VANCOUVER, B.C. – The Portland Timbers kept their playoff hopes alive, and in the process spoiled the opening of BC Place Stadium for their Cascadia rivals, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 on Sunday afternoon.
Kenny Cooper started the Major League Soccer era at BC Place with a cracker of a shot from just outside the area in the 25th minute. The play started with a giveaway from Alain Rochat just inside the Timbers half, and Diego Chara countered quickly, running down the right side before crossing to a wide open Cooper at the edge of the area.
The big American controlled well before hammering a ball past Joe Cannon and into the top right corner for the 1-0 goal.
It was Cooper’s seventh goal of the season, and it would prove to be the decider in what was just the second road victory for Portland in their maiden MLS season.
The Whitecaps, for their part, put together a number of threatening opportunities during the first half.
Their first real opportunity came three minutes before Cooper’s opener, as Shea Salinas was the beneficiary of a headed ball back from Pete Vagenas. The Texan had all the time in the world from the top of the area, but could only drag his shot wide to Troy Perkins’ right.
Vancouver’s best chance of the opening half was generated by a clever backheel from Eric Hassli 34 minutes in, as he found Davide Chiumiento free right behind him. The Swiss-Italian took a touch before hitting a low effort into the side netting, confusing a good chunk of the Vancouver support, who thought the ball had gone in.
The Timbers had the first quality chance of the second half, as Jeb Brovsky nearly gifted the Timbers with a goal in the 59th minute, misplaying a ball which was intercepted by the rushing Darlington Nagbe. The Liberian cut the ball back to Cooper, who got off a quick shot from close range, but a sprawling Cannon managed to make the first save before gathering at the second attempt to keep his team in the match.
Substitute Long Tan got the fans off their seats with a bit of fancy footwork in the 85th minute before crossing to Hassli, but the Frenchman could only head harmlessly wide. Within the same minute of play, Brovsky sent in a tantalizing cross to Tan, but the Chinese striker also sent it wide, meaning the match ended 1-0 in favor of the Timbers.
Portland 'keeper Troy Perkins, who notched his career-best ninth shutout on the season, was forced to make just two saves.
The Whitecaps (4-16-10, 22 points) don’t have to wait long for their next match, as they host Real Salt Lake on Thursday at BC Place. Vancouver remain last in the Western Conference.
The Timbers, for their part, hope to continue their hunt for a spot in the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs when they face the Houston Dynamo at JELD-WEN Field on Oct. 14. Portland (11-13-7) now sit on 40 points, tied with the New York Red Bulls, but just out of the final playoff spot based upon head-to-head results.
POR -- Kenny Cooper 7 (Diego Chara 4) 25
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Mike Chabala, Sal Zizzo, James Marcelin, Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 85), Jorge Perlaza (Eric Alexander 66).
Substitutes Not Used: David Horst, Peter Lowry, Brian Umony, Rodney Wallace, Jake Gleeson.
Vancouver Whitecaps -- Joe Cannon, Jeb Brovsky, Jay DeMerit, Alain Rochat, Jordan Harvey, Shea Salinas (Long Tan 80), Gershon Koffie, Peter Vagenas (John Thorrington 57), Camilo, Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento (Mustapha Jarju 68).
Substitutes Not Used: Michael Boxall, Philippe Davies, Michael Nanchoff, Jay Nolly.
POR -- Diego Chara (caution; Tactical Foul) 42
VAN -- Eric Hassli (caution; Reckless Tackle) 53
POR -- Mike Chabala (caution; Delaying a Restart) 64
POR -- James Marcelin (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 65
Referee: Mark Geiger
Referee's Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Peter Manikowski
4th Official: David Gantar
Time of Game: 2:00