It's been a long year for Vancouver Whitecaps FC in their first season in Major League Soccer. On Saturday night, they were taught another lesson, by an old face: their former second-divison rivals and fellow MLS expansion team, Portland Timbers.
Despite an 88th-minute goal from Camilo that brought the 'Caps back to within one, it was again a breakdown in intensity and fundamentals that saw Vancouver fall 2-1 at JELD-WEN Field for their MLS-high 13th loss of the season.
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Portland capitalized on the first opportunity they were presented after a bad 'Caps giveaway led to a lethal Timbers counter-attack. In three quick touches, Diego Chara deposited the ball past Joe Cannon and Vancouver quickly found themselves down 1-0 in just the second minute.
“We talk about the fundamentals of how to play soccer,” Whitecaps FC captain Jay DeMerit said following the match, "and when you give the ball away in midfield and they get a breakaway in the first two minutes, sometimes it’s hard to get back and defend it. Our fundamental errors are consistently costing us throughout a game. The only thing you can do is try and keep learning.”
But that early dagger was ultimately too much for the 'Caps to recover from. Jorge Perlaza added a second goal in the 33rd minute during a wide-open half, in which Portland mostly dominated the proceedings. Despite some energy in the second half, it was too little, too late for Vancouver.
“The way we started out, allowing a goal that early is so disappointing because we also knew the first 15 (minutes) were going to be energetic,” head coach Tom Soehn told MLSsoccer.com. “We lost the first half in regards to competing. The second half, we did a better job, but ultimately the stat that counts is 2-1, and they took care of their chances.”
Maintaining focus at key times has been a problem for Whitecaps FC this season, and the concession of an early goal continued that trend. Vancouver had to start the game in front of the Timbers Army, and it’s difficult to discount the impact of playing in front of some of the league’s most rabid fans had on the focus of some players.
“These games are a treat to play in,” veteran John Thorrington said of the atmosphere at JELD-WEN Field. “If you aren’t excited to play in this game, you’re in the wrong industry, as far as I’m concerned. But you have to use [the crowd] to spur you on rather than be intimidated by it. But that’s not the issue. The problem is the attitude we take out on the field from the first minute until the ref blows the final whistle.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon