BY MARC WEBER
Home-field advantage started 24 hours early for the Portland Timbers.
"The training field is crap," Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly said Saturday from Portland, where today the Caps and Timbers complete their USL-1 semifinal series.
Not just crap, but crappy grass. PGE Park, where the Timbers play, is turf.
In Thursday's first leg -- a 2-1 Caps win -- Portland tried to exploit Vancouver's high defensive line up the middle with speedy attackers Mandjou Keita and Ryan Pore.
But on the slick grass of Swangard Stadium, a handful of threatening balls skidded quickly to an alert, charging Nolly. None looked more menacing than when Pore busted through onside in the fifth minute.
Today, on turf, the ball will react differently, and the Caps must too.
"Definitely the ball is going to be affected," said Nolly. "On those plays [balls played over the top] the ball will check straight up on the bounce, so I won't be able to come for them as much. The defenders know they can't expect me to be there. It's totally different.
"It would have been nice [to train on turf] but you train where they put you. We train on turf almost every day, so it's not something we're worried about."
Second-year centre back Luca Bellisomo is the youngster in the back four, but he's been in sync with Shaun Pejic through three playoff games and head coach Teitur Thordarson will likely stick with him.
Well-capped Canadian Chris Pozniak, coming off a groin injury, is the other option, but he could also play a holding midfield role.
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