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Final

Practice makes perfect as Vancouver Whitecaps find Portland's fatal flaw

The Vancouver Whitecaps don’t score from corners often.

In fact, it had been over a year since captain Jay DeMerit headed home from that situation in a March 2012 game against Chivas USA.

So when Jordan Harvey headed home the equalizer against the Portland Timbers in a hard fought 1-1 draw at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday, it was cause for celebration.

As with most things in sport, it didn’t come from nothing – realizing his side’s set piece deficiencies, head coach Martin Rennie had his charges spend extra time during training this week trying to hone dead ball execution.

“We usually do set pieces right at the end [of training],” midfielder Matt Watson told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “This week we did them a few more times, you know, and just really focused on the delivery. Runs and things like that. So I mean, just doing that little bit of extra work – we definitely haven’t scored too many from set pieces. We really wanted to take full advantage.

“During a game you always get corners and stuff like that. There’s no point in just putting it in there and hoping. We’ve got some structure to what we’re doing, and we’ve got a few different ones. We just put in one and it worked for us and that’s how it is sometimes.”

The goal marked Harvey’s fourth of the season – not a bad return for a left fullback. Given the Whitecaps were outplayed by the home side for significant stretches – the Timbers held 57.9 percent of the ball – the headed effort was vitally important since the team’s attack looked largely innocuous from open play.

Adding to Vancouver’s satisfaction with the road point will the fact that they managed to sneak away with it despite playing without the suspended central midfield duo of Jun Marques Davidson and Gershon Koffie, who both served one match bans.

That’s not to mention key injury absences such as designated player Kenny Miller (adductor), Andy O’Brien (hamstring) and Darren Mattocks (knee), as well as long-term absentees such as Jay DeMerit (Achilles tendon) and Omar Salgado (foot).

“We have to focus on the guys that are available,” Rennie said. “It was a young squad of players,” Rennie said. “Maybe only [Lee Young Pyo] would be over the age of 30 I’d think. That’s a good thing and the guys played with a lot of confidence and a lot of heart.

“This is as tough place to come and we played well, so I’m really happy overall.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.