A rivalry game is one thing. But when one team is fighting for their playoff lives, it’s a whole different animal.
And that’s exactly what the Portland Timbers saw Sunday night at BC Place when they went toe to toe with Cascadia foe Vancouver Whitecaps in a game that ended in a wild, 2-2 draw. Vancouver needed three points to revive their dying postseason hopes, and Portland, well, they just needed to hang on for the ride.
“Obviously, a lot at stake for both teams,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter told MLSsoccer.com. “We knew, especially in that second half, that it was going to get reckless because they needed three points. Honestly, I thought it was a great game. Both teams played well.”
What transpired was a series of events that everyone involved will be talking about for quite some time.
Three breathtaking goals, including a clear MLS Goal of the Year contender in Camilo Sanvezzo’s bicycle-kick blast that tied the game at 2-2 in the 78th minute, and a handful of stand-on-your-head saves by Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Rickets meant the game did not lack in entertainment value.
“We wanted three, we came for three, but it’s hard to be too disappointed, especially with the two goals that Camilo scored,” Porter said. “If they had scored two goals that were poor goals on things we could have done better, I’d probably be more disappointed with the result. But honestly, the fact that he pulled two rabbits out of the hat, you’ve got to take your hat off to him.”
Porter expressed almost a relief to walk away with a point, considering the wild nature of the second half with the Whitecaps desperate to inject themselves back into the playoff race.
“When they’re throwing four, five, six guys up top at the end and running at you, for us to be able to get out of here with a point, when they had the momentum and they needed three points and they’re going to throw numbers forward with reckless abandon, it shows we’re a mature team able to deal with that,” he said.
And it doesn’t hurt that – thanks to the results from the weekend – Portland remain very much in the Supporters’ Shield race and, at the very least, in good position to grab one of the top three spots in the Western Conference. With first-place Real Salt Lake playing to a draw and the Seattle Sounders losing Saturday, the Timbers are one point back of the Sounders and two from RSL. And starting next week, Portland will face Seattle and Real in back-to-back home matches.
“It’s great because those are the two teams ahead of us as well, so if we beat those teams then we deserve to be in the top three, if we don’t then maybe we don’t,” Porter said. “Everything is in our hands, we control really our destiny at this point in terms of where we finish.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.