By MIKE DONOVAN
PORTLAND, Ore. — Since the Whitecaps and Timbers joined MLS in 2011, Vancouver has searched for its first victory over its Cascadia Cup rival for more than three seasons. Sunday in Portland, the Whitecaps finally got over the hump defeating the Timbers by the score of 4-3.
Pedro Morales led the way with two penalty kick goals while Erik Hurtado and Jordan Harvey also found the net for Vancouver. Maxi Urruti, Gaston Fernandez, and Will Johnson scored for Portland, but it was not enough for the Timbers.
When Vancouver staked itself to a 4-1 lead early in the second half, it looked over, but two Timbers goals late made for an interesting end to match. However, the Whitecaps survived and took home all three points.
“Whether we’re home or away, whether we’re down or we’re up, we’re going to try and score goals. That’s the type of team we are and I think that showed today,” Hurtado said.
The Timbers started the match out on the front-foot and were rewarded just three minutes in when Urruti fired home a left-footed shot from outside the 18-yard-box. Diego Valeri found Urruti who then worked himself into space before curling the ball around a diving David Ousted.
After the quick start by Portland, it was all Vancouver as a pair of Morales penalty kicks in the first 26 minutes saw the Caps take the lead. Hurtado drew the first after a challenge from Diego Chara, while Sebastian Fernandez fell after a challenge from Jorge Villafana. The Whitecaps DP easily beat Donovan Ricketts on both spot-kicks to notch his second brace of the season.
According to Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury, the penalty kicks completely changed the direction of the match.
“I think honestly, it rattled us a little bit with the penalty calls. We’ve got a veteran group and that usually doesn’t happen to us. But for whatever reason, the first, but then the second one especially, you feel a little hard done,” Jewsbury said. “And I think we got a little too emotional that point in the game and tactically got stretched a little bit which open the game up for them.”
Just before the halftime whistle, the Whitecaps added to their lead when Hurtado kneed in his own rebound after forcing a diving save from Ricketts. Hurtado, who grew up in the Portland suburb of Beaverton and played for the Timbers u-23 team, scored for a third consecutive match. The Timbers back line simply could not handle the speed of Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh in the first half.
“(Hurtado) has been superb. His confidence level is sky high at the moment, and his work rate is phenomenal,” Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson said. “It’s fitting that he did that in front of his family…..It was an all-around fantastic performance by Erik.”
For Hurtado, the victory and goal were a dream come true.
“The win felt great, on the road, in Portland, with all fans coming down the road it was amazing,” said Hurtado. “And then, to score in front of my family and friends at home where I grew up was just icing on the cake.”
When Jordan Harvey added the Whitecaps fourth early in the second half, it was the clincher on Vancouver’s first victory over Portland since the clubs joined MLS for the 2011 season. Harvey found space after a long switch by Morales and the Whitecap defender used his preferred left foot to beat Ricketts.
Fernandez, who came on in the second half, added a goal with 12 minutes left when he headed in a Valeri cross. The goal was the Argentine’s sixth of the year to tie his fellow countrymen, Urruti, for the Timbers team lead.
Will Johnson’s volleyed left-footed goal in the 86th minute gave the Timbers a lifeline after Fanendo Adi’s skilled flicked pass set up the Canadian to beat Ousted. But Portland couldn’t dig themselves out from the three-goal deficit. While Robinson said the team would have to work on its defense in certain situations, he didn’t mind the final scoreline.
“If you’ve said to me before the game would I have took a 4-3? I would have. I said I’d rather win 4-3 than 1-nil,” Robinson said.
Portland had a penalty shout of their own when Valeri went to ground while lining up a shot after a Matias Laba challenge, but referee Kevin Stott did not point to the spot for the third time in the first half.
Despite the seven goals, both goalkeepers were called upon on numerous occasions. Ricketts finished the match with seven saves with his Danish counterpart, Ousted, finished the match with five.
After the match, the teams had to be separated with Pa Modou Kah and Ousted in center of the argument. Eventually Vancouver headed to the locker room victorious for the first time in Portland since their time in the second division. Robinson and Porter also seemed to have an emotional post match handshake.
“I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Caleb. I’m a young coach, he’s got more experience than me,” Robinson said. “The way we’re playing I want to learn from Caleb. The system he plays is what I want to do. I’m sure we’ll argue now and again, and that’s what happens. But the respect I have for him is very big.”
The post-game scenes didn’t bother Jewsbury.
“We’re all emotional. It’s a results-orientated business,” Jewsbury said. “I think that mentality that our coach and owner both have rubs off on this team and that’s why we fight until the end.”
The loss was Portland’s first regular season home loss since March 9, 2013 and ended a 22-match home unbeaten streak for the Timbers in regular season play, the third longest in MLS history. It was also the first time since July 29, 2012 that Portland had dropped a home regular season match to a Western Conference foe.
Vancouver (5-2-5, 20 points) is now in the midst of a six-game unbeaten run and will look to continue their hot form when they travel to Philadelphia to play the Union on Saturday. The Timbers (3-4-7, 16 points), meanwhile, will head to Utah looking to get back on form against RSL.