A lot of Portland Timbers fans assumed the team would find three points against Vancouver, a 10th-place team who the Timbers had already beaten in BC Place this season.
The Timbers were red-hot, having gone unbeaten in five since the international break and destroying their rival Seattle Sounders 3-0 away. But instead of collecting a convincing win, the Timbers had to fight for a home point.
The most obvious observation from the night was not referee Ramy Touchan’s inability to control the game (though it certainly existed) but the Timbers’ inability to break down a staunchly defensive Whitecaps team without midfielder Eryk Williamson.
Williamson, who was out on yellow card accumulation, had five assists in his last six matches prior to missing this one. Moreso, he was a creative cog in the center of the park.
Felipe Mora ultimately bagged a game-tying goal, his first of the season, but it was still a night on which Portland could’ve collected all three points.
The Timbers had the best of the first 15 minutes, but Vancouver at least showed they had the ability to catch the home side’s back line off guard. That came to fruition in the 32nd minute, when Brian White slipped behind Claudio Bravo on the back post for the opening goal.
White’s diving header from a Ryan Raposo cross should have been a wake-up call for the Timbers, but instead it allowed Vancouver to bunker in. From there, the Timbers struggled to do anything more than cross and hope.
Sebastian Blanco was not delivering his signature dangerous services, Santiago Moreno was not getting into spots where he could dribble at defenders, and Yimmi Chara’s had only one move recently — the cutback.
Portland kept turning up the pressure in the second half, but nothing was working. Their three best chances of the night ended in two world-class saves (from Isaac Boehmer on his first MLS start) and one world-class block (from Jacob Nerwinski).
Then, in a midst of endless crosses, a lifeline.
Felipe Mora came on in the 72nd minute. Ten minutes later, Niezgoda knocked down a cross into Mora’s path. He was fouled from behind for a clear penalty kick, and converted it right down the middle to even the tie.
Portland went to a back-three late, but still didn’t have the creativity to break down Vancouver’s nine-to-10-man defensive block.
The Cascadia Cup is still firmly in Portland’s reach, though the Timbers will need to earn a result versus the Sounders at home depending on how Seattle plays the Whitecaps.