Timbers, Vancouver square off in semifinal series

PORTLAND, Ore. – After a first-round bye, the Portland Timbers will face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the semifinal round of the USL First Division playoffs. The two-game, aggregate-goal series begins Thursday in Vancouver, with the Timbers hosting the second game Sunday at PGE Park at 4 p.m., presented by Spirit Mountain Casino.

Tickets for the series’ second leg on Sunday at PGE Park start at $14 in advance and are available at the PGE Park box office, area Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

The semifinal series between the Northwest rivals begins Thursday at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C. at 7:30 p.m. The defending-champion Whitecaps defeated the Carolina RailHawks in the first round to advance to the semifinals for a second straight season.

As an aggregate-goal series, the team with the highest combined score from both matches will advance to the championship round. If the score is tied after both matches, the two sides will play a 30-minute series overtime period – in its entirety – upon the conclusion of the second game. If the teams are still even after overtime, the series will be decided by FIFA penalty kicks.

The winner of the Portland-Vancouver series will advance to face the winner of the series between the Montreal Impact and Puerto Rico Islanders with the USL First Division title at stake.

Both matches of the Timbers’ semifinal series will be broadcast live on 95.5 The Game as well as online at www.portlandtimbers.com with broadcasters Andy McNamara, Aaron Heinzen and John Strong calling the action. Thursday’s match will be available through a live video webcast on USL Live at www.usllive.com, while Sunday’s fixture will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel. Sunday’s match will also be broadcast live in Spanish on 910AM+1390AM ESPN Deportes.

The Timbers make their second appearance in the USL First Division semifinals, and have advanced to the postseason for the sixth time in nine seasons. Portland’s last trip to the semifinal was in 2007, taking the Atlanta Silverbacks to penalty kicks before falling in the series.

Portland capped the regular season, which included a record-setting 24-game unbeaten streak, with a victory over the Cleveland City Stars on Sept. 17. The Timbers finished the campaign in first place and led the league in scoring with 45 goals. They earned a first-round bye as the USL First Division regular-season champions.

Since 2001, the Timbers and Whitecaps have met 35 times in regular-season contests. Portland is 9-18-8 in those matchups, including a 1-14-2 mark in Vancouver. The two sides have met twice previously in the postseason, with each club winning a series. Portland defeated Vancouver by an aggregate score of 3-1 in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, while the Whitecaps swept a two-game series in 2002.

This season, the Timbers were 2-1-0 against Vancouver and claimed their first Cascadia Cup – a fan-based, head-to-head competition held amongst the Northwest rival sides. Portland captured both wins over the Whitecaps at PGE Park, and its loss to Vancouver was its only road loss during the campaign.

As the No. 7 seed, the Whitecaps upended No. 2 Carolina in the first round by an aggregate score of 1-0. Forward Randy Edwini-Bonsu scored the decisive goal in the second half of the first game and goalkeeper Jay Nolly recorded two shutouts to help Vancouver advance. The Whitecaps feature the 2009 USL First Division goal-scoring champion in forward Charles Gbeke and league assist leader Wes Knight. Including the playoff series against the RailHawks, the Whitecaps are on a four-game unbeaten streak and are 10-3-3 at home this season.