VANCOUVER, B.C. – Cascadia Cup derby wins on the road always send the traveling fans home happy. When it comes in such adverse circumstances as the Portland Timbers' 2-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Sunday afternoon did, it's the kind of victory that has fans talking about it for a good while.
Portland had their roster ravaged by injuries, international call-ups, and suspensions, and headed to Vancouver with a game-day squad of only 16 players. The Timbers were so shorthanded, in fact, that they temporarily called up a pair of players from their USL side.
Nonetheless, head coach Caleb Porter spent the past couple of days instilling a sense of belief into his depleted team and he was more than delighted by the character shown in the victory.
"It was a real positive moment. We got a great win on the road. We needed it," Porter told reporters after the match. "It was really unbelievable timing. I don't think anybody expected us to do this. Only maybe the guys in the locker room and the coaches were the only ones that thought we could win this game.
"We really believed and you saw that. It wasn't fake."
Goals in each half Jeremy Ebobisse and Sebastián Blanco saw the Timbers prevail, but they also needed goalkeeper Jake Gleeson to produce a couple of outstanding saves. Still, Portland's game plan worked almost to perfection, with a frustrated Vancouver side often falling short in the final third.
"I thought we were deserved winners," Porter said. "The mentality was excellent for the 90 minutes. We started well and scored the goal and we responded well after giving up the goal. You could see we had great belief all game long."
And the win was right up there for Porter in meaningful victories over his Cascadian rivals.
"This was one of those moments that remind you as a coach why you roll up your sleeves and go to war every single day," Porter said. "There's been a lot of bullets flying everywhere, and we've brought that on themselves, but some of it's been really unlucky with the injuries and adversity that we've had."
The victory was doubly important because it saw Portland leapfrog Vancouver in the Western Conference standings and ended a six-game winless run in the process.
"It's big," Porter said. "Any time you haven't gotten results, and we've gotten some good draws... it breaks that cycle. You don't want that cycle to continue. The more it builds, the more pressure comes, and it makes it more and more difficult."
Despite the impressive victory, Porter did not want to get carried away and had a stark message for his players as they move into the second half of the MLS season.
"It's only one game. That's the key. It doesn't get any easier," Porter said. "They've got to remember what they did today to get the win and they've got to do it again. That's how simple it is."