Whitecaps fall to depleted Timbers

VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 6: Dominic Oduro
VANCOUVER, BC - MARCH 6: Dominic Oduro /

Vancouver Whitecaps FC missed a perfect chance to move up the MLS standings against a depleted Portland Timbers side, losing 2-1 at BC Place.

If ever there was a match that summed up state of the Vancouver Whitecaps in 90 minutes, it was this one.

At home against Cascadian rivals. Rivals whose squad was so depleted by injury, suspension, and Gold Cup call-ups that they couldn’t even fill the bench. Just before a 3-game road trip, this was an important game to win. And this was the state of the Portland Timbers:

So here is the multi-step process to producing a typical Whitecaps performance against a team that should be easily rolled over.

1. Concede a cheap goal

Kudos to Jeremy Ebobisse on his first MLS goal, but he shouldn’t get used to being unmarked in the box. The Whitecaps defenders were caught ball-watching after a corner kick and left Ebobisse acres of space as he diverted a cross past David Ousted in the 14th minute.

2. Launch endless long balls

In Christian Bolaños, Nicolás Mezquida, Cristian Techera, and Fredy Montero, the ‘Caps had a mobile front four who could have put the Timbers defence under pressure by using movement, speed, and quick passing. Instead, they seemed to go for the long ball option every time. At 5’9″, Montero isn’t winning too many of those.

3. Score from a set piece

Vancouver managed to level just before halftime. And, like so many of their recent goals, it came from a set piece. For the second time this season, Tim Parker missed out on making the scoresheet, as he headed down from a corner only to see Andrew Jacobson make sure the ball crossed the line.

4. Concede another cheap goal

The Whitecaps utterly failed to learn from their first half mistakes after being let off the hook by the equalizer. Four minutes into the second half, Parker and Jacobson failed to deal with a Timbers counter-attack, and Sebastián Blanco made it 2-1.

5. Forget how to pass

Vancouver finished the match with 80% passing accuracy, according to MLSsoccer.com. But in the final third, their accuracy was just 57%. For a long stretch of the second half, the ‘Caps could not retain possession, and were unable to build anything offensively.

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6. Wait an hour to make substitutions

Carl Robinson is nothing if not consistent when it comes to making changes. Unless there are injuries, he will not make them before the 60th minute, regardless of what is happening on the field. This time was no different, with Yordy Reyna entering the game on 60 minutes, despite the game clamouring for a change in game plan much earlier.

7. Lose focus

The longer the game went on, the more the Whitecaps lost focus, as exemplified by Ousted getting a yellow card for sprinting out of his area to berate the referee. As always, Robinson led the way for his team with his constant moaning to the assistant referees. The only thing missing was a red card for either dissent or a frustrated tackle.

8. Refuse to acknowledge reality

In his post-game conference, Robinson claimed that the Whitecaps had played “exceptionally well” in the first half. Perhaps if the disaster that was the second half is taken as a baseline, then the first half was above average. Calling it anything more than that suggests someone is losing touch with reality.

Next: Whitecaps sign New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic

After picking up three points away to LA Galaxy, the Whitecaps looked like they could be on the way up, despite the dependence on Ousted to save those three points. But Sunday’s match showed that it’s one step forward and five steps back. It was a vintage 2016 performance that suggests many of last year’s issues have barely been papered over.

What about the positives? Well, Jake Nerwinski had another solid game.