Vancouver evens its record by handing visiting Portland a season-opening loss after picking up the quality of its game in the second half
BY BRUCE CONSTANTINEAU
Martin Nash doesn't score many goals but the few he tallies usually make it to the highlight reel.
The veteran Canadian international's 25-yard volley that gave the Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-0 victory Saturday over the Portland Timbers was a perfect example.
Ansu Toure's 63rd-minute corner kick deflected off a Portland defender and sailed high into the air near Nash.
He didn't try to pinpoint his shot just inside the near post, although that was the result that sent Whitecaps fans into a frenzy during the entertaining match at Swangard Stadium.
"The ball was so high in the air -- it was more just making sure I got contact on it," Nash said after the Whitecaps' first USL-1 win of the season. "It came down and I had time so I just took my time and struck it well."
The durable 33-year-old midfielder -- on a 61-game ironman streak that goes back almost two years -- admits he's not a goal-scoring machine.
"I had three last year and two of them were highlight reel I think," he said. "So I don't score many but they are usually nice."
The win evened the Whitecaps' season record to one win, one loss and two draws and Nash said it was extremely important to get the victory after a loss and a tie during a recent road trip to Puerto Rico and Austin, Texas.
"It's a big win for this group because there are a lot of new players trying to find their legs," he said. "Hopefully this settles us down a little bit going on the road and hopefully we can get two wins."
The Whitecaps travel to Minnesota to play the Thunder on Saturday and then head to Toronto for a May 6 match against Toronto FC in a Nutrilite Canadian Championship tournament game.
The Timbers, playing their first match this season in front of 5,102 fans at Swangard, played an attacking style of soccer that created several scoring chances, especially in the second half.
Speedy Portland forward Ryan Pore was a menace on the left side, forcing Whitecaps keeper Jay Nolly to make a great save off a low shot in the 56th minute to keep the game scoreless.
Nolly made several outstanding saves during the match -- including stops on dangerous strikes from defender Takuro Nishimura and midfielder Johan Claesson.
"Sometimes the goalie can shift the momentum with a save," Nolly said after the game. "So it was good to keep it nil-nil going forward and Nashie just had a great strike."
Whitecaps forward Charles Gbeke, with six of his team's 15 shots during the game, had several near misses -- including a header that sailed just over the Timbers crossbar in the first half. Whitecaps defender Marco Reda's header from a Nash free kick appeared to cross the Timbers' goal line but officials ruled Portland keeper Steve Cronin made the save.
Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson used four substitutions in the second half, including forward Marlon James and midfielder Justin Moose, both just recovered from recent injuries.
"It was extremely nice to get players like Moose and Marlon on the field," Thordarson said. "These are quality players and we know they will give us a lot during the season. They are maybe our best attacking players."
Thordarson said it was great to get the win but felt the game followed a recent pattern where the Whitecaps play one good half and one not so good.
"I felt we were not very good in the first half but things opened up both ways in the second half and the quality of the game was different," Thordarson said. "I was pleased with what I saw in the second half."
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