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No result, but youth is served in 'positive' 2-0 Timbers loss

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TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Portland Timbers defender Trevor Morley (32) flies on the back of Vancouver Whitecaps  defender Jordan Harvey after a save by goalkeeper Spencer Richey (left) Wednesday night at Providence Park. Wednesday night wasn’t ever going to be about the result. For both the Portland Timbers and the Vancouver Whitecaps, it was a chance to give some new and young faces time together on the field. But the Timbers probably would’ve preferred a better result anyway.

A squad with some of Vancouver’s top starters twice beat the young Timbers defense and silenced a sizable preseason crowd at Providence Park, 2-0.

Blas Perez, the former FC Dallas starter who recently landed in Vancouver, put the Whitecaps ahead in the 39th minute with a clinical corner kick finish.

Pedro Morales’ in-swinger found the feet of an unmarked Perez, who neatly knocked it with the inside of his right foot back toward the net.

Octavio Rivero returned for Vancouver in the 72nd minute with an splendid individual display to double the lead. Cutting through a couple defenders, he fired into the far post, beating backup goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. 

“Our goal was to give some of the new guys, some of the young guys, a run and continue to build minutes,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “We rested 11 guys today. At the end of the game, we had seven guys who have never played a league game — never — and they did OK. It was 13 to 9 shots in our favor, and I think it was a pretty good game.”

While there was a mix of players likely to continue with the lower division T2 in the regular season, Porter also worked to integrate players likely to play big roles for the Timbers this year. Jack Jewsbury, Ben Zemanski and Jack McInerney, who arrived in the offseason from the Columbus Crew, all started — and had their chances.

Jewsbury created a nice opening for himself a few minutes before Vancouver’s first goal, pirouetting around a defender and launching an open shot just wide. He sent another chance wide in the 70th minut, collecting a Michael Seaton pass at the top of the 18-yard-box and firing a low driving shot. 

From McInerney, who figures to be an important replacement for Maxi Urruti this season, the frustration was palpable. He had a powerful blast parried away by goalkeeper Spencer Rickey in the 80th minute, his best effort all night.

Neco Brett created a chance for himself in the 84th minute, dribbling from the flank to the middle of the box, but his low shot was palmed away.

Porter’s young defenders included: Taylor Peay; Anthony Manning, who the coach said was a longer-term project and still needs time; Andy Thoma, who Porter hopes will step up like Peay did last season; and Zarek Valentin, who Porter has shuffled through the back line during the preseason.

“We lost 2-0, but I thought it was positive. Some guys struggled a little bit; that’s to be expected,” Porter said. “They’ll get better as time goes on. You could see some nerves in some guys. It was their first time playing in front of a crowd this big (14,208) at Providence Park for some of them.”

The Timbers started a lineup with mostly second-string players against a stronger Whitecaps side, but both teams were experimental, as expected, in their choices., with the Whitecaps notably giving 15-year-old Alphonso Davies a starting spot. A Vancouver trialist listed only as “Hudson” and with no position indicated was a second-half substitute who also reportedly is 15.

Valetin, who joined in the offseason from the Montreal Impact, said the preseason has continued to be an adjustment period and a learning experience.

“Guys have been able to ease their way into it,” he said. “My body has acclimated to the system here and the way Coach Porter likes to play, so I feel great, my legs feel good.”

The Timbers had opened their Simple Invitational tournament with a relentless dismantling of a nine-man Minnesota United FC, 4-0. Minnesota United is slated to Major League Soccer by 2018.

NEXT: The Timbers will face the Chicago Fire at 5 p.m. Saturday at Providence Park as the Simple Invitational preseason continues. Portland kicks off its regular season on March 6 at home against Columbus.