MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Portland Timbers

Leave a comment

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.


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.


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.

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
Leave a comment

We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
Leave a comment

The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
Leave a comment

What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.

Puksas Award finalists: Somehow absent is USWNT’s Carli Lloyd

Carli Lloyd, USWNT

FIFA announced on Monday its three-man list of finalists for the 2015 Puskas Award, handed out each year to the player who scored the “most beautiful” goal of the past calendar year.

[ MORE: 2015 Ballon d’Or finalists ]

The three men up for this year’s honor are Alessandro Florenzi (WATCH HERE), Lionel Messi (WATCH HERE) and Wendell Lira (WATCH HERE) — all scorers of fantastically beautiful goals this year.

That means Carli Lloyd, who made the original list of nominees before being whittled down to just three, is shockingly tragically scandalously criminally not a finalist for this year’s award. Reminder: This is the goal we’re talking about.

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

So, here’s the case for Lloyd:

  • She scored from midfield
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick
  • She scored the winner from midfield in a World Cup final to complete a hat trick in the 16th minute

How in the world is Carli Lloyd’s midfield goal to complete a 16-minute hat trick and win a World Cup final not a top-three goal of the year? You got some (more) explaining to do, FIFA.