfielder Darlington Nagbe, right) takes the ball away from Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Pedro Morales as Portland Timbers defender Jorge Villafana closes in during the second half of an MLS western conference semifinal soccer match in Portland, Ore., on Sunday. The match ended in a 0-0 draw.

Photograph by: Steve Dykes, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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