The good news is that the Whitecaps still have a chance at completing the Quest for La Quinta by winning their fifth Cascadia Cup. But they're no closer to it tonight than they were this morning. A win in Seattle on October 10th and the Cup will be theirs. Anything else and it will be the Sounders who celebrate.
At the start of the game, Vancouver held a 1 point advantage in the table. With the loss, Portland moved into fifth place in the Western Conference. Vancouver will have to better the Timbers record over the remaining five games.
And while they are still three points up on Toronto in the chase for next year's Champions League spot, the Reds do have two games in hand.
If things could get much worse, we don't want to know about it.
As we said above, the Cascadia Cup is a simple matter. Vancouver has to beat Seattle on October 10th, or else Seattle will collect it for the fourth time. But before that, the Caps have to play Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas at home. After it, they will travel to San Jose to face the Earthquakes, and finish up the season home against the Colorado Rapids SC.
The next league action for the Timbers will come in Toronto, then San Jose, back home against the Earthquakes, Real, and they finish up with a trip to Dallas. Although they don't count in the table, the Timbers also have two Champions League encounters, one of which will be in Honduras.
And Toronto, they play CD Chivas tomorrow, then host Portland, before travelling to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy, return home for an encounter with the Houston Dynamo, away to Red Bull New York, home to the Montreal Impact, and finally away to the New England Revolution.
If we were gamblers, we'd say that Vancouver will get 8 points, Portland 7, and Toronto 9, with Seattle winning the Cascadia Cup, Portland making the Anschutz Cup, and Vancouver the Champions League.
But that's why they play these things out. Vancouver could rediscover their form and if Portland and Toronto drop points, then this could be Vancouver's best season in MLS yet.
It's a lot to ask, especially in light of their current form, but if they ran the table, winning all five of their remaining matches, they would finish with 52 points, beating their best ever MLS campaign by 4 points. Then again, they could play as they did today, drop all five, and beat their disastrous 2011 campaign by a mere 9 points.
Just to compare, all ten of the Timbers starting outfield players have scored this year, be it in Major League, Champions League, or the Hunt Cup. Fanendo Adi, Diego Valeri, and Will Johnson each have eight goals apiece. By comparison, only half of the Whitecaps outfield players have scored this year, with Morales' 9 accounting for almost half of Vancouver's offence. Before the 22 men took to the pitch, the Timbers knew they had scored 36 times, while the Whitecaps had only managed 21.
Things started out well enough for the Whitecaps in Portland. Manager Carl Robinson fielded arguably his strongest possible 11. They started in a 4-2-3-1 with David Ousted in net, a back four of Jordan Harvey, Kendall Waston, Andy O'Brien, and Steven Beitashour. Russell Teibert and Matías Laba sat in front of them as holding midfielders. Up front, Sebastián Fernández and Mauro Rosales flanked Morales, with Erik Hurtado as the lone striker.
The Timbers named an unchanged side from the group that won 3-0 in Vancouver earlier in the season. Also playing 4-2-3-1, Donovan Ricketts started between the posts. Their back four included Jorge Villafaña, Liam Ridgewell, Pa Modou Kah, and Alvas Powell. Diego Chara and Johnson played the holding midfielders roles, while Rodney Wallace and Darlington Nagbe flanked Valeri, with Adi being the lone man up front.
Before the first minute was out, Fernández tried to add to the three goals he's scored this year, but it was wide of the target.
The Whitecaps dominated the game early on, having several chances. When the Timbers did push up, O'Brien was there to head the ball clear on several occasions. And when he wasn't, his teammates did their part. Laba had a notable challenge on Villafaña that helped set the tempo.
The Whitecaps could have had a spectacular opening goal in the 8th minute when Fernández put a long ball effort right next to the penalty spot. Hurtado was onside and had space, but instead of shooting, he chose to try and walk the ball in.
It was the kind of ball that would have suited Kenny Miller or Camilo Sanvezzo, but not Hurtado, or any forward Vancouver had on the bench today.
Hurtado had his second chance of the night in the 12th minute. Jordan Harvey crossed the ball across the face of the goal, and Hurtado was in position. All he needed was to get a touch on it, a toe, a knee, anything, but he just wasn't quick enough, though it had little to do with his legs.
The match continued, with Vancouver having the better chances and better possession, but that only matters when you use it. The game's opening goal, which ended up being the game winning goal, came against the run of play. Laba was caught ball watching, allowing Valeri to run towards the box. Teibert and Harvey both spotted his run, as did Villafaña.
With no pressure, Valeri kicked the ball out of the air, beating Ousted with a powerful volley, and all Vancouver could do was rue their mistakes. Had Laba kept pace with him, Teibert wouldn't have tracked back, Harvey wouldn't have abandoned his man, Nagbe, and Villafaña wouldn't have had an obvious target.
From that point on, Vancouver had a choice. They could either play their game, acting as if the game were still level, or they could begin to press for an equaliser. At first, they chose the former, but as the game dragged on, they switched to the latter.
Now we could go on about the successes and failures of that strategy, what worked and what didn't, but in the end, it doesn't matter. Valeri dispossessed Laba, we're still not sure on whether or not it was legal, but he managed to get the ball to Adi, who already had a couple of strides on O'Brien when the ball was won. Try as he may, O'Brien couldn't match the speed and positional advantage that Adi had. O'Brien almost managed it, but Adi buried the ball in the back of the net.
For the third goal, O'Brien was fouled in the Portland box. The call wasn't given, and as he lay on the ground next to Waston, who was also fouled in the incident. The Timbers moved the ball up the pitch, finding Adi, who scored his second of the game. After the damage was already done, O'Brien and Waston were able to get back up the field.
The third goal absolutely should not have counted. Instead, a penalty should have been awarded. But even if Morales had converted that penalty, they would still have trailed 2-1 with just over twenty minutes to go.
But just because the call went against them in the most spectacular fashion shouldn't disguise the fact that the Timbers converted their chances, while the Whitecaps fluffed on their own. This club is badly in need of a finisher, and sadly, one won't be coming until at least next year.
Until then, they'll have to make do with what they have and hope that Carl Robinson can find the secret to unlocking this attack.
He'll get his next opportunity on Saturday when Real Salt Lake comes to town.