Last Match Recap
Only three short days before, the Portland Timbers played out the game of their lives. Then they were back at it, this time in the first of a two-legged Western Conference Semi with Cascadian rivals Vancouver. Forced to cope with the absence of Diego Chara and the surprise withdrawal of hero goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey (ie: a lot), the Portland Timbers nonetheless held Vancouver in check, and the match ended scoreless.
Despite all of the absences, Portland were the aggressors, and attacked David Ousted’s goal steadily throughout the match. The Vancouver keeper was up to the challenge, turning back credible threats from Lucas Melano, Fanendo Adi, and Max Urruti. His signature save came off of Diego Valeri’s perfect 72’ free kick.
What does it mean?
While a goal would have put Portland’s boot to Vancouver’s throat, the Timbers are in a good place headed up to B.C. Place on Sunday. For those new to the concept of “Away Goals”, MLS, like the rest of World soccer, counts goals scored by the away team in these two-legged ties as worth slightly more than just a goal. Therefore, keeping Vancouver off of the score sheet was invaluable, and now the Timbers’ goals count for more than the hosts’.
Leg two, the finale, at Our House in the Middle of B.C. Importantly for both teams, health should be less of an issue this time around. While Portland were notably missing Chara and Kwarasey, Vancouver were sweating injuries to three major players of their own. Both Pedro Morales and Mauro Rosales made appearances, albeit brief, in Portland, and should both be gametime decisions. While we can’t speak for the ‘Caps, expect Portland’s duo to be ready to go.
Water Cooler Number: 1-1, 2-2, 3-3…
Any scoring draw will do; that’s the magic of Away Goals.
Opposing player to watch: Ousted
Let’s face it, the big Danish keeper has played pretty well against the Timbers this year, posting a win and three draws (two shutouts) against Portland, including the playoffs. He was integral in keeping Vancouver level at Providence Park, but the light will shine brighter on him in this game, with the pressure of keeping Away Goals out growing with every passing minute.
Timber to watch: Chara
Respectfully to Cap’n Jack—the Salty Dog, the Club Captain, the old Warrior—and George Fochive, who has matured into a valuable and steady holding midfielder before our eyes this season, Portland is simply a better team when Diego Chara is in the lineup. Having him back healthy, doing what he usually does—which is everything—will be gigantic for Portland, especially on the road in an elimination game.
However—and we must say so cautiously—that if Chara can’t play, Jack Jewsbury has been known to score big goals against Vancouver in big games…
For once, nobody would complain about a 1-1.
ONWARD, ROSE CITY