Timbers season comes to a close, fall in semifinals

PORTLAND, Ore. – Midfielder Brian Farber’s two-goal performance led the Portland Timbers to a 3-3 draw Sunday in front of 14,283 at PGE Park, but the result allows Vancouver to advance to the finals with a 5-4 aggregate-series win in the USL First Division semifinals.

The Whitecaps, who entered Sunday’s contest with a 2-1 lead, scored twice in the second half to pull ahead in the series after the Timbers leveled it before halftime. Vancouver, the defending USL First Division champions, makes its second straight championship appearance.

Farber tallied twice in the first half to tie the series at 3-3, midfielder Alex Nimo struck for his second goal of the season and forward Mandjou Keita and defender David Hayes each recorded assists to lead the way for the Timbers. Portland’s USL First Division season comes to a close in the semifinals for the second time in the last three seasons.

Forward Marcus Haber scored his second goal of the postseason, midfielder Martin Nash scored the series’ go-ahead goal and goalkeeper James Nolly contributed six saves to lead the Whitecaps, who will enter the two-game championship round against the Montreal Impact on a six match unbeaten streak.

Once the opening whistle blew, the two Northwest rivals held nothing back in the decisive game of the series; they combined for three goals and 14 shots in the first half.

The Whitecaps broke open the scoring in the fourth minute as Haber finished a cross from midfielder Ansu Toure. Off a quick counter, Toure brought the ball up the left flank before sending the ball across the box. Haber cut through the box uncontested and headed in the go-ahead strike.

A minute earlier, Timbers goalkeeper Steve Cronin tipped away a breakaway shot by midfielder Wes Knight from inside the box. Knight’s low drive was knocked just wide of the left post.

Farber’s first goal since the end of June helped the Timbers rally back in the 10th minute. From deep in the right corner, the ball was played into Keita inside the box with a defender on his back. He laid it off for Farber, who then bounced a shot past Nolly to level match’s score at 1-1.

With his first two-goal performance of the season, Farber gave the Timbers a 2-1 lead and evened the series at 3-3 in the 43rd minute. Off a re-start, Hayes sent a ball into the box. Keita and Whitecaps defender Shaun Pejic contested for the ball before it skipped out wide to Farber on the right side. He blasted a shot back across the box and inside the far post.

Nash tied the match at 2-2 in the 60th minute off a free kick from the fringe of the box. A foul called on Portland defender a yard above the box on the left side set up Nash’s strike. He hooked a shot around the Timbers’ wall and inside the top far corner of the frame, giving the visitors a 4-3 lead in the semifinal series.

Capitalizing on a loose ball inside the six-yard box, Vancouver regained the lead in the match in the 71st minute and took a 5-3 lead in the total-goals series. A corner kick by Nash from the right side rattled around the box. As Cronin fought for it on the ground, James stuck out a toe and poked it past a pair of Portland defenders and into the back of the net for his first tally in the playoffs.

Fighting for the series, the Timbers kept things interesting late in the match as Nimo leveled the match’s score at 3-3 in the 83rd minute. Intercepting a pass in Vancouver’s defensive third, Nimo set up for a shot from 20 yards out and blasted it into the upper right hand corner. His second goal of the season pulled the Timbers within one goal in the series 5-4.

Portland, with momentum on its side, continued to press forward searching for series equalizer. In the 88th minute, forward Takayuki Suzuki put a shot on frame that forced Nolly to the ground to deny the effort. The Timbers had their chances in the final minutes of regulation and stoppage time with a series of corner kicks, but in the end, Vancouver held on for the draw and the series win.

Farber nearly converted another chance from the doorstep in the 16th minute, however his shot hit the side netting. Midway through the opening period, forward George Josten almost headed a one-on-one shot over Nolly, but the goalkeeper plucked it out of the air as he tracked back to his line. Portland out-shot the Whitecaps 15-10 on the night.

The Whitecaps had a shot in each half rattle the woodwork. In the 18th minute, Toure, who left the match late in the first half due to injury, crushed a shot from the right side off the crossbar. In the 71st minute, defender Takashi Hirano put a 20-yard free kick from beyond the right corner of the box off the top of the near post.

Notes: Prior to the match, defender Mamadou Danso was recognized as the Timbers Community Player of the Year and Keita received the Timbers Supporters Player of the Year award … Vancouver, which defeated the Timbers 2-1 in Game 1 of the series on Thursday, is looking for its third USL First Division title in the first-ever all-Canadian final … Montreal defeated the Puerto Rico Islanders 4-2 on aggregate in other semifinal series.

POR: GK Cronin, D Hayes, D Keel, D Thompson (Nishimura, 80), D Danso, M Claesson (Lopez, 81), M Farber (Nimo, 81), M McManus (Savage, 64), M Pore, F Keita, F Josten (Suzuki, 73)

VAN: GK Nolly, D Martin, D Bellisomo, D Pejic, D Hirano, M Knight, M Pozniak (Versailles, 70), M Nash, M Toure (Moose, 41)(Khalfan, 90), F Haber (Stafford, 89), F Gbeke (James, 50)

Scoring Summary:
VAN: Haber (Toure), 4
POR: Farber (Keita), 10
POR: Farber (Hayes), 43
VAN: Nash, 60
VAN: James, 71
POR: Nimo, 83