Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson anticipates a challenging game against the Portland Timbers
BY BRUCE CONSTANTINEAU
Two Major League Soccer-bound franchises take to the pitch tonight when the Vancouver Whitecaps try to win their first USL-1 game of the season against the Portland Timbers at Swangard Stadium.
The Caps have a loss and two draws so far this year and head coach Teitur Thordarson feels his squad has played some strong halves, but hasn't yet put in a solid, 90-minute performance.
"Team play has been a little up and down," he said. "We've had more than enough scoring chances, but haven't been able to finish."
A 0-0 draw against the Charleston Battery at Swangard on April 11 was followed by a 2-1 road loss to the Puerto Rico Islanders and a 1-1 draw in Texas against the Austin Aztex.
Vancouver's roster should be bolstered by the return of striker Marlon James, who has overcome an ankle injury, and winger Justin Moose -- back from a painful osteitis pubis injury suffered last season. Osteitis pubis injuries affect abductor and abdominal muscles.
Burnaby native and former Canadian youth international Gordon Chin also will be available for selection after signing a one-year contract with the Caps. The speedy midfielder, who played in China last year, begins his second stint with the team, having made 14 appearances during the 2003 season.
Thordarson said former Vancouver Selects striker Marcus Haber, 20, will "most probably" play against the Timbers after scoring his first goal against Puerto Rico and being named to the USL-1 Team of the Week.
"He has been great in the games so far -- very, very good," Thordarson said.
The Timbers make their season debut with a vastly different squad than the one that finished in the USL cellar last year. More than 100 Portland fans are expected to make the trek north to cheer a team with only six players from last year's roster.
Key additions this year include former Los Angeles Galaxy keeper Steve Cronin, Japanese defender Takuro Nishimura, Swedish midfielder Johan Claesson and former Whitecaps striker Jason McLaughlin.
Timbers coach Gavin Wilkinson says he wants to field an attractive team that goes forward, moves the ball quickly and creates lots of chances.
Thordarson expects a tough game from the side that held the Whitecaps to a 1-1 draw in a pre-season game in Burnaby on April 3.
"They were very well organized defensively last year and tried to hit us on the breaks," he said. "I think this time, they will try to have more possession and play us more."
Vancouver and Portland were both awarded MLS franchises last month and will begin play in North America's top-tier soccer league in 2011.
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