Takeaways from a thrilling seven-goal thriller in Cascadia Cup match

An action filled, pulsating Cascadia Cup game ended in a 4-3 victory for Vancouver Whitecaps against Portland Timbers. What were the key talking points?

1. A great advert for Major League Soccer.

If ever proof was needed when it comes to trying to tell people that MLS is entertaining then this was it. A great spectacle for fans and the players alike produced a highly enjoyable game from the first minute to the last.

2. Portland Timbers were on fire early on.

It was 1-0 within 3 minutes after a fine left-footed effort from Maximiliano Urruti, then moments after, Will Johnson saw his deflected effort brilliantly saved by Whitecaps ‘keeper, David Ousted.

Even after the score had been tied at 1-1, Portland were still in the ascendancy and they so nearly led 2-1 after an Urruti header struck the crossbar.

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3. It was a seesaw encounter.

After a blistering start by the Timbers, you would have been forgiven for thinking that they would have gone on to win comfortably, but the Whitecaps weathered the early storm and a spirited fight back saw them turn the game on its head inside the first 45 minutes.

Vancouver were leading 4-1 with just 13 minutes remaining when a nice headed goal by Gaston Fernandez appeared to be a consolation as it reduced the arrears to two goals.

Then 4 minutes from time, a simply sublime goal saw Will Johnson volley home which reduced the deficit to just one goal for the Timbers and created a frantic finale.

Given all that had gone before, had Vancouver ended up throwing this away, they would have been gutted.

A large portion of credit must still be given to Portland for a great start and for battling right until the end, though they will be devastated not to have got something out of the game.

4. Pedro Morales had a game to remember.

The Vancouver midfielder was involved in every goal as he bagged himself two goals from the penalty spot as well as assisting the other two goals.

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Portland Timbers will travel to Real Salt Lake on Saturday June 7 in what promises to be a very tough game despite Salt Lake suffering their first defeat of the campaign at the weekend. They’ll have to play very well to get anything from this game.

Vancouver will look to stretch their unbeaten run to seven games when they take on Philadelphia Union on Saturday. The Union are currently 8th in the Eastern Conference.

Highlights via MLS on YouTube:

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Seattle and Vancouver share spoils in exciting Cascadia Cup showdown

The Seattle Sounders grabbed a late penalty to ensure that the points were shared in the Cascadia Cup meeting against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place as an exciting game ended 2-2.

Inside the first 3 minutes, Gershon Koffie was already testing the Seattle goal but the effort was smartly dealt with at the near post by goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Koffie was at the heart of the action soon after, when he struck a long range effort against the crossbar following a storming run towards the Sounders goal.

But against the run of play in the 35th minute, the home fans were left stunned when a cross from Kenny Cooper found Chad Barrett, who was making his first start for the club, and he nodded in a beautiful header for his second of the season.

However the Sounders lead was short lived when Erik Hurtado intercepted the ball inside his own half, passing the ball to Bowen who then found Chilean Moralez with a wonderful first-time ball back into Hurtado who dazzled Osvaldo Alonso, not once but twice.

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Hurtado then blasted past Frei and into the Sounders net from a tight angle, drawing the home side level at the 38th minute mark.

The 60th minute saw Manneh break free again, but he was denied once more  by the rushing Frei.

But five minutes later the Whitecaps took the lead, as Frei’s clearance from near the touchline fell to Koffie who chested the ball down, allowing a bounce before taking it on and volleying into an empty Seattle net from over 30 yards, sending BC Place into raptures.

Inside the last ten minutes the Sounders got the chance to equalize after Jay Demerit was unfortunately penalised for bashing into the back of Cam Weaver in the air.

With regular Sounders penalty taker Clint Dempsey away with the USMNT, it was up to Mexican Gonzalo Pineda to take it under serious pressure.

Pineda stepped up and coolly put the ball into the net, making it look easy with his chipped finish, bringing Seattle level going into the last ten minutes.

The goal seemed to inspire the Sounders as Obafemi Martins came charging towards the  Vancouver goal before striking the post, in an effort which would of surely won the game for the Sounders.

Six minutes added time were added on at the end of an exciting game and Vancouver went close to snatching the game in the  92nd minute, but Koffie’s effort was straight at Frei.

Both sides now move on with the Whitecaps carrying on their battle for the Cascadia Cup next week against Portland Timbers, whilst a top of the table clash between Seattle Sounders and Real Salt Lake takes place next Saturday.

Highlights via MLS on YouTube:

Toronto need penalties to see off resolute Whitecaps

Toronto FC advanced to the Amway Canadian Championship final after beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 5-3 in a penalty shootout at BC Place last night.

The pair couldn’t be separated, with the aggregate score 3-3 after 210 minutes of action over the two legs, and penalties were needed to send Toronto through to face the Montreal Impact in the final.

Jermain Defoe didn’t feature as he watched on from the bench, as Luke Moore started his first game for the club alongside Brazilian striker Gilberto.

Vancouver trailed 2-1 from the first-leg, and their task got a lot more difficult inside the opening five minutes, as Toronto took an early lead through Doneil Henry.

Henry looked to be offside as he tapped in, following a Michael Bradley free-kick that was headed onto the bar by Whitecaps defender Nick Hagglund.

