Whitecaps-Timbers: Intangibles and key matchups

 

 
 
 
 
Matias Laba #15 of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC battles with Alvas Powell #2 of the Portland Timbers for the ball in MLS action on March, 28, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
 

Matias Laba #15 of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC battles with Alvas Powell #2 of the Portland Timbers for the ball in MLS action on March, 28, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images

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THREE INTANGIBLES

QUICK TURNAROUND

How much gas will the Timbers have in the tank? Seven starters — the four defenders and three midfielders — all played the full 120 minutes of that overtime-plus-penalties thriller on Thursday night. Now, they have to face the Caps 64 hours after the most dramatic of games. Can they recover both emotionally and physically? “It’s the tightest window we’ve played in all year,” head coach Caleb Porter said after the game. “It is what it is. ”

DISCIPLINE A KEY

Yellows in back-to-back games in the post-season will get a player suspended for one match. Four Timbers — centre back Liam Ridgewell, winger Rodney Wallace and midfielders Diego Valeri and George Fochive — were all carded in Thursday’s testy, emotional match against Sporting Kansas City. If they pick up another one on Sunday, they would miss the second leg of the conference semifinal Nov. 8 at BC Place Stadium. Yellows will also be an issue for the Caps’ Waston, who picked up 11 over the course of the season, the second-most in MLS.

THE TIMBERS ARMY vs. THE SOUTHSIDERS et al.

The Caps supporters’ groups are loud, but the Army, pictured, is arguably the most ear-splitting in MLS and can turn intimate Providence Park (capacity 21,400) into a decibel-pounding roar. Each club’s supporters will be allocated 750 seats in the other team’s stadium. We also have to give the mascot edge to the Timbers’ chainsaw-wielding lumberjack. He’d make short work of Spike, the Caps’ Belted Kingfisher, who likes to celebrate birthdays with kids and whose favourite song is Shake Your Tail Feather.

THREE KEY MATCHUPS

FANENDO ADI vs. KENDALL WASTON

Fanendo Adi the Timbers’ 6-4 Nigerian-born striker, was not very effective on Thursday — zero shots, two offsides and little impact on Portland’s attack. But he did finish the regular season on a tear with six goals in the last five games as the Timbers went 4-1 down the stretch to earn a playoff berth. Look for some physical aerial battles on Sunday between Adi and Kendall Waston, both pictured above, the Caps’ dominating 6-5 centre back.

DARLINGTON NAGBE vs. MATIAS LABA and GERSHON KOFFIE

Darlington Nagbe (five goals, five assists) has been the key to Portland’s attack of late. Nagbe has moved more central after playing out wide and loves to make aggressive runs through the middle of the park. Expect one of Matis Laba or Gershon Koffie to almost shadow Nagbe in an effort to either deny him the ball or deny him space. If they Caps win this battle, they’ve got a good chance of coming out of Portland with the lead in the two-leg semifinal.

CAPS WINGERS vs. TIMBERS FULLBACKS

Oh, this should be good. The Vancouver attack is often predicated on getting the speedy Kekuta Manneh on the run down the left or on diminutive Cristian Techera working some ball-handling magic on the right. But the 5-2 Techera will be up against Jorge Villifana, one of the best one-on-one defenders in MLS and a threat to go forward. Manneh gets matched up against Alvas Powell, perhaps the fastest fullback in MLS. It will be tough for Manneh to get in behind Powell, so he’ll need to win some duels when going right at the young Jamaican.

THREE MEETINGS THIS SEASON

VANCOUVER (16-13-5) VS. PORTLAND (15-11-8)

Season record: 1-0-2.

Won 2-1 March 28 @ BC Place

Portland had a stunning 63 per cent of the possession in a dominant first half, but the Caps took a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute on a Nicolas Mezquida free kick. The Timbers had the best chances in the second half as well, finally getting the equalizer in the 82nd minute off the foot of Adi. Caps goalkeeper David Ousted, who made four terrific saves on the night, foiled Adi from close range in the 89th with a sprawling left-palm save and substitute Robert Earnshaw, pictured, got the winner a minute later. Pedro Morales’ through ball split the Portland defence and Earnshaw calmly chipped it over Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey.

Draw 0-0 May 2 @ Portland

Timbers midfielder Nagbe struck the base of the post on a penalty in the 30th minute of a cagey, cautious matchup of Cascadia rivals. Portland outshot Vancouver 13-7, but got only one of those shots on target. Centre back Waston was a tower of strength in the middle of the Caps’ backline. The game also marked the pro debut of Caps rookie defender Tim Parker. Parker went on to have a standout first season.

Draw 1-1 July 18 @ Portland

The Caps went into this one without first-choice centre backs Waston (international duty) and Pa-Modou Kah (calf injury), but Parker and Christian Dean, the Caps’ 2014 first-round draft pick, played well. Manneh had two good early chances stopped by Kwarasey and Timbers defender Nat Borchers before Diego Valeri put Portland ahead 1-0 in the 33rd minute. Laba, with his first MLS regular-season goal for the Caps, tied it in the 57th minute on a long-range, seeing-eye strike.

 
 
 
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Matias Laba #15 of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC battles with Alvas Powell #2 of the Portland Timbers for the ball in MLS action on March, 28, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
 

Matias Laba #15 of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC battles with Alvas Powell #2 of the Portland Timbers for the ball in MLS action on March, 28, 2015 at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Photograph by: Rich Lam, Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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