PORTLAND — If their first Major League Soccer season is going to head down the stretch with some playoff life, the Portland Timbers need to put away beatable opponents.
On Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field, they took a small but significant step forward by beating the other expansion team.
Diego Chara scored the quickest goal for Portland this season, and the Timbers beat the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-1 in front of the usual sellout crowd of 18,627.
"I'm very, very proud of the group. A great team effort tonight," Portland coach John Spencer said.
It was a critical win against a rival and the team at the bottom of the MLS standings, and it came with Portland (8-12-5) playing its third game in seven days. The tough August continues with Chivas USA visiting for another critical match on Wednesday.
If fatigue was going to work against the home team, Chara's second-minute goal was an important development.
"That helps us a lot mentally," defender David Horst said, noting that the early lead gabe the Timbers a margin for error if needed. "A dream start to the game for us."
Even better was Jorge Perlaza's sixth goal of the season as Portland took a 2-0 lead in the 33rd minute.
That proved to be enough offense for the win, but not to prevent another tense finish for the Timbers and their followers, who have seen several two goal leads disappear this season. Vancouver's Camilo beat Horst's offside trap and scored in the 88th minute to make for a nervous final five minutes.
"Up until the goal I was super happy. Then the goal goes in and I'm super nervous," Spencer said.
Vancouver earned seven corner kicks, five of them in the first half, and had plenty of possession.
"There was a lot of corners for them and a lot of free kicks, but the guys dug deep and we were strong in the box every time," Horst said.
In fact, the Whitecaps FC (3-13-9) didn't pose a real threat until Camilo's goal.
"They're throwing numbers forward because they're down two goals," Jewsbury said. "I think we knew in the second half there were going to be some periods we were going to have to weather the storm and just not give anything up, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that."
In the first half, the Timbers chose to attack toward the Timbers Army section for a change — Jewsbury said that was goalkeeper Troy Perkins' preference — and quickly gave those fans something to cheer as Chara scored his first goal as a Timber just 1:19 into the match.
The quickest goal in Portland MLS history came on a play that started with Kenny Cooper winning a challenge in midfield to send Jewsbury on a forward run. Jewsbury pushed the ball forward to Perlaza, who then tapped a pass across the top of the 18-yard box that Chara drilled past a helpless Joe Cannon.
Portland struck again in the 32nd minute, as Perlaza beat a defender to a loose ball at the 6-yard box for a close-range finish on a play that started from a Jewsbury free kick.
Kalif Alhassan had a golden chance to make it 3-0 in the 49th minute thanks to a clever interception by Chara. But the shot from 8 yards hit the left post.
— A crowd of at least 10,000 is expected to Sunday's Reserve League match between the Whitecaps and Timbers. Kickoff is at noon. All tickets cost $10 and all seats are general admission. As the name implies, the Reserve League game will feature mostly second stringers along with players who saw little or no time in Saturday's match. Portland is on a three-game Reserve League win streak.
— Saturday was only the third time in 25 league games that Eric Brunner did not start at a central defender position for Portland. Mamdou "Futty" Danso and David Horst started in the central spots. Brunner replaced an injured Danso in the 77th minute.
— For the first time since he made his first MLS start on June 11, rookie Darlington Nagbe was not in the Timbers starting lineup. Portland took Nagbe with the second pick in the MLS SuperDraft — after Vancouver selected Omar Salgado with the No. 1 pick. The 17-year-old Salgado came on as a late substitute at forward and has played in 13 MLS games, starting five of them.
TIMBERS 2, WHITECAPS 1
Vancouver 0 1—1
Portland 2 0—2
First half—1, Portland, Chara 1 (Perlaza), 2nd minute. 2, Portland, Perlaza 6, 33rd.
Second half—3, Vancouver, Camilo 8 (Harvey), 88th.
Goalies—Vancouver, Joe Cannon; Portland, Troy Perkins.
Yellow Cards—Alhassan, Portland, 23rd; Harvey, Vancouver, 49th; Thorrington, Vancouver, 73rd; Camilo, Vancouver, 86th.
Referee—Jair Marrufo. Assistant Referees—Corey Rockwell. Peter Manikowski. 4th Official—Jason Anno.
Vancouver—Joe Cannon, Jay DeMerit, Michael Boxall, Jordan Harvey, Jeb Brovsky, Gershon Koffie, Davide Chiumiento (Shea Salinas, 63rd), John Thorrington, Peter Vagenas (Mustapha Jarju, 51st), Camilo, Eric Hassli (Omar Salgado, 84th).
Portland—Troy Perkins, David Horst, Mike Chabala, Mamadou Danso (Eric Brunner, 76th), Sal Zizzo, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury, Kalif Alhassan, Lovel Palmer, Kenny Cooper (James Marcelin, 83rd), Jorge Perlaza (Bright Dike, 69th).