PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers' 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday in the teams' latest Cascadia Cup clash was not only the first time this season a visiting team has escaped Providence Park with all three points, but the loss snapped the Timbers' 15-match unbeaten streak.
The Whitecaps, battling to get back above the playoff line in the Western Conference, went up 2-0 and held on to get a big victory.
"One thing you can’t do with the boys in there is question their hearts," 'Caps coach Carl Robinson said after the match. "Portland is a terrific team, with good players, and we know that they are unbeaten in 15 games, so we knew it was going to be a challenge."
It wasn't for a lack of trying: Portland's 26 attempted shots were the fifth-most by an MLS club this season achieved in part by the fact that Portland had over 80 percent of possession over the final 15 minutes of the match.
“I came into the changing room at halftime and congratulated the boys on their efforts and their defending, putting their bodies on the line," Whitecaps goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic said, echoing Robinson's remarks that the team showed poise and "handled themselves immaculately."
"It was all in all a great defensive effort from the boys," Marinovic continued.
In the home locker room, the Timbers took their first loss since mid-April in stride.
“It’s a tough one to swallow," said Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, adding, "I’m sure not a lot of guys are going to sleep tonight, but it’s about shaking it off and getting ready for the next one.”
Like the previous week against the Philadelphia Union, Portland struggled with their finishing, but still found scoring opportunities by drawing two penalties, with Diego Valeri converting the second after missing the first.
"The reaction and the chances we created were really good," Valeri said following the match. "[Vancouver] did it today, but if we were a little bit more precise in some moments we could have tied or won the game."
While the Timbers aren't accustomed to losing, they'll seek to take lessons from the Cascadia Cup loss to prevent more such setbacks.
"Soccer’s not perfect," Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese said in his postgame remarks. "I think we have to expect in some moments we are going to make mistakes. I think it’s that we cannot think about those mistakes. We have to learn from them. We have to make sure we rebound right away from it and understand right away what we did right and what we did wrong."
Savarese praised the Whitecaps, noting that even after Portland scored to narrow Vancouver's lead to one goal, Portland could never find the breakthrough to tie up the game.
"Credit to Vancouver," Saverese said. "They came in with a plan. They executed. They were able to get the goals that they needed in the first half. Taking advantage of our mistakes and then second half they defended. They defended everything that we threw at them, which was a lot, and they got an important victory.”