Whitecaps, new coach plan their attack - The Portland Tribune

Steve Brandon

Jordan-led Timbers seeking rare win at Vancouver 

Teitur Thordarson, first-year coach of Vancouver Whitecaps, didn’t expect his team to have a great game when it rolled into Portland a couple of weeks ago.

“We’d all been in a bus for seven hours almost through the night,” he says.

The Whitecaps had played the night before at home – and lost 2-0 to Seattle.

Somehwere between Swangard Stadium and PGE Park, Thordarson made the gut decision to change his starting goalkeeper, and then the Whitecaps beat the Timbers 1-0, ending their streak of 18 regular-season home matches without a loss.

“We played extremely well,” Thordarson says. “I wasn’t really expecting that.”

The Whitecaps have been playing well almost all season, which might qualify as a minor surprise, given their subpar showing in 2007 and Thordarson’s plan to make them more of an attack-minded club.

On Saturday night, the Timbers will play at Vancouver in a game that has first-place ramifications in the United Soccer Leagues First Division.

Vancouver leads the league with 19 points (6-2-1). Portland (4-3-5) can go from 17 to 20 with a win. Charleston also is at 17 (5-2-2) going into a Saturday game at home against Montreal.

Portland is a paltry 1-11-2 at Vancouver since joining the USL in 2001.

This year, the Timbers have sputtered since their 3-0-0 start, but their offense will benefit again Saturday from the presence of pesky forward Bryan Jordan. The team’s second-leading scorer of ’07 will wrap up a two-game loan stint with his former USL team before heading back to the L.A. Galaxy.

“Portland’s a tough team to play,” Thordarson says. “They’re physically strong and well-organized.”

The Whitecaps’ coach is learning the nuances of the USL.

“It’s a new experience, with games back-to-back and lots of traveling,” he says.

He was born in Iceland and spent 40 years as a forward and then a coach in the European game.

Last year, he got a call from friend Evan Pellerud, coach of Canada’s national women’s team. Pellerud wanted to know if Thordarson would be interested in coaching the Whitecaps.

Vancouver’s other loss this season, besides the Seattle game, came 1-0 to Minnesota in the Whitecaps’ second outing.

“I’m definitely satisfied” with the record so far, he says. “The team has been playing very well. I felt we deserved to win (at Portland).”

The ‘Caps have allowed a league-low three goals, and he says that’s in part because of the new emphasis on going forward.

“My philosophy of how to play football is to attack,” he says. “We have been able to deny the opponents many chances, and we have done that by attacking.”

Vancouver has scored only seven goals in nine games, but the current goalkeeper, Jay Nolly, has not been scored on in his three appearances (Portland, Charleston and Minnesota).

Thordarson replaced Srdjan Djekanovich with Nolly, a former Indiana University star, before the Portland game.

“After losing to Seattle, I felt we needed a mental boost – we were a bit down – and it was the right moment,” Thordarson says. “(Djekanovich) had done well. It was not because of him that we lost to Seattle, but we needed to make a change.

“Nolly is a very good goalkeeper, big and strong in the air and on crosses.”