MLS Snapshot: Portland Timbers 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

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One game, 100 words (or less): A strong start for the visiting Whitecaps faded into a performance that mirrored last month’s failure. After seeing a sublime Diego Valeri volley put its hosts ahead near the half-hour mark, Vancouver gave up a second half brace to Fanendo Adi, allowing the Nigerian’s seventh and eighth goals of the season to put the match away. In what was supposed to be a heated derby between teams fighting for the West’s final playoff spot, Vancouver dropped another 3-0 result.

Goals

Portland: Valeri 28′, Adi 66′, 69′
Vancouver: None.

Three moments that mattered:

28′ – More Valeri magic – For two straight seasons, the Timbers’ best player has stepped up when his team needed it most: At the end of the season. Last year, it led to MVP talk, while this season, Diego Valeri may carry his team back into the playoffs.

Today’s opening goal was the latest part of that surge. Running into space behind striker Fanendo Adi, onto a cross from Jorge Villafana, Valeri made contact with the ball just before it returned to Providence Park’s turf, hitting his 14-yard volley under David Ousted’s cross-bar and into the Vancouver net.

After nearly half-an-hour with Vancouver the more dangerous side, Portland had the lead – the only one they’d need.

66′ – The next big chance – Vancouver never resumed their early match control, but for more than half-an-hour after Valeri’s opener, Vancouver was on even footing –  one moment away from equalizing. Just past the hour, however, Valeri caught Matias Laba on the ball and, after dribbling into the Whitecaps’ half, sent Fanendo Adi in alone on goal. As Ousted came off his line, Adi nearly lost possession with a heavy touch, but a last second toe poke sent the ball under the oncoming keeper and into the Vancouver goal.

69′- … set, match – After bursting onto the scene earlier this season with strong performances against Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake, Adi had quiet enough for fans  to question the value of their new Designated Player. With his second goal off the day, Adi likely changed the tone of that conversation, his second sliding under Oustead after Darlington Nagbe set him up in front of the left post.

Lineups

Portland: Ricketts; Powell (Harrington 82′), Kah, Ridgewell, Villafana; Chara, Johnson, Valeri; Nagbe, Adi (Urruti 72′), Wallace (Fernandez 87′)
Vancouver: Ousted, Beitashour, O’Brien, Waston, Harvey; Laba, Teibert; Rosales (Manneh 65′), Morales, Fernandez (Mezquida 76′); Hurtado (Mattocks 76′)

Three lessons going forward:

1. The importance of Valeri – Last year Ryan Johnson was scoring goals, Darlington Nagbe was getting onto the scoresheet, while Rodney Wallace and Will Johnson had career years. This season, not so much, which makes Diego Valeri’s performance even more important. As good as the Argentine was last season, he’s been just as productive this year. Only now, he’s had to carry more of the load.

2. Vancouver makes Portland’s defense look good – The Timbers will be happy with a rare clean sheet, but there’s a devil in these details. Portland’s four shutouts this season have come against two clubs: Chivas USA and Vancouver. Caleb Porter’s defense may be improving, but we’ll need to see proof against a better attack.

3. Table no longer on Whitecaps side – If the Whitecaps’ spring success hadn’t kept them in the West’s top five, they’d be in crisis mode. Now, after giving Portland six points over the last three weeks, the standings don’t help. Not only are the Whitecaps’ a bad team, but they’re one that’s run out of time to figure things out. The pressure’s now on Carl Robinson.

Where this leaves them: Through 29 games, Portland has 39 points, two more than Vancouver. With today’s win, the Timbers also own the teams’ first three tiebreakers: Wins; goal difference; goals for.