Timbers fall in playoffs, end season on winning note

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers earned a 1-0 victory in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday at Merlo Field. But the win would not be enough for the Timbers to advance in the postseason, as the Whitecaps won the overall aggregate-goal series 2-1.

The Timbers entered the second leg of the series trailing by two goals after a 2-0 loss to the Whitecaps in Game 1 on Thursday in Vancouver. Needing to overcome the deficit, the Timbers out-shot the Whitecaps 15-5 on Sunday and received an emotional, game-winning goal from midfielder James Marcelin early in the second half in front of a sellout crowd of 4,884. In the end, the Whitecaps would hold onto their lead in the series behind a five-save effort from goalkeeper Jay Nolly and advance to the semifinals against the Puerto Rico Islanders.

Marcelin scored his second goal of the season, defender Ian Joy was credited with the assist, forwards Bright Dike and Doug DeMartin recorded a team-high three shots apiece and defender Kevin Goldthwaite contributed three shots of his own from the backline for the Timbers. For a second straight season, the Timbers had their playoff run stopped short by the Northwest-rival Whitecaps.

Nolly’s five saves helped the Whitecaps to their third straight semifinals appearance as the club managed just five shots in the match. Midfielder Martin Nash led the way with a team-high two shots. Vancouver begins its semifinal series with Puerto Rico on Thursday on the road.

After a several close chances off of crosses in the first half, the Timbers staked a goal in the 49th minute a header by Marcelin. The ball was played wide left to Joy, who was deep in the offensive end. He crossed the ball in to the far side of the box. Among the crowd, Marcelin was able to drive his shot just inside the post for the 1-0 lead in Leg 2 and cut the Whitecaps’ aggregate-score lead in half.

The first half was filled with chances for the Timbers, out-shooting the Whitecaps 8-3 in the opening period. DeMartin attempted all three of his shots in the first half – all headers that missed just wide of the goal. Midfielder Kalif Alhassan set up two of those opportunities with the first coming in the eighth minute.

Switching the point of attack, the Timbers worked the ball out to Alhassan on the right side. He chipped a pass into the box for DeMartin, who then flicked a header from 10 yards out. DeMartin’s shot beat Nolly to the back post, but it rolled just wide.

In the 37th minute, the two linked up again for another close opportunity. From 30 yards out on the right side, Alhassan lofted a ball into the box. DeMartin got his head on the ball and looped a shot that bounced just wide of the target. DeMartin would get a third chance a minute later, as he tried to re-direct a cross in by defender Steve Purdy from the top of the six-yard box; it too narrowly missed, this time wide of the top left corner of the goal.

Dike had a chance of his own to put the Timbers on the board in the first half. DeMartin scrapped for a ball just outside the box and was able to push a pass forward for Dike in-stride. From a tight angle on the right post, Dike hit a rolling just wide of the far post.

Portland continued to push forward in the second half and it led to another seven shots. Following the goal by Marcelin, the Timbers earned another dangerous chance in the 56th minute on a corner kick by Joy. The defender dropped the ball in at the near post and Dike fought for the ball. He hit a shot on frame that was knocked off the post by Nolly. The rebound fell to the ground and Dike struck the follow up, but it was deflected by a Whitecaps player in the box.

The Whitecaps caught a few chances on counter attacks in the second half. Second-half sub Ridge Mobulu broke through the backline in the 63rd minute, but Timbers defender Stephen Keel was able to track back and knock the ball away with a sliding challenge deep inside the box to break up the threat.

Three minutes later, it was Keel again with another timely tackle inside the box to halt a dangerous run by the Whitecaps. On the ensuring corner kick, Vancouver midfielder Terry Dunfield ripped a shot just over the crossbar from 20 yards out.

Fighting for the series and their season, the Timbers held nothing back in the final 20 minutes of the contest. In the 72nd minute, a free kick rattled around the box and led to shots by Dike and forward Takayuki Suzuki. But it was Nolly with another clutch save and a deflection by a Whitecaps player inside the box that kept the Timbers from leveling the series.

Ten minutes from time, Dike was fouled five yards outside the top left corner of the box. Midfielder Rodrigo Lopez sliced it into the box at the far post, but Nolly was there to punch it away.

In second-half stoppage time, Vancouver midfielder Kyle Porter had a chance to seal the series. With the advantage deep inside the box, Porter sailed a shot from inside 10 yards well wide of the mark.

In the closing minutes of the contest, the Timbers tried to maximize on several long throw-ins and a series of corners to find the equalizer in the series. Alhassan tried his luck at a shot from distance, but it missed wide of the right post. Portland’s 2010 campaign ended with a fight, but it could not catch Vancouver in the aggregate-goal series.

It was the final meeting between the Timbers and Whitecaps as lower-division clubs. The two sides will both join Major League Soccer in 2011 as expansion clubs and will reunite with long-time Northwest-rival Seattle Sounders FC in North America’s top flight next season.

Notes: The Timbers defeated the Whitecaps for a third time in 2010, and finished the season against their Northwest counterparts with a record of 3-1-2 in both regular-season and postseason contests … Goldthwaite started his first game for the Timbers this season and made his Portland debut against the Whitecaps … Portland played its playoff match at Merlo Field due to construction at PGE Park in preparation for the club’s debut MLS season in 2011 ... Prior to kickoff, midfielder Ryan Pore was awarded the 2010 Timbers Supporters Player of the Year - fan-voted award.

Lineups:
POR: GK Cronin, D Joy (Muhamadu, 89), D Goldthwaite, D Keel, D Purdy, M Pore, M McManus (Lopez, 78), M Marcelin, M Alhassan, F Dike, F DeMartin (Suzuki, 64)

VAN: GK Nolly, D Bellisomo, D Janicki, D Gage, D Forko, M Dunfield, M Davies (Porter, 75), M Wagner, MKoffie, M Nash (Morfaw, 87), F Arnoux (Mobulo, 52)

Scoring Summary:
POR: Marcelin (Joy), 49

Timbers Player Ratings (as submitted by members of the Portland media; scale 1-10):
Starters
GK - Steve Cronin - 8, D - Stephen Keel - 8, D – Ian Joy – 8, D - Steve Purdy – 8, D – Kevin Goldthwaite – 8, M - Tony McManus - 8, M – James Marcelin - 8, M – Kalif Alhassan – 9, M – Ryan Pore - 7, F - Doug DeMartin – 7, F – Bright Dike – 7

Subs
F – Takayuki Suzuki – 7, M - Rodrigo Lopez – 7.5, F – Ibad Muhamadu - 7