Vancouver caps Timbers' streak
But for a couple of uncharacteristic misplays on Saturday, the Portland Timbers would be riding a team-record run into a tough August stretch.
But the Vancouver Whitecaps got an early lead, then held on for a 2-1 win at Providence Park, the first MLS loss for Portland since April 8.
Kei Kamara and Cristian Techera scored first-half headers for the Whitecaps. Diego Valeri converted a second-half penalty kick, but it was his first-half miss from the spot that summed up the way the night went for the home team.
The Timbers (10-4-7, 37 points) remained third in the Western Conference, but missed a chance to put significant distance between themselves and the seventh-place Whitecaps (9-9-6, 33) and to take command of the Cascadia Cup race.
The result ended a run of 15 MLS matches without a loss that tied the club record set in 2013 and also ended a streak of 16 league games unbeaten at Providence Park that dated to July 2017.
Coach Giovanni Savarese was philosophical about experiencing a home defeat in Portland for the first time.
"Of course you don't want to lose. You want to win every match, especially at home," he said. "But you have to know at some time or some moment defeat is going to come. The most important part is how we react to this defeat that will make the character of the team that we are."
The coach had no qualms about the effort. Portland took 26 shots, eight on target. In the second half, the Timbers put six of their 13 shots on goal and sent 11 crosses into the penalty area.
Their goal came in the 71st minute, when Valeri converted from the penalty spot. He missed wide left in the first half but tucked this chance into the left side of the net.
"You have to think that the most important thing is the next ball, the coming ball, the coming plays," Valeri said of reacting to the penalty kick miss.
The second PK opportunity came off a nice combination through the middle, with Diego Chara finding Sebastian Blanco at the top of the penalty area. Blanco spun free of three Whitecaps and was hit from behind by Sean Franklin.
Portland appealed to referee Jair Marrufo for two more second-half penalty kicks, including a late play when Chara dribbled into the penalty area and went down, but ultimately Vancouver's crowd-the-18 approach produced a result for the visitors.
Savarese put out a lineup built for attacking soccer. But the Timbers were forced to play from behind after goalkeeper Jeff Attinella misplayed a Vancouver free kick in the 14th minute. Kendall Waston took the kick from the center stripe, looping the ball forward. Attinella came out of the goal mouth late and was in no position react when Kamara cut in front of Larrys Mabiala and headed the ball toward the unmanned net.
Attinella said he knew Kamara was the target for the free kick and was too eager coming out to try to collect the ball.
"I misread it," Attinella said. "He got up there, won the ball and unfortunately for me I was out of the net. For me, it's a good learning experience. Unfortunately tonight, the guys couldn't battle back for me, but I think we left everything on the field in the second half, and that says a lot."
That gaffe aside, the result turned in the final minutes of the first half. Waston fouled Valeri in the penalty area with a clumsy challenge, but Valeri pulled his PK wide left in the 40th minute.
Moments later, Techera — the smallest player on the field — got to the front of goal on the counterattack for a well-taken header of a Brek Shea cross.
The visitors then left it to their defenders to protect the lead. And, despite plenty of bright play from Portland — including halftime substitute Andy Polo who was a handful on the left wing — the two goals were enough for Vancouver.
"Credit to Vancouver. They came up with a plan. They executed," Savarese said, noting the Whitecaps made their chances count when his team made mistakes.
"In the second half, they defended everything that we threw at them, which was a lot and they got an important victory," Savarese said.
Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic was a big part of that. Marincovic made five of his seven saves in the second half. With as many as nine teammates crowding the box, he survived several pinball moments.
Portland's 69.2 percent of possession was the most the Timbers have enjoyed in their MLS history.
Valeri called his missed penalty kick the turning point, noting Vancouver was able to defend with 11 players and forget attacking after halftime.
"They kicked the ball forward. They didn't even look for a teammate," Valeri noted of the Whitecaps' second-half strategy. "That's OK. That's a way they think they will get points. They did it today, but probably if we were a little bit more precise in some moments" we could have tied or won.
Polo replaced Samuel Armenteros at halftime — a move Savarese said was part strategic, part because Armenteros couldn't run full speed. Armenteros took a knock to the side of the knee, but expects to be fine.
That is good news with the Timbers facing road matches at 5 p.m. PT Wednesday at D.C. United and 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Sporting Kansas City.
Portland had not lost since April 8, when it squandered a 2-0 lead in a painful loss at Orlando City. This one stung, too, because it came at home to a rival.
It was one of the few times Savarese has chosen a more attack-minded lineup. In addition to Blanco returning to the lineup, Dairon Asprilla lined up on the wing, essentially replacing holding midfielder/central defender Lawrence Olum.
• Kendall McIntoch was the backup goalkeeper available for Portland because Jake Gleeson suffered a hamstring injury during Friday's training session.
• Portland, Seattle and Vancouver are 1-1-0 in the Cascade Cup competition. Portland's remaining matches for the regional trophy are on Aug. 26, when the Sounders visit Providence Park, and on Oct. 28, the final day of the regular season, at Vancouver.