PORTLAND, OR – Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-23 (0W-1L-2D) battled to a 2-2 draw against Cascadia club rivals Portland Timbers U-23 (0W-0L-1D) on Thursday afternoon in front of 3,517 fans at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon.
The first few minutes saw the ‘Caps and Timbers trade relatively safe shots on goal. Though it was calm in the beginning, the match picked up on 15 minutes when, off of a Portland corner, midfielder Fatai Alashi found himself with an open look and sent a shot past Vancouver goalkeeper William Diaz.
Defender Nicolas Prasad answered for the Blue and White in the 27th minute, slamming home a nice ball from Marlon Ramirez off of a corner. The Blue and White took control of the contest in the 39th minute when an absolutely beautiful passing play between several ‘Caps broke down the Portland defecse and put Cody Cook in alone in front of Portland netminder Brendan Moore. The striker from Cranbrook, BC, made no mistake, burying a shot to put Whitecaps FC up 2-1. Brett Levis drew an assist on the play.
After the first half ended at 2-1 in favour of the visitors, the pace in the early second half mirrored that of the early portion of the game. Play was moving back and forth, but no side really threatened the other. Over the course of the second half, the Timbers began to find their form and pressed the 'Caps with several quality chances, including a header by forward Kharlton Belmar that hit the crossbar in the 67th minute.
Pressure from the home side turned into the equalizer for Portland in the 83rd minute, when Belmar knocked one in off of yet another corner and tied up the score on 83 minutes.
The Timbers pressed hard in the final minutes, including five minutes of stoppage time, but Diaz and the ‘Caps defence held strong to preserve a 2-2 draw.
“Again, it was a tough, physical battle for the boys, and we were impressed with their performance and their attitude towards the game," Whitecaps FC U-23 assistant coach Steve Meadley told whitecapsfc.com. "Again, we continue to improve in our performances. The three points just seem to elude us right now, but we’re certainly performing to a level that is going to get us there.”