BURNABY, BC (BCSB) - The Vancouver Whitecaps are on a roll. Make that 4 wins in a row – including three shutout victories on the road before last night's second half un-rooting of the Portland Timbers – and first place in the USL-1 division with ten games under their belts.
On a chilly night, dubbed “Junenuary” by one shivering fan, the 'Caps rebounded from a dreadful first half to score three unanswered in a very entertaining second half to chop the Timbers down by a score of 3-1.
The contest had all the trimmings of a west coast derby: players sacrificing their bodies to block dangerous shot attempts, bone-crunching tackles, great aerial battles to win headers and, most importantly, plenty of goals.
With the victory, the Whitecaps not only kept sole possession of first place in the league but they also increased their chances of winning the Cascadia Cup, a fan-based competition between Vancouver, Portland and Seattle to see which team will end up with the best head-to-head record against the other two teams.
It was Portland who looked like they might upset the home side as they took the upper hand early in the game.
Recently returning to the team after a stint with the LA Galaxy, tiny Timber forward Bryan Jordan, pitted against the giant frame of Omar Jarun in the ‘Caps central defence, used his speed to pester the Vancouver defence early on, creating several chances within the first couple of minutes.
So it was only natural that in the 9th minute, it was Jordan who picked up a loose ball in the box following a set piece, spun and delivered a perfect cross to the far post where it was met by marauding defender Scot Thomson, who had the simplest of headers to break Vancouver's shutout streak.
The 'Caps looked out of sorts and disjointed throughout the entire first half while the Timbers played with more confidence. Despite a share fair of possession, the Whitecaps were not able to create any significant scoring opportunities against their west coast rivals. After the game, 'Caps manager Theidur Thordarson admitted that, “...after the road trip, we looked tired in training and to be honest I was a little afraid before the game. And in the first half, we played like in training. I felt bad for the fans after the first half.”
In an effort to turn the game around, Thordarson introduced two local boys to spice things up at the onset of the second half.
Striker Jason Jordan was brought on for Nick Addlery, while Alfredo Valente replaced Vincente Arze on the wing. Both BC natives made an immediate impact on the game.
In fact, it was thanks to Jason Jordan's penetrating move that Valente was able to release a hard shot on target moments into the second half after an odd slow-motion-like goalmouth scramble that spat the ball up to Valente. Timbers goalkeeper Jordan James had to be quick to react to make his first save of the game.
Midfielder Justin Moose should have opened the scoring a few minutes later when his volley torpedoed wide of the target. An impressive individual effort by a seemingly rejuvenated Steve Nash saw him flight a perfectly weighted cross onto the right foot of Moose, who connected well but hit the ball too straight when it required a slight curl from the outside of the boot to have any chance of bulging the twine.
Clearly, the out of whack side that lacked cohesion in the opening half had been replaced by clones who demonstrated a hunger and desire to score in the second half.
The home side was finally rewarded by none other than El Fiable (Mr. Dependable) Eduardo Sebrango, who was again in the right place at the right time to poke home a rebound following Jason Jordan's fine effort which hit the post. Jordan beat his man and fired a shot which hit the inside of the post and the rebound fell serendipitously into Sebrango's path, allowing him to slot home his fourth goal of the year.
Driven by the goal and the delight of their boisterous home fans, the 'Caps continued to mount pressure in their opponent's third. Again, it was Jason Jordan acting as playmaker and catalyst, sending Moose away on his right. Moose's cross was met by Steve Kindel, who came flying in and pummelled a header that landed directly into the chest of an increasingly busy Jordan James in the Portland net.
The highlight and turning point of the game occurred in 66th minute. The Timbers substitute defenfer Tim Karalexis was unlucky to have his first touch, a clearance header off a Whitecaps free kick, bounce right to Martin Nash who drilled an unstoppable bullet past James into the bottom left hand corner from well outside the box. It was a sublime finish that saw Nash uncharacteristically sprint to the byline to celebrate the phenomenal strike with his teammates. As Thordarson put it, “He couldn't have struck it any better.”
The Timbers almost got a goal back in the 74th when Omar Jarun's weak back pass put Timber forward Bryan Jordan one-on-one with 'Caps keeper Jay Nolly. Nolly did well to come off his line and cut down the angle, giving Jordan no crack to squeeze the ball through. Nolly had more work to do moments later as midfielder Chris Brown let go of a shot that would have found the net if it weren't for the former DC United keeper's outstretched fingertips.
The victory was sealed in style in stoppage time, giving the loyal supporters on hand something to really cheer about. It began with a neat give-and-go between Sebrango and Moose which sent the Cuban in behind the defenders. Sebrango then looked up, picked out the unmarked Valente stationed near the penalty spot, who then smashed the ball into the roof of the net for an emphatic 3-1 win.
The victory allows the Whitecaps to hold a two point lead in the league over the Charlston Battery, who also earned a 3-1 victory over the struggling Montreal Impact earlier in yesterday's action.
The Whitecaps next match is away to the Rochester Rhinos this Friday June 13th with a scheduled 5 PM kickoff.
Man of the match: Martin Nash
Not only did he give the Whitecaps the lead with an amazing strike, he also threw his body into the path of several Timber shot attempts to ensure key blocks, as well as provide the usual solid distribution in the centre of midfield that we come to take for granted.