When the Portland Timbers began the year on an eight-match winless streak, there were very real doubts about whether they would be able to climb out of that early-season hole and still be a factor in the playoff race in the tough MLS Western Conference.
On Saturday, the Timbers completed their climb from the West basement into a playoff position after posting a 3-0 drubbing of the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road at BC Place.
Love Palmer, Max Urruti and Rodney Wallace broke open a match that was scoreless through the first 50 minutes to help the Timbers leapfrog the Whitecaps and slide into fifth place in the West.
The Whitecaps attack, normally a dangerous unit at home, was kept in check by a Timbers defense that posted its first shutout of the 2014 season against a team other than last-place Chivas USA.
The Timbers defense kept speedy Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks and playmaker Pedro Morales in check for most of the night, with Diego Chara doing a good job of shackling Morales while Portland’s centerbacks kept Mattocks and fellow speedster Kekuta Manneh from dangerous positions.
Portland eventually broke through in the 51st minute when Diego Valeri delivered a cross toward the front of goal where young Jamaican defender Alvas Powell headed it past David Ousted.
A pair of second-half substitutes combined for Portland’s second goal shortly after entering the match as Michael Harrington found Urruti with a pass in front of goal, and the Argentine blasted a shot off the underside of the crossbar, giving Ousted no chance in the 75th minute.
Before Vancouver could respond to that goal, the Timbers struck again. Darlington Nagbe dribbled toward goal before springing Wallace with a well-weighted pass and Wallace slipped his shot below Ousted for the third and final goal of the match.
The victory improved the Timbers to 8-8-10 on the season, and edged them one point head of the Whitecaps (7-6-12) in the West standings. The Cascadia rivals meet again on Sept. 20 at Providence Park.
Here are the match highlights:
What did you think of the match? Impressed with the Timbers? See the Whitecaps falling out of the playoff race?
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