It was not to be.
In a near-replica of that August 20th matchup at B.C. Place Stadium, Vancouver got off to a lively start before giving up a goal and then fading down the stretch. Portland dominated for long stretches en route to another 3-0 trouncing of the Whitecaps in front of 20,814 at Providence Park.
Fanendo Adi scored twice, Diego Valeri added a goal and an assist, and Donovan Ricketts had his fourth shutout as the Whitecaps ceded the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot to their Pacific Northwest rivals with just five games remaining.
"We're chasing them now," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "It's a different scenario when you're chasing a team rather than them chasing you."
The game started with the visitors creating some good chances in the opening 15 minutes, including a Sebastian Fernandez shot in the game's first minute that went just wide of the post.
"For the first 20-odd minutes we were excellent but weren't able to capitalize on that," said Robinson. "And goals change games, as we all know."
Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, it was the Timbers that changed the game to their benefit.
Following an end-to-end first twenty minutes, momentum started to shift in Portland's favour, culminating in the opening goal from Valeri at the 28-minute mark. The sequence started with Steven Beitashour getting caught in a two-on-one situation on the right wing. With Beitashour unable to commit, Portland's Jorge Villafana had time and space to neatly pick out Valeri running unmarked through Vancouver's penalty area.
"My initial reaction was to go out, but I saw I had guy," said Beitashour. "I didn't want to go out and have them just play in behind, so I sat in and he whipped in a good ball. Great finish."
Beitashour, a question to start prior to the match, had words with Mauro Rosales about the defending mixup, but the damage was already done.
"The goal took the wind out of our sails," said centre back Andy O'Brien.
Robinson agreed that there was a bit of a drop-off in Vancouver's performance once the home side took the lead.
"When we go a goal down, we're probably not playing with the same energy, desire or confidence we should," Robinson said. "But we've got to learn, because we're not always going to score the first goal."
The Timbers put a choke-hold on the remainder of the first half and Vancouver took a one-goal deficit into halftime.
The visitors regrouped to start the second half, but a costly mistake in the 66th minute by Matias Laba gave Portland a chance to double the lead, and Adi capitalized on the chance for the first of his two goals on the night.
Laba tried to cut the ball back near midfield with his teammates mostly in the attacking third. Valeri took it cleanly off Laba and easily found Adi breaking towards David Ousted's net all alone.
"Ninety-nine times out of 100 (Laba) makes that play," said Robinson. "Valeri's a good player, he's knicked the ball."
Adi put the finishing touches on just four minutes later, slipping a ball between Ousted's legs for the final goal of the game.
The additions of Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks and Nicolas Mezquida created a flurry of half-chances in the waning moments of the game, but Portland saw out the match to keep the visitors scoreless for the the sixth time in nine games. Vancouver is winless on the road in that stretch as well.
"It's not a fun way to lose," said Ousted. "It's not a fun place to lose, especially with the fan support we had out today. There are five games left and we can't feel sorry for ourselves, we can't get down. We need to continue to work."
The Whitecaps face three playoff-bound teams in their remaining five games, starting next Saturday at home against Real Salt lake.
Despite the recent form and a tough outlook for upcoming games, Robinson doesn't feel his team is wilting.
"People can say whatever they want," he said. "It's a good challenge for us. If we want to play in big games, important games, we've got to cope with this pressure. There's a little bit of pressure on next week."Suggest a correction