Impressions From The Cascadia Summit: Kip Kesgard On Portland Timbers Vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Posted In Match Previews and Reviews - By Kevin McCauley On Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 With 0 Comments

This weekend, the initial Cascadia Summit took place, with the Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers playing each other in pre-season matches in Washington. We had two guys on the ground reporting on the games to provide you some insight on the teams going into the season, and they’ve done a great job putting together a couple of pieces on exactly what happened this weekend.

This first piece comes from Kip Kesgard, who writes about the Portland Timbers for

I’ve witnessed plenty of Portland Timbers – Vancouver Whitecaps matches over the years, having followed the Timbers since 2001 and their rebirth in the United Soccer Leagues.  The Whitecaps have always been a friendly but fierce rivalry, as the Timbers have traditionally struggled in matches in Canada while the Timbers usually dominate at home in the Rose City.  The two Cascadia clubs are making the jump to MLS in 2011, and I was excited to get a chance to see both teams up close before the season starts.  The Cascadia Summit, hosted by the third Cascadian club Seattle Sounders FC, gave all three Pacific Northwest MLS teams a chance to view their rivals while also getting players valuable game time before the regular season begins.  Portland and Vancouver were schedule to meet on the summit’s second day, March 5.

The Timbers have brought on coach John Spencer, a former assistant coach from the Houston Dynamo, and he has brought a more dynamic attack with him.  His playing style preaches positioning and speed, wanting the Timbers to launch shots from anywhere on the pitch.  During the preseason, he has been working on the team’s conditioning and fitness to make sure they hold up under the rigors of the eight-month MLS campaign.  With the Timbers facing the Sounders on March 4 in game one of the summit, Spencer employed a different lineup that the group used versus Seattle.  He stitched together seasoned veterans, like forward Eddie Johnson, midfielder Ryan Pore, and goalkeeper Adin Brown, and put them with young players seeking to earn experience or gain a roster spot, such as forward Brian Umony and defender Chris Taylor.

Coach Teitur Thordarson have been at the helm of the Whitecaps since 2007, so he is taking his strategy from the USL and moving it up to MLS.  Vancouver has always been a strong tactical club, using their midfielders to control possession and create turnovers in the middle of the pitch.  They then quickly counter attack from turnovers trying to hit their forwards in stride to catch the defense off guard.  They also work on creating space in set pieces, and carry an arsenal of players that are good with their head or in the air.  Thordarson hasn’t changed his master plan in years, but winning a USL championship in 2008 showed his plan works.  The newest signing for the Whitecaps, French forward Eric Hassli, hadn’t arrived in time to suit up, but the Whitecaps were going to feature most of their first team players, including off-season signing and former Watford FC defender Jay DeMerit and former FC Dallas forward Atiba Harris.  It was expected that the first pick in the MLS Supplemental Draft, forward Omar Salgado, might also play.

The Timbers controlled the first 30 minutes of the match, striking gold in the fifth minute.  Goalkeeper Jay Nolly wasn’t able to collect a rebound off the post from a shot by Umony, and Pore scooped up the loose ball and tapped it past a sprawling Vancouver defense.  In the 30th minute, a shot struck Timbers defender David Horst and deflected towards goal.  Brown couldn’t stop the ball, and the own goal gave Vancouver the leveling goal.  The score ended up drawn at 1-1 in what was a well-played match.  Vancouver struggled to find their pace early, but in the second half, pushed Portland’s defense into making quick reads to block crossing passes.  The Timbers had an advantage in the midfield in terms of speed, as midfielder Kalif Alhassan ran circles around Whitecaps players all match.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t string together more threats towards the Vancouver goal, and after some shaky play early, Nolly settled in and played well.

I liked Harris quite a bit for Vancouver, as he worked very hard to gain space and assist his teammates in getting scoring chances.  My man of the match for Vancouver, though, was Blake Wagner, who was the focal point of the Whitecaps attack.  He was very calm and steady in the middle, and has grown significantly as a player showing poise and maturity I hadn’t seen before.  The MLS Whitecaps are going to struggle to find scoring in 2011, because I don’t see the forwards paired with Harris being able to score regularly, but I expect that Hassli’s arrival will change that.  Thordarson’s teams always play quality defense, and the effort on March 5 was typical Vancouver in that respect; they will make you work for everything.

Portland’s supposed B team performed admirably, especially after the emotionally draining win over Seattle on March 4.  I was concerned the Timbers would come up distracted or unfocused, but they played their best soccer in the first 30 minutes in pushing Vancouver all over the grounds.  They couldn’t keep the pace up, and let the Whitecaps back into the match in the second half with some questionable marking in the defensive line, but the Caps couldn’t make the Timbers pay.  I thought Alhassan was the Timbers MOTM, as he was a difference maker in the middle, although I was pleased by play from David Horst, former Columbus Crew midfielder Adam Moffat, Eddie Johnson and Brian Umony.  For a supposed second unit, the team showed excellent composure and scrappiness in attempts to gain possession.  Portland might not be the deepest team talent wise, but they will never stop pressing.

About Kevin McCauley - Kevin McCauley is the Editor in Chief of The Allocation Order. He is also the managing editor at World Soccer Reader and a contributor on multiple levels to SBNation

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>