Timbers down Whitecaps 1-0 to move into first in the West

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Yimmi Chara scored in the 61st minute and the Portland Timbers beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 on Sunday night.

The Timbers (11-5-5) moved into first place in the Western Conference with two games remaining. Portland was helped by the Seattle Sounders’ 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids earlier Sunday.

But the victory was costly. Late in the game Jaroslaw Niezgoda, who has seven goals, was stretchered off in stoppage time. Details about the injury were not known, but Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese indicated after the game that it was serious.

“We’ll find out a little bit more later, but right now it’s not very positive,” Savarese said.

The Whitecaps (8-14-0) went into the game ranked ninth in the Western Conference, just outside of the playoff picture. Vancouver was above the line earlier this week but Major League Soccer announced that the standings would be determined by points per game, not total points.

The change was made in part because teams missed games due to coronavirus cases. It was a blow to Vancouver, already forced to play “home” matches at Portland’s Providence Park because of travel restrictions with Canada.

“Nothing’s fair this year. We just have to deal with it,” coach Marc Dos Santos said earlier this week.

The Timbers were without forward Jeremy Ebobisse because of a concussion.

The Timbers dominated possession in the first half but Vancouver challenged them with a flurry of activity in front of Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark in the final minutes. The two teams were scoreless at the break.

The Timbers broke through in the 61st minute on Chara’s goal off a cross from Jorge Villafana, who was making his 100th regular-season appearance for Portland.

“We know that we still have two more games. We have to stay focused on the important part of these two matches that are going to be difficult,” Savarese said.

The Whitecaps had a good chance in the 80th minute but Clark deftly stopped Lucas Cavallini’s blast off a cross from Ali Adnan. Clark finished with two saves.

“It was a close game, and equal game. We pushed after we conceded the goal,” Dos Santos said. “We continued believing and pushing.”

At the same time Niezgoda was injured, teammate Diego Valeri also left the match after he appeared to injure his left ankle. However, Savarese said after the match that Valeri, who has eight goals this season, was fine.

Portland was coming off a 5-2 win at home over the Galaxy on Wednesday. The Whitecaps fell 0-2 to the Seattle Sounders at Providence Park the night before.

It was the second meeting between the Cascadia Cup rivals this season. Felipe Mora scored for Portland in a 1-0 victory over Vancouver at Sept. 27.

Vancouver has just one more game this season, next Sunday on Decision Day against the LA Galaxy. There is still a slight chance for the Whitecaps can make the playoffs, but they would need help.

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