The Cascadia Derby came alive for the first time in 2023 this Saturday with Portland's visit to BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia.
In their fourth road match of the season (and second in a row), Portland squared up with the Vancouver Whitecaps, focused on nabbing some precious Cascadia Derby (and MLS) points. Head coach Giovanni Savarese presented a starting 11 similar of the one in Dallas, with a few changes. The back line remained mostly intact, with Justin Rasmussen replacing Claudio Bravo in the left-back role. In the midfield, Diego Gutierrez took over the vacancy left by Eryk Williamson due to his midweek injury. On the attack Dairon Asprilla and Tega Ikoba received the starting nod. It marked the Timbers Academy product's first MLS start, following his first MLS goal just three matchdays earlier at Atlanta.
In a tightly contested match, Aljaz Ivacic stepped up when tested by the Vancouver forwards. Through the first 25 minutes, Ivacic continued the superhero form he displayed the week prior in Dallas. His two point-blank saves kept the Timbers' in the game. In the 29th he came up clutch again, saving two shots from inside the box before the ball ended up in the net. The offside flag was raised however and the goal erased, but it showed that Ivacic's reflexes were very much on point across the northern border.
The rest of the first half featured a test of defensive resilience for Portland. In 45 minutes (plus four for stoppages), the Whitecaps outshot the Timbers seven to none, with Ivacic denying four of those shots on target. It was the green and gold goalkeeper's stalwart performance that kept the game within Portland's reach in the second half.
Gio Savarese opted for some halftime changes in pursuit of a result, bringing on Niezgoda for Tega Ikoba and Evander for Diego Gutierrez. Evander returned to action after missing the last three matches with a nagging hip injury.
In a form of déjà vu, Vancouver found the back of the net and again have their goal called off in the 50th minute. A foul on Zuparic by Ranko Veselinovic just before his header into the Timbers goal retracts the early second half go-ahead goal.
Franck Boli saw more minutes as a 65th-minute substitute, replacing Dairon Asprilla. The Ivorian striker joined the attacking pack to find the deadlock-breaker after securing a stoppage-time equalizer in Dallas on April 1st.
By the 70th minute, Aljaz Ivacic made it clear he was a top contender for man of the match for Portland. His incredible reflex saves and clearances had kept Vancouver at bay for the majority of the game. However even the mighty can be defeated, and the Whitecaps finally put one past the Timbers keeper in the 74th minute. After a flying save to his right, Ivacic could do nothing on a Julian Gressel cross into the six-yard box that found a lurking Brian White. White tapped Gressel's laser into an empty net and put the hosts up 1-nil.
The Timbers answered back two minutes later, mounting their most dangerous attack in the match. Justin Rasmussen delivered a powerful cross from the left and across the six-yard line into an incoming Juan David Mosquera who was just too late and sent the ball over the crossbar.
As time ran out, Ivacic continued saving, preventing further damage. When the final whistle blew, the Timbers keeper's heroics prevented a more devastating scoreline. Despite a tough night, he made eight saves.
Portland returns for a home encounter with eternal rivals Seattle Sounders on April 15. They look to find their second victory of the season in the second back-to-back Cascadia battles.