PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps met one final time Sunday night before both clubs' promotion to Major League Soccer next season. And despite losing 1-0, the 'Caps left the University of Portland's Merlo Field celebrating their series win over the Timbers in the first round of the USSF Division-2 Pro League playoffs.
After winning the opener 2-0 last Thursday, the Whitecaps did just enough in the second and final game to edge the Timbers 2-1 on aggregate.
Portland scored the game’s only goal on James Marcelin’s header in the 49th minute, but Vancouver’s defense held on the rest of the way. The Whitecaps advance to play the Puerto Rico Islanders on Thursday in Bayamón, Puerto Rico.
The Whitecaps won the first game after scoring both goals in the opening 13 minutes. Portland hoped to duplicate that feat Sunday, expressing hope they would at least score one goal in the first half.
Instead, the teams trotted off the field at halftime scoreless despite Portland being the aggressors. The Timbers held an 8-3 shots advantage in the first half, forcing Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly to make three saves.
True to form, Portland returned to an attacking rhythm to open the second half, which is when they’ve scored 22 of their 34 goals this season. That trend continued four minutes after the restart, when Ian Joy sent a cross to Marcelin, who headed in the goal off the right post. It was the Haitian’s first goal for Portland this season.
The Timbers finished with a 15-5 shots advantage, with Jolly recording five saves.
Portland entered the playoffs on a 10-game unbeaten streak, with six wins and four draws. The Timbers also went unbeaten in four regular-season games against Vancouver, winning two 2-1 games and drawing twice.
But the Whitecaps have held the postseason advantage over the Timbers in recent years. This was the fourth time the rivals have met in the playoffs since 2001, with Vancouver edging Portland in both 2007 and '09.
The teams will meet again next season, when both move up to MLS play. Sunday's game was played before a sold-out crowd of 4,884 at Merlo Field because the Timbers' home, PGE Park, is undergoing renovations for soccer-specific use next year.