MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Portland Timbers

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One game, 100 words (or less): A third straight disappointing performance from Vancouver allowed the team’s Cascadia rivals to snatch fifth place in the Western Conference, with a trio of second half goals giving Portland a 3-0 win at BC Place.

After a scoreless first half, the Timbers converted following a 51st minute corner, with Alvas Powell running onto a Diego Valeri pass to head the visitors in front. Fifteen minutes from time, Maxi Urutti doubled the lead from the middle of the box, with Rodney Wallace’s finish from eight yards out under David Ousted giving the Timbers their final margin.

Goals

Vancouver: None.
Portland: Alvas Powell 51′, Maxi Urruti 75′, Rodney Wallace 79′.

Three moments that mattered:

50′ – Alvas is in the building – Poor defending last Sunday led to a shakeup in Portland’s defense, one that vaulted Alvas Powell to the starting lineup. Off an early second half corner, the young Jamaican defender made the most of the opportunity. Making a near post run onto a Diego Valeri ball, the 20-year-old headed his team in front, allowing the Timbers to capitalize on their half’s energetic start.

73′ – Vancouver’s big chance – A switch to a two-striker set at the hour mark failed to ignite the Whitecaps, who finally showed some life in the 73rd minute. Combining for a one-two with Erik Hurtado, Mauro Rosales found himself with a look on goal from even with the right post. With Liam Ridgewell taking away the cross-goal shot, Rosales couldn’t find the space between Donovan Ricketts and the post, slicing the Whitecaps’ best chance of the night wide for a goal kick.

75′ – Urruti seals it for Portland – Minutes after the Whitecaps’ miss, the Timbers put the game away. Giving Michael Harrington too much space to get down the right flank, Vancouver allowed the Portland fullback to find Maxi Urruti in the middle of the area. With the Whitecaps central defenders too deep in their box, the Argentine attacker had time to turn on a find the top of goal from 15 yards out. When Rodney Wallace added a third four minutes later, Portland had three huge points on the road.

Lineups

Vancouver: David Ousted; Steve Beitashour, Andy O’Brien, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey (Sam Adekugbe 80′); Russel Teibert, Matías Laba; Mauro Rosales, Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh (Darren Mattocks 60′); Erik Hurtado (Sebastian Fernandez 76′)
Portland: Donovan Ricketts; Alvas Powell (Michael Harrington 74′), Pa Modou Kah, Liam Ridgewell, Jorge Villafana; Diego Chara (Ben Zemanski 89′), Will Johnson; Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe, Rodney Wallace; Fanendo Adi (Maximiliano Urruti 68′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. Portland has a weird kind of defensive depth – The Timbers’ problems at the back have been well-documented, yet after conceding four goals last Sunday against Seattle, the Timbers were able to keep a clean sheet in Vancouver. A big part of that performance was Vancouver’s poor play, but with Powell, Pa Modou Kah, and Jorge Villafana, Caleb Porter was able to leverage his squad’s depth to make wholesale chances.

The Timbers may not have any standouts at the back, but with enough options to shuffle the deck, Porter may still be able to find a combination that works.

2. Vancouver’s attack is broken – After tonight’s performance, one in which the Whitecaps were only about to generate nine shots, Vancouver has gone 321 minutes without a goal. Given the talent Carl Robinson has in attack, how is this possible? Something’s broken, be it tactically or psychologically, because a team with this many weapons shouldn’t be so easy to shut down.

3. More fun with lineups for Carl Robinson – Vancouver’s first year boss has fiddled with his selection all season, but with raw talents like Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks, and Erik Hurtado, it’s tempting to think what a consistent role would do for their development. With Mauro Rosales recently acquired from Chivas USA, consistency is that much farther away, with the former Sounder getting his first start with the team tonight.

You’d think at some point this team will need to give players more defined roles, if for no other reason than to develop the familiarity that will help tackle challenges like Diego Chara and Will Johnson. Robinson seems reluctant to do that, though. While part of that could be justified in terms of match ups, but at some point, Vancouver needs to leverage its best players.

Robinson just needs to decide who they are.

Where this leaves them:

  • The loss leaves Vancouver in sixth place, one point behind the Timbers (albeit with a game in hand).
  • On a points-per-game basis, Portland the sixth best team in the West. But Saturday’s win was a big step toward returning to the postseason.

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire

Late action (10:30 p.m. ET kick off)

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.