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Facing rival Portland Timbers a chance for Vancouver Whitecaps to bounce back

Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Yohei Takaoka (1) makes a save against the Colorado Rapids during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Vancouver, on Saturday, June 1, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns

VANCOUVER - Yohei Takaoka is no stranger to a good derby.

The Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper has even committed what some fans consider to be a grave taboo — moving from one team to its rival.

Takaoka grew up in Japan, playing for one of Yokohama's local clubs, but when he turned pro, it was the villains across town who offered him a contract. He still vividly remembers the heated atmosphere that permeated games between the two sides.

“When I have the ball, the supporters were booing. It was (a) good memory," he said. "And I love to play (in) that kind of environment. I love that."

A similar scene could take place Saturday when the Whitecaps (7-6-4) visit the Timbers (6-7-6) in Portland, Ore. The two clubs have long been rivals, jostling for position in Major League Soccer's Western Conference standings.

Vancouver heads into the latest matchup a single point up on Portland, but in need of a win after an ugly 3-2 road loss to the New England Revolution last Saturday.

The result raises the stakes for this weekend's game against the Timbers, Takaoka said.

“We need to get back our confidence, our standards," he said. "A very important game for us."

Up for grabs Saturday will be points for the Cascadia Cup, a supporters trophy doled out annually to the top club between the 'Caps, Timbers and Seattle Sounders. Vancouver is currently ahead in the race with seven points from a 2-0-1 record, while Seattle has four and Portland is still looking for its first of the campaign.

The Whitecaps have fared well against the Timbers recently, including a 3-2 win at BC Place back on March 30. Vancouver also took a 3-2 victory from its last visit to Providence Park last August.

Portland comes into Saturday's game on a high, however, after downing the Earthquakes in San Jose on Wednesday.

The Timbers offence has been clicking in recent outings, with midfielder Evander registering his eighth goal and ninth assist of the season against San Jose.

"Evander, I think, now has established himself as one of the best No. 10s in the league," said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini. "That wasn’t the case last year. It was kind of the classic case of first year in MLS when you had to kind of adapt to the league."

In addition to containing Portland's offensive threats, the 'Caps need to be better away from the ball than they were against the Revolution, he added.

“We need to be much better than last Saturday in our compactness," Sartini said. "Because if we allow them to play through the lines, it’s going to be really hard."

Vancouver will have the benefit of a full week's rest and, while they're hoping to see a tired Portland team, the visitors can't count on fatigue being a factor, the coach said.

Instead, players and staff will be honing in on the things they can control.

"It doesn’t change the way that we want to approach the game," Sartini said. "Since I didn’t like the performance last week, this week is going to be a lot of focus on what we can do better, just us."

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (7-6-4) AT PORTLAND TIMBERS (6-7-6)

Saturday, Providence Park

INS AND OUTS: Vancouver will be without defensive midfielder Andres Cubas (Paraguay) and wingback Ali Ahmed (Canada), who are both with their national teams for Copa America. Portland also has a number of players at the tournament, including 'keeper Maxime Crepeau (Canada), and defender Kamal Miller (Canada) and Miguel Araujo (Peru). The Whitecaps are also missing defender Sam Adekugbe, who remains sidelined by a calf strain.

HISTORY BOOKS: The rivalry between the two clubs is well established, with the Whitecaps and Timbers first facing each other in North American Soccer League play back in 1975. Vancouver holds a 45-41-19 edge in all-time meetings between the two sides, but Portland holds a 16-12-7 lead in MLS matchups.

ROLLING TIMBERS: Portland is unbeaten in its last five MLS games, going 3-0-2 since a 2-1 loss to Minnesota United on May 18.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2024.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2024
The Canadian Press

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