The early setback meant Vancouver had to attack Toronto, and they did just that, registering 25 shots during the game.

They got the equaliser just before halftime, as Erik Hurtado’s strike levelled it up following a great chip over the defence by Chilean midfielder Pedro Morales.

The Whitecaps pressed for the second goal that would tie the aggregate score and Kekuta Manneh had a good chance to do so, but for Reds goalkeeper Joe Bendik, who charged down the young Gambian.

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(Photo: Joe Bendik made some vital saves to keep Toronto in the game)

Vancouver eventually got the goal they desperately searched for, as Henry brought down Hurtado in the box to allow Morales to score from the penalty spot.

Toronto had the best chances to win the match in extra-time but neither side could get that elusive goal and penalties were needed to decide the tie.

The Reds scored all five of their penalties to advance, with Kekuta Manneh the unlucky Whitecap to miss, as Joe Bendik saved another one of his efforts.

Toronto will face Montreal in the two-legged final starting in two weeks as they aim to get their hands on their fifth Canadian Championship title against the current holders.

The Impact edged past FC Edmonton in the final seconds of the other semi-final, winning 4-2 on the night, with the winner coming from a controversial penalty in the 97th minute to send the MLS club through 5-4 on aggregate.

Reo-Coker set to leave Vancouver but where could he go next?

Nigel Reo-Coker looks set to leave the Vancouver Whitecaps at the end of the month according to reports, but could stay in MLS.

A report from TEAM1040 reporter, Mike Martignago suggests that Reo-Coker will leave the Whitecaps on the 25th May after falling down the pecking order at the club.

The former West Ham and Aston Villa midfielder joined Vancouver before the start of last season, but hasn’t been involved as much this campaign.

Ghanaian midfielder Gershon Koffie has replaced Reo-Coker in the Whitecaps side, with the Englishman only seeing one minute of MLS action since March.

The 30-year-old injured himself earlier in the season, in a bizarre accident where he tripped over a bicycle rack in the Canadian city, with Major League Soccer’s official website describing the injury as an “off-field walking accident”.

Koffie came in for the injured Reo-Coker and has made himself a regular since, though the former Villa man played in the first-leg of last week’s Amway Canadian Championship semi-final against Toronto.

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He has been used as a right-back at times, though his preferred position remains in the centre of midfield and could make the switch to FC Dallas as a result.

Reo-Coker would not need to be made a designated player, but would stretch the salary cap of any team, with his $400,000 base salary.

Dallas may be looking to strengthen their midfield following the news that Hendry Thomas is out for 6-8 weeks, and a move for Reo-Coker is more than possible if he does depart Vancouver as reported.

Vancouver Whitecaps play the second-leg of their Canadian Championship semi-final against Toronto FC tonight.

Toronto FC take the advantage against a spirited Vancouver side

By Louis East

Toronto FC relied on the quality of their designated players to secure a first-leg win against a young Vancouver Whitecaps side in the Amway Canadian Championship semi-final.

Goals from Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley helped Toronto to a 2-1 victory against a young, and spirited Whitecaps side, with manager Carl Robinson fielding a team with an average age of just 21.6 at BMO Field on Wednesday night.

With no game this weekend, Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen fielded a strong side in the first-leg of the Canadian Championship semi-final as he looked to build a convincing lead in the tie.

But that was not the case, as Vancouver battled throughout and have a real chance of progressing to the final in next week’s second-leg.

Toronto looked dangerous in the first-half as Vancouver struggled to contain the attacking threats of Defoe and Issey Nakajima-Farran, who were giving the young Whitecaps defence plenty to deal with.

They opened the scoring in the 27th minute, as Gilberto sent Defoe through on goal with the Englishman making no mistake with his finish, sliding under the young Marco Carducci in the Vancouver goal.

At just 17, Carducci is the second-youngest goalkeeper to have played for Vancouver in their 40-year history but he couldn’t prevent Defoe from scoring his fourth goal for Toronto in just five appearances.

Gilberto will be boosted by the assist, but the Brazilian is still looking for his first goal since joining Toronto and needs to start taking his chances.

The Whitecaps improved in the second-half and grew increasingly confident as the game went on, but Joe Bendik was in fine form in the Toronto goal, stopping shots from Omar Salgado and the impressive Russell Teibert.

Toronto eventually got the second goal they had been looking for in the 89th minute, as Michael Bradley ran from his own box to slot the ball past Carducci, after playing a neat one-two with Jermain Defoe.

The tie looked to be edging away from Vancouver, who had worked so hard, but substitute Kekuta Manneh made sure the Whitecaps are still in the tie.

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(All to play for in next Wednesday’s second-leg match at BC Place)

The exciting 19-year-old volleyed in from inside the box in stoppage time, to make it 2-1 on the night, giving Vancouver real hope of making the final in next Wednesday’s second-leg at BC Place.

The winner will play in a two-legged final for the Voyageurs Cup against FC Edmonton or Montreal Impact.

FC Edmonton came from behind and scored a late winner to stun holders, Montreal, in the first-leg last night, winning 2-1 but Montreal will be confident of progressing when they host Edmonton in the second-leg next week.