PORTLAND, Ore. – The wait is over.
The Portland Timbers have their first win under interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson thanks to a 2-1 victory over Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night at JELD-WEN Field in front of a sellout crowd of 20,438.
The Timbers first victory since July 3 ended an eight-game winless streak – seven of those coming after former head coach John Spencer was dismissed. The Timbers performance also followed an emerging story line, with two players surging under Wilkinson – Darlington Nagbe and Franck Songo’o – netting the goals.
Songo’o’s 55th minute free-kick strike, his first in a Timbers jersey, proved the game winner after Vancouver forward Kenny Miller tied the game in first-half stoppage time to register his first goal in MLS.
HIGHLIGHTS: POR 2, VAN 1
With the loss, Vancouver have now dropped three straight and are stuck on 37 points from 28 games as they fight for the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot. FC Dallas is breathing down their necks, five points behind and playing Sunday against the LA Galaxy.
Portland jumps out of the Western Conference cellar with 27 points from 26 games to move a point ahead of Colorado. But more importantly for the Timbers, they remain in the lead for the Cascadia Cup, the supporters-based derby among the three Pacific Northwest MLS teams, with seven points from three games.
Nagbe’s sixth goal of the season and his third in the last three games came via some slick build up that started with midfielder Eric Alexander in the 41st minute. Alexander advanced the ball to midfielder Jack Jewsbury at the top of the box, and Jewsbury’s neatly placed through ball put Nagbe in perfect position to calmly finish past Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
But the Timbers couldn’t escape into the locker room with the lead thanks to sloppy defending in front of their goal in the first minute of added time. ‘Caps defender Jay DeMerit came away with a loose ball on the right side of the area after the Timbers failed to clear a corner, eventually finding Miller for a wide open shot that the Designated Player slotted past Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
Songo’o broke the tie when he uncorked a low stinger just inside the left post that Cannon was unable to corral despite getting his hands to the shot.
Still, there were some tense moments for the Timbers, as Vancouver pressed in the final minutes. In the 74th minute, with Ricketts pulled off his line, Timbers defender Steven Smith saved the victory when he headed away a Camilo shot that was destined for the unattended goal.
Then in the 84th minute, Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks was shown red for leading with his elbow while challenging for a header with defender David Horst, all but sealing the Portland victory.
Vancouver will hit the road again next Saturday when they face the Galaxy. Portland plays host to Colorado next Friday.
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Darlington Nagbe||We've been waiting the better part of two seasons for Nagbe to take over. That's getting closer.|
|2||Bright Dike||Didn't get the goal, the post got in his way, but is showing that going out on loan was the right move.|
|3||Jay DeMerit||His normal self, and one Vancouver can ill afford to see on the bench anymore this season.|