Timbers topple Whitecaps
On a night that featured three spectacular goals, the one that finally put Providence Park into celebration mode was perhaps the simplest to convert.
Jeremy Ebobisse finished off a 90th-minute counter attack on Saturday to ensure the Portland Timbers started their 10-game homestand on the right foot, a much-needed 3-1 win over the rival Vancouver Whitecaps.
Sebastian Blanco and Marvin Loria scored with shots from outside the penalty area and Diego Valeri had a pair of assists for the Timbers.
Rookie Theo Bair scored his first career goal for the Whitecaps that had the Cascadia Cup match even at halftime.
The Timbers improve to 10-9-4 (34 points). They are in eighth place in the Western Conference.
The Whitecaps are 5-12-9 (24) at the bottom of the conference.
In the Cascadia Cup, Saturday's win moves Portland to the top of the table. The Timbers will capture the regional supporters' groups trophy with a win or drw on Aug. 23 at home against the Sounders. Seattle will claim the Cup if it wins at Portland.
Loria's goal in the 55th minute put Portland ahead 2-1. Cutting back onto his left foot from the right wing, he found room to drive the ball into the far side netting. It is the Costa Rican rookie's second goal in as many home starts. It was his fourth MLS start overall.
""At the time I scored, we needed a goal really badly because the match was getting very complicated and we weren't able to score in any of the many chances we had created," Loria said through an interpreter. "Thank God I had the opportunity of making that play and hit the ball the way I wanted and score that goal. It was a very nice moment for the team and for myself."
Blanco gave the Timbers the lead in the 28th minute, taking two touches and ripping a 25-yard shot through goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau for his fourth goal of the season.
Portland continued to carry momentum after the goal, but Vancouver equalized 10 minutes later on a terrific 18-yard volley from Bair. Julio Cascante got his head to a Whitecaps corner kick, but the ball fell for Bair to strike across his body with his right leg, giving goalkeeper Steve Clark no chance.
The Timbers and their fans wanted a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time when Bair headed the ball into his own arm as he attempted to clear danger from Portland's sixth corner kick of the half. But referee Ted Unkel did not whistle a foul, perhaps because Portland's Julio Cascante appeared to knock Bair off balance by jumping into him.
In responding to a question from the media pool reporter, Unkel said Bair's arm was in a natural position and the ball came off of his own head.
The Timbers were clearly frustrated by the non-call, in part because they felt hard dome by a less-clear call that handed Minnesota United a win on Sunday.
Coach Giovanni Savarese said his halftime message was not to let things like the non-call frustrate the Timbers.
"We need to continue to play. We need to make sure we don't worry about what happens from the decisions the referee is going to make. We have to play our game and get the job done," Savarese said.
"Of course, I can have my opinion on the PK," Savarese said.. "There's been three games where there's been two (decisions) against us and one (decision) not for us. Maybe it wasn't clear, maybe it was a little push. I don't want to get into PKs. I thought that the most important thing about today was the performance from the guys and the way we played. The energy from the fans was fantastic and overall it was a very good performance."
After a solid first half, the Timbers came out of the locker room after halftime determined to impose their will despite the Whitecaps keeping eight or nine men behind the ball.
"We got a great performance today," Valeri said. "We knew that Vancouver was going to play a little deeper than normal and, obviously, we managed the ball really well. We created a lot of chances. We were patient until the final third and then we got a lot of long-distance shots and good passes, cutbacks, crosses, and overall we managed really well the game. (The Whitecaps) had a couple of counters and nothing else."
Valeri's two assists give him a league-leading 14 this season, equaling the Timbers all-time club record for a season that he shares with John Bain.
Conechny recorded his first career assist after coming on as a 87th-minute substitute for Blanco. Valeri sent the ball up the left wing to Conechny, who found Ebobisse in the box with his cross. Ebobisse finished for his eighth goal of the season and finished off the Whitecaps.
Portland forward Brian Fernandez was not in uniform. Savarese said it was done as a precaution and he expects the Argentine striker to train on Monday when the Timbers begin preparing for a 8 p.m. Wednesday a match against the Chicago Fire at Providence Park
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