Timbers rally for 1-1 draw against Whitecaps

BURNABY, B.C. – Midfielder Johan Claesson scored a late equalizer to help the Portland Timbers battle the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 1-1 draw in a preseason scrimmage at Burnaby Lake Park West on Friday.

Claesson scored the Timbers’ first goal of the preseason near the 80th minute and defender Takuro Nishimura, who was signed earlier in the day by the club, recorded the assist to lead the Timbers rally on the road. Goalkeeper Steve Cronin recorded several saves throughout the game to keep it close.

The Whitecaps took the lead in the around the 70th minute on a scrambled play in the box. Defender Wesley Charles converted a loose ball into the back of the net to tally just the second goal scored on the Timbers in preseason play; the other came against Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes on March 14.

The two sides played an even first half and traded scoring chances throughout the first period maintaining a fast-paced run of play. Around the half hour mark, Timbers forward Takayuki Suzuki had a one-on-one opportunity when he chased down a ball played into the box by midfielder Alex Nimo, but Vancouver goalkeeper Jay Nolly was there to scoop up the loose ball.

Half way through the opening period, the Timbers escaped a close call when Vancouver midfielder Ansu Tore rattled a 20-yard free kick off the right post, and a follow up shot by the Whitecaps was blocked by a Timbers player in the box before the ball was cleared away.

Suzuki had another chance late in the first half round the 40th minute to put the Timbers ahead. From the left side, midfielder Ryan Pore sent a pass into the box for Suzuki at the penalty spot. He gathered the ball and made a move to the outside before firing a shot on target. Nolly made a diving stop to keep the ball out of the net and then smothered the rebound.

The Timbers opened the second half with steady pressure on the offensive end of the field and generated two scoring chances within the first 10 minutes. Near the 50th minute, Claesson nearly chipped in a shot from the right side of the box towards the back post, but his shot just missed curling into the net.

Around the 55th minute mark forward Mandjou Keita nearly put the Timbers on the board, getting his head on the end of a cross by Nishimura from the right side of the box. Keita’s header missed just wide of the goal.

But it was Vancouver who took the lead around the 70th minute following a string of shots from inside the box. The Timbers were not able to clear the ball from danger and Charles struck a loose ball from 15 yards out inside the right post to give the home side a 1-0 advantage. 

Down by a goal, the Timbers rallied back behind Claesson’s goal in the 82nd minute to level the score. Nishimura won posession of the ball and created enough space to send a cross from deep down the right side into the box for Claesson, who delivered his first goal as a member of the Timbers with a header from six yards out. 

The Timbers had several scoring chances in the second half nearly find their mark. Defender David Hayes had a chance to break the stalemate around the 68th minute after he and Claesson set up a quick give-and-go just outside the box to give Hayes his chance. With a left-footed blast, Hayes’ shot got past the outstretched arms of Nolly, but missed wide of the right post.

Nimo nearly evened the score around the 75th minute following a Timbers corner kick. The ball was knocked out by a cluster of players in the middle of the box to Nimo 18 yards out. His blast skimmed just over the crossbar. Second-half subs George Josten and Antou Jallow also created a pair of dangerous chances late in the match keeping pressure on the Whitecaps defense.

The Timbers continue their preseason training camp Monday at PGE Park. Monday’s training marks the beginning of their fifth week of preseason. The team's next preseason contest is a scrimmage against Oregon State University in mid April.

Notes: Defender Scot Thompson did not make the trip due to illness. Nishimura got the start at right back … Charles' goal for the Whitecaps end a string of consecutive shutouts for the Timbers defense in preseason action ... Hayes made his first start since joining the Timbers early last week ... Trialist defender Mamadou Danso started and played all 90 minutes … roughly 150 fans watched the preseason scrimmage from the sidelines.

Portland’s Lineup:
GK Cronin, D Nishimura, D Keel (Knowles, 45), D Danso, D Hayes, M Nimo (Cameron, 85), M McManus (Savage, 65), M Claesson, M Pore (McLaughlin, 67), F Keita (Jallow, 70), F Suzuki (Josten, 45)