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Timbers prove dominance over expansion cousins from Vancouver

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Diego Chara

Before the start of the MLS season, soccer fans in Portland and Vancouver would have had the date of Saturday’s encounter between the host Timbers and the Whitecaps circled on their calendars.

It would be the first time the two former Div. 2 rivals would test their mettle against each other on the field.

And, the result only confirmed what we’ve all come to realize since the MLS season began; that Portland is well ahead of Vancouver. The Whitecaps weren’t deserving of losing by the slender 2-1 scoreline.

The fact that Portland has eight more points than the Whitecaps, four more wins than the Whitecaps and is five better in goal differential than the Whitecaps. The win is more proof that the Timbers, while likely not playoff bound, will win the 2011 battle of the former Div.-2 cousins.

(And we need to stress “distant” cousins; during last season’s fractured Div. 2 season, Portland remained with the old USL guard, while the Whitecaps were one of the main backers of the new NASL, so much so that the club still retains its membership in the new league)

The speed and ease with which the Timbers shredded the Whitecaps backline was remarkable. With just over a minute gone, Jack Jewsbury played the ball into Whitecaps territory, where Jorge Perlaza was able to exploit a series of gaps in the defence. Centre back Jay DeMerit had come up too far, leaving a space behind at the back. And Michael Boxall was caught flat.

Perlaza played the ball to Diego Chara, who hammered a shot from the top of the box that beat keeper Joe Cannon.

If the Whitecaps defence was lacking on the first goal, it was scandalous on the second.

Jewsbury floated a free kick into the area, and Timbers’ defender Mamadou Danso was left open to nod home a free header. But Danso didn’t nod it home. He got very little, if anything, on the ball. But the ‘Caps still couldn’t clear the danger, and Perlaza was able to latch onto the second ball — and flicked it home.

Throughout the 90 minutes, the Whitecaps had nearly two-thirds of the possession, but didn’t translate it into enough threat. Meanwhile, Timber Kalif Alhassan struck the post with a shot early in the second half.

Yes, the Whitecaps got a late consolation; after Camilo had been shifted up to the forward slot in the second half, he took a ball played in by defender Jordan Harvey and was able to turn, shuffle and smash a shot inside the far post.

But, even though the Timbers surrendered a 2-0 lead at home when that other Canadian team came to visit, Camilo’s attempt only turned out to be a small dent on a great evening.

While the Timbers have already shown their dominance though 24 games, the win underlined that the difference between the clubs is more than points in the standings. We saw a Timbers team with some already-impressive pieces, such as keeper Troy Perkins, Perlaza and Chara. The team is staying the course with coach John Spencer. The Timbers are using this year to begin the building of a club; meanwhile, the Whitecaps are waiting for next year for Martin Rennie — who will already be the team’s third head coach in its MLS history — to, basically, take a second stab at expansion.

The Whitecaps aren’t a few wins behind; they are a year behind.

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