BEAVERTON, Ore. – The fact that Saturday’s Cascadia matchup between the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps ended with two players being ejected after seven cards were issued is probably not much of a surprise.
When Pacific Northwest rivals get together, there’s never much love lost.
For Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, however, the contentious and physical nature of that match – that ended in a 1-1 draw – is a sign of things to come for all Western Conference teams, of which a mere 11 points separate the top from the bottom in the table. And Porter said teams are going to cross the line if games aren’t managed better.
“It’s going to be a battle, which means the tighter it gets the more intense it gets, and I think you’re going to see games that are chippy,” Porter said after Monday’s training session at the team facility. “For me, it comes down to the ref managing it. That’s the way I look at it.”
Porter said what transpired after Diego Chara was booked for what he felt was a “touch foul” on Nicolas Mezquida in the 47th minute and then fouled “three or four times on way harder fouls with no cards” in part led to captain Will Johnson being shown red after the final whistle for arguing with the refs. The tipping point was a particularly hard foul by Cristian Techera on Chara in the third minute of stoppage time.
Porter did note that they would not be appealing Johnson’s red card.
“When you start to see discrepancy in fouls, that’s when players get frustrated, and that leads to a boiling point of what happened at the end of the game,” Porter said. “If games are managed better and fouls are consistent and players feel like it’s a fair foul, both ways, then I don’t think what you saw at the end of the game happens.”
In all, 26 fouls were called on the hot and steamy night at Providence Park. And Porter did concede that his side has not been beyond reproach, either, noting that there have been times where he has to remind his players to focus on playing rather than the physical nature of a match.
He’ll likely send that message again Saturday (6pm PT, ROOT SPORTS) when the Timbers play a tough road match against Western leaders FC Dallas, who the Timbers trail by just three points.
“There’s always a fine line, and I describe it as finding a balance between the fight and the football, always,” Porter said. “Every game you have to be up for a fight because if you don’t have that intensity, if you’re not ready for the physicality of these games, you’ll get chewed up and spit out. But you can’t get so much caught up in that that you lose sight of the football because that’s important to us winning.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.