PORTLAND, Ore. – Providence Park was red-hot in many regards on Saturday night for the latest Cascadian derby clash.
Vancouver Whitecaps fought back to earn a share of the points with a 1-1 road draw vs. the Portland Timbers, as tempers flared towards the end of a match played in sweltering conditions in front of a fervent sellout crowd.
Amidst it all, two of the coolest heads out on the pitch belonged to Vancouver's young center back pairing of Christian Dean and Tim Parker. The inexperienced duo had been thrown into the thick of the action after Kendall Waston's late call-up for international duty with Costa Rica and with Pa Modou Kah still missing through injury.
It wasn't a completely flawless night from the pair, but they showed an ability, calmness and confidence that left their coach, Carl Robinson, a delighted man.
"Absolutely outstanding, both of them," Robinson said. "They're both young players. They've got [few] games between them.
"So to come in to arguably one of the most hostile environments in Major League Soccer and perform like that against [Fanendo] Adi to start with, then [Maxi] Urruti and playing Diego Valeri in behind -- it's credit to them. I'm pleased but I want them to kick on now."
The defenders had only nine league appearances between them heading into the match and although they may be inexperienced in MLS play, the pair has built an excellent understanding playing in the USL for WFC2 and are great friends off the pitch.
Whitecaps 'keeper David Ousted watched the chemistry of the pair play out in front of him and was impressed with what he witnessed from the two 22-year-olds.
"Fantastic," Ousted said. "I thought they looked like someone who’s played together for a number of years. Tim, I said before, looks older than he is, the way he plays. Dean came in today with his speed and with his physicality and did really well. A number of chances he cleared away and got tight so those two were really good today."
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Both Dean and Parker were pleased with their own performances in a fighting team effort, but both were also fully aware that mistakes were made.
Dean had a part to play in Portland's goal, being pulled into the middle too easily and giving Valeri too much room. For a player getting his first minutes of the year, and eager to show his coach that he deserved more, how he responded to that moment would tell Robinson a lot.
As it turned out, Dean became stronger for the rest of the game, producing a last-ditch tackle to deny Rodney Wallace in the second half, and providing a big boost to his confidence. Robinson was impressed with how Dean bounced back but cautioned the pair that one good game doesn't mean they've turned the corner at this level.
"His performance will judge his confidence," Robinson said. "He played very well and I told him he was outstanding, but I don't want my young players to get comfortable. One performance doesn't make you an experienced player. They continually perform with exceptional performances and young players have got to do that.
"Unfortunately with young players they have inconsistencies, but it's important that you stick behind them and encourage them and teach them and make them learn. That's what we'll do at this football club."