Timbers, Whitecaps end regular season with 2-2 draw

BURNABY, B.C. – Forward Bright Dike and midfielder Kalif Alhassan each scored in the second half as the Portland Timbers battled the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 2-2 draw in their regular-season finale Saturday evening at Swangard Stadium.

The Timbers and Whitecaps met for the final time during the regular season as members of United Soccer Leagues/USSF Division-2 Pro League, competing against one another for the past 10 seasons as lower-division clubs. Portland and Vancouver join North America’s top flight in Major League Soccer as expansion clubs in 2011.

Down 1-0 at halftime, the Timbers rallied back in the opening 12 minutes of the second half on goals by Alhassan and Dike to take a 2-1 lead in the 58th minute. The Whitecaps were able to fight their way back and equalized the score in the 68th minute with a header on the doorstep by Cody Arnoux, ending another physical, fast-paced matchup between the two rivals in a 2-2 draw.

Midfielder Ryan Pore recorded an assist, goalkeeper Steve Cronin made four second-half saves, Dike scored his 10th goal of the season and Alhassan scored his second goal in three games to help the Timbers (13-7-10, 49pts) close the regular season with 10-game unbeaten streak.

Midfielder Terry Dunfield scored his second goal of the season and took a team-high four shots, Arnoux scored his first goal of the season, defender Kyle Porter notched an assist and midfielder Martin Nash tallied his team-leading eighth assist for the Whitecaps (10-5-15, 45pts).

As a result of the draw, the Timbers sealed their position as the No. 4 seed in the USSF Division-2 Pro League heading into the postseason, which begins next week, and will face the Whitecaps in the first round.

With momentum on their side, the Whitecaps broke the game open in the 27th minute. Midfielder Philippe Davies played a corner kick in to Nash, who then flicked a pass over the crowd in the box to Dunfield on the back side. Dunfield knocked a shot through two defenders and by Cronin for the go-ahead score.

The Timbers pulled level at 1-1 in the opening minute of the second half. Defender Steve Purdy brought the ball down the right side and laid it off for forward Doug DeMartin. Deep in the corner, DeMartin crossed the ball in and it deflected off of Dike and his defender and out to Alhassan in the middle of the box. Alhassan tucked a shot from 12 yards out inside the right post for the equalizer in the 46th minute.

Dike’s 10th goal of the season put the Timbers ahead 2-1 in the 58th minute. Starting with Cronin in the back, the ball was played to Pore in midfield. Pore carried the ball up the middle of the park, drawing the Whitecaps defense. Pore then split a pair of defenders with a well-timed through ball, springing Dike on a breakaway. Dike slipped by Nolly and drilled the ball into an open net. With the goal, Dike became just the ninth different Timbers player in modern-franchise history to reach the 10-goal mark in a single season.

A header by Vancouver’s Arnoux in the 68th minute made the score 2-2 midway through the second half. From his right back position, Porter delivered a well-placed cross into the box from the right side. The ball sailed just over the reach of Timbers defender Ross Smith and dropped in for Arnoux on the back side. Arnoux punched in his first goal as a Whitecap from the doorstep for the equalizer.

The Whitecaps put the Timbers under pressure for a spell early in the match. In the third minute, forward Davide Chiumiento cut across the top of the box and unleashed a shot that hit off the left post. During a series of corner kicks and second-ball chances for Vancouver early in the half, Dunfield ripped a shot that bounced through the box and nearly found its way inside the left post; Dunfield attempted three of his four shots in the first half.

The Timbers best chance in the first half came in the 19th minute on a breakaway forward Ibad Muhamadu. He broke loose down field from the midfield stripe and out-ran the Vancouver backline. Muhamadu charged into the box along the right post and took a shot from 15 yards out. His shot forced Nolly into a diving stop to redirect the ball wide of the post.

The Timbers offense found its groove in the second half and the attack found holes in the Whitecaps defense, leading to a pair of goals early in the period. Dike attempted all three of his shots in the second half, and had a hard, low shot in the 86th minute denied on a kick save by Nolly.

With the lead in the race for the league's scoring title and Golden Boot, Pore had a chance to add to his league-best 15 goals total on a breakaway in the 72nd minute. Running up field along the right post, Pore had the advantage on his defender. Once inside the box, he cut inside and pulled the trigger on a shot, but it was blocked at the top of the box.

Off of a corner kick in the 74th minute, the Timbers had a chance to steal their second win in Vancouver in 2010. The ball rattled around the box before falling onto the path of Purdy. His effort was blocked, and the ball rolled out to defender Stephen Keel still inside the box. Keel hit a shot on frame, but it was plucked out of the air by Nolly with a quick reaction save.

Needing a win to clinch the NASL Conference title, the Whitecaps continued to push forward in the second half, attempting nine of their 13 shots in the period. Nash ripped a shot from 22 yards out in the 64th minute from the top of the arch. Cronin was able to knock it wide with a diving save to his right.

With the USSF D-2 Pro League regular season completed, the Timbers advance to the playoffs for the seventh time since 2001. Portland will face the No. 5-seeded Whitecaps in the first round. The first round features a two-game, aggregate-goal series, with the winner moving on to the semifinals.

The Timbers will play the first game of the series in Vancouver; match date and time will be announced at a later date. Portland will play host to Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 10, at Merlo Field on the University of Portland campus at 6 p.m. Playoff tickets are available in three-match strips for $65 by calling the Timbers ticket office at (503) 553-5555.

Notes: The regular-season finale marked the 45th meeting, including regular season and playoff matches, between the Timbers and Whitecaps as lower-division opponents since 2001 … Midfielder Alex Nimo made his first start since Aug. 26 … Portland finished its final lower-division regular season with a 5-3-1 record in regular-season finales … The Timbers finished the regular season with an unbeaten record against Vancouver for just the second time in modern-franchise history.

Lineups:
POR:GK Cronin, D Joy, D Keel, D Smith, D Purdy, M Pore, M Marcelin (McManus, 63), M Alhassan (Claesson, 75), M Nimo (DeMartin, 45), F Dike, F Muhamadu (Lopez, 68)

VAN: GK Nolly, D Forko (Tsiskaridze, 75), D Bellisomo (Akloul, 81), D Janicki, D Knight, M Wagner, M Nash, M Dunsfield, M Davies (Porter, 58), F Chiumiento (McDonald, 89), F Mobulu (Arnoux, 45)

Scoring Summary:
VAN: Dunfield (Nash), 27
POR: Alhassan, 46
POR: Dike (Pore), 58
VAN: Arnoux (Porter), 68