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Whitecaps’ offence stagnates in B.C. Place opener

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The Whitecaps could not have had a worse opponent scheduled for the MLS opening of B.C. Place than the Portland Timbers.

The Timbers not only, ahem. blessed the new Bell Pitch at B.C. Place with a 1-0 win in front of sold-out throng of 21,000, the Whitecaps’ Cascadia rivals had the chance to display just how wide the competitive gap is between the two teams that jumped from second division to MLS in 2011.

Losing the inaugural game at your brand-spankin’ new facility hurts — but to lose it to your expansion cousins, well that really smarts.

The Whitecaps continue to languish in last-spot overall in MLS; the Timbers moved into a tie for the final playoff spot.

The Whitecaps held a 60-40 edge in terms of possession — but, that only matters if you are a stat geek. It had virtually no impact on the game.

Where the gap between the clubs was the most noticeable was on the back lines. With Vancouver needing a goal, it did little to trouble Portland keeper Troy Perkins in the second half. When Vancouver needed to score, Perkins could have laid down on the goal line and taken a nap.

Trailing after a fantastic first-half volleyed goal from Kenny Cooper, the Whitecaps could not pierce the Timbers back line. In the final 10 minutes, substitute Long Tan sent a looping header well over the bar.

And, with about three minutes left in regulation time. Eric Hassli got to the top of the Timbers penalty area with the ball at his feet, and found himself surrounded by green shirts. He dribbled left, he dribbled right, but he had no clear path to goal — and no option for a pass. After a few seconds of trying to part the Red Sea, Hassli sent a slow roller at goal that Perkins could have handled in his sleep. Really, the Hassli vs. the world effort was a microcosm of the game itself. A Whitecaps’ side with no sense of teamwork going against a Timbers team that was willing to defend its slight lead in droves.

And, Hassli earned a yellow card that now means he’s suspended for the midweek match against Real Salt Lake.

And that was it for the Whitecaps’ second-half rally.

While Cooper’s goal was a fantastic 20-year volley that flew over the head of keeper Joe Cannon and under the bar, it was set up by a massive defensive error. Alain Rochat, who hasn’t looked nearly as calm and assured in the middle of the defence as he did when he was on the left, made a lazy pass into the midfield, which was picked off by the Timbers’ Diego Chara. He dashed up the right side, then sent a long pass across the field to Cooper, who brought it down then smashed the volley into the back of the net.

The Whitecaps had a couple of decent chances early; Shea Salinas smacked a low, right-footed effort wide after Peter Vagenas did a nice job to cushion the ball with his head, laying the ball into Salinas’s path at the top of the box.

And Camilo forced Perkins into a decent fingertip save, with a decent rising strike. But, for most of the match, Camilo looked far more interested in going down and trying to get Timbers players carded for phantom fouls than actually trying to make things happen with the ball at his feet. Camilo’s propensity for pratfalls gets more troubling by the week — and, you have to wonder when MLS HQ, which has suspended and fined players for diving this season, will finally tell Camilo to sit down.

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