PORTLAND, Ore. - It was almost another 4-4 Cascadia Cup classic, but in the end the Vancouver Whitecaps' defense held firm to stave off a late Portland Timbers rally and secure a huge 4-3 road win on Sunday night.
After scoring four straight goals to take a commanding 4-1 lead, the Whitecaps defense bent and broke a little before managing to see out the game and secure the victory. Still, head coach Carl Robinson acknowledged after the game at Providence Park that his back four needs to improve.
"If you were to say to me before the game, would I have took a 4-3, I would have," Robinson told reporters. "I know we're a team that can score goals. What I've got to work on is the defensive side of this group and that'll take time. The goals are great, and as I've said all along, I'd like to win 4-3 rather than 1-0. But we've got to tighten up defensively. We were very comfortable in the game at 4-1. They're a good team. They get back in it at 4-2, then they go 4-3 and suddenly I start sweating."
Despite the sweats, the Whitecaps outshot the home side 23-18, the third straight MLS match in which they have registered more than 20 shots and the fourth match in all competitions this season.
While that is a positive for the Whitecaps coach, conceding two goals in the final 13 minutes and letting the Timbers back into the game is not. Robinson said the late lapses had more to do with the physical battering his players had taken than nerves.
"When you're tired, your mind stops functioning, your legs stop functioning, you start going away from the things that you were doing," Robinson noted. "Obviously the boy [Fanendo] Adi coming on and giving them a different dimension caused us a problem. They were hitting long balls, diagonal balls on to him, and we weren't set correctly. We were spread out as a back four, and that's something we need to work on."
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Vancouver left back Jordan Harvey was in the thick of the action at both ends of the field, grabbing his second goal of the season with what turned out to be the match-winner. Defensively, Harvey had to deal with the late Portland onslaught and, while satisfied at the strength Vancouver showed to see it through in the end, Harvey felt that the Whitecaps partly brought trouble upon themselves.
"I think we did, a little bit, take our foot off the pedal," Harvey told reporters after the game. "We kept the ball, kept possession, but I think we needed to keep going to goal and creating more chances. The game opened up, and we were content with just keeping the ball. We'll look back and see what we can do better. It was enough, so we'll take the three points and run. We had a three-goal cushion. We don't want to give up that many goals in a half ever again."