Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

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Timbers in need of goals or it’s go-home

Whitecaps come to Portland with 2-goal advantage in series

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published:

WHERE TO TUNE IN

Webcast: Watch the Timbers take on the Whitecaps by going to portlandtimbers.com

Radio: FM 95.5

Gavin Wilkinson insists his Portland Timbers didn’t go from good to bad on one night.

But the Timbers chances at a deep run in the United States Soccer Federation Division 2 Pro League playoffs certainly took a sour turn in the opening minutes of Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in British Columbia.

That result means the Timbers must outscore the Whitecaps by two goals over 90 minutes today to extend their season — a difficult challenge against the team that has 17 shutouts this season.

If the two-game, total goals series is tied at the end of 90 minutes today, an extra 30 minutes will be played. Should the score remain tied at the end of that half hour, a penalty-kick tiebreaker will determine which team moves into the semifinals.

WHERE TO TUNE IN

Webcast: Watch the Timbers take on the Whitecaps by going to portlandtimbers.com

Radio: FM 95.5

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the University of Portland’s Merlo Field. A limited number of tickets, priced at $15, will be available at the gate.

“The mindset has to be all or nothing,” Wilkinson said. “We have to go in with a positive outlook. The guys can’t be scared.”

Playing a home match for the first time since Sept. 2 should provide some energy for the Timbers, who are at the UP because of renovations at PGE Park in advance of the 2011 Major League Soccer season.

But a start like the one the Whitecaps enjoyed on Thursday at home isn’t likely to be repeated.

Vancouver scored 55 seconds in when Portland misplayed a clearance on a corner kick. It was 2-0 after a Portland foul produced a dangerous free kick that led to Martin Nash’s penalty kick in the 13th minute.

Wilkinson and his team were stunned.

The coach said his team seemed loose and focused during a “brilliant” pregame warmup. But the early Vancouver goals took the confidence out of a Portland team that hadn’t lost in 10 games.

Wilkinson said his team never did settle the ball or control possession the way he expected, but was fighting itself as well as the Whitecaps throughout Thursday’s match.

He said changing the body language from Thursday will be as important as any tactical or personnel changes he might consider.

“We have to outwork them and outrun them for the entire game,” Wilkinson said.

The Portland coach said Vancouver will be expecting the Timbers to attack aggressively. Potentially wet conditions could be helpful, as a slippery surface can lead to defensive mistakes.

Ultimately, Wilkinson said, his players’ professional pride must emerge.

“This team hasn’t overnight become a bad team,” Wiilkinson said.

Unless they quickly find away to turn momentum in their favor, these Division 2 Timbers will become extinct far sooner than anticipated.

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Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter