Timbers open postseason play against Whitecaps

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers open the postseason against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first round of the USSF Division-2 Pro League playoffs this week. The two-game, aggregate-goal series begins Thursday in Vancouver, with the Timbers hosting the second game Sunday at Merlo Field on the University of Portland campus at 6 p.m.

Tickets for Sunday’s match in Portland are available as part of three-game playoff ticket strips for $65; all playoff tickets are general admission. Playoff strips at a discounted rate of $37 are available to season ticket holders for the Timbers’ inaugural Major League Soccer season in 2011. To purchase playoff ticket strips or 2011 season tickets, call the Timbers ticket office at (503) 553-5555.

Individual first-round tickets are $15 and go on sale to the public Wednesday at 10 a.m. through local Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000. A select number of single-game tickets will be available on Sunday at the Merlo Field box office; gates open at 5 p.m.

The opening match of the first-round series between the Northwest rivals will take place at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Thursday’s matchup will be broadcast live on Newsradio 750 KXL, while Sunday’s contest will air live on Sportsradio 95.5 The Game and in Spanish on 910+1390 ESPN Deportes. Both legs of the series will also be available online through a video webcast at www.portlandtimbers.com/live.

As an aggregate-goal series, the team with the highest combined score from both matches will advance. If the score is tied after both matches, the two sides will play a 30-minute series overtime period – in its entirety – upon the conclusion of the second game. If the teams are still even after overtime, the series will be decided by FIFA penalty kicks.

The winner of the Portland-Vancouver series will advance to the USSF D-2 Pro League semifinals.

With a 2-2 draw in their regular-season finale against the Whitecaps on Oct. 2, the Timbers finished the regular season on a 10-game unbeaten streak and earned the No. 4 seed with a record of 13-7-10 (49pts). Portland ranked second in the league in fewest goals allowed (23) and among league leaders in shutouts (12) during the campaign. Midfielder Ryan Pore finished the regular season with 15 goals and earned the Golden Boot award as the league’s leading scorer, while rookie forward Bright Dike finished tied for fourth in goals scored with 10.

The Timbers advance to the playoffs for the seventh time since 2001 and under head coach Gavin Wilkinson have reached the semifinals in two of the last three seasons (2007, 2009). The first-round matchup between Portland and Vancouver features a rematch of the 2009 USL First Division semifinals, in which the Whitecaps edged the Timbers 5-4 on aggregate after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the second leg of the series at PGE Park.

The first-round series marks the fourth time the Timbers and Whitecaps have met in the postseason since 2001. Of the three previous playoff series between the clubs, the Whitecaps have won two, including the 2009 semifinals. The Timbers defeated Vancouver by an aggregate score of 3-1 in the first round of the 2007 USL First Division playoffs.

In 2010, the Timbers were unbeaten against their Northwest rivals, posting a 2-0-2 record in the four-game, regular-season series and winning the 2010 Cascadia Cup. On July 22, the Timbers claimed their first win in Vancouver since the 2004 campaign, defeating the Whitecaps 2-1 at Swangard Stadium. Since 2001, the two sides have met 45 times, including both regular-season and postseason contests, with the Timbers posting an 11-18-10 record in regular-season matches against the Whitecaps. In postseason play, the Timbers are 1-4-1 against the Whitecaps and are still seeking their first playoff victory in Vancouver.

The Whitecaps finished the regular season in second place in the NASL Conference with a record of 10-5-15 (45pts) and enter the playoffs as the No. 5 seed. The Whitecaps allowed the fewest goals in the league during the regular season (22), and midfielder Martin Nash shared the league lead in assists with eight. Under head coach Teitur Thordarson, the Whitecaps won the 2008 USL First Division championship and made a return trip to the finals in 2009. Vancouver concluded the 2010 regular season with a 1-2-2 record in its last five games, but finished the campaign with just two home losses all season.