Caleb Porter spent the last few days trying to patch together a lineup with injuries, suspensions and international duty ravaging his roster.
At the final whistle Sunday, the head coach of the Portland Timbers pumped a jubilant and relieved fist in celebration before hugging his assistants — a reaction not usually seen after a July match in Major League Soccer.
Sebastian Blanco scored early in the second half as the undermanned Timbers snapped a six-game winless streak with a gutsy 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Portland dressed just 16 players instead of the usual 18, with Porter having to call up two members of the club’s USL affiliate to fill out his bench.
“This was one of those moments that remind you as a coach of why you roll up your sleeves and go to war every single day,” said Porter. “There have been a lot of bullets flying everywhere, and we brought that on ourselves, but some of it has been just really unlucky.”
Portland strikers Fanendo Adi and Victor Arboleda were suspended for Sunday, while midfielders Darlington Nagbe and David Guzman, defender Alvas Powell, and forward Darren Mattocks remained away on CONCACAF Gold Cup duty.
“I said to the guys all week and I reminded them before the game that when it’s easy, it’s easy to do things right, and it’s easy to go out and be confident and play well,” said Porter, who also had five players out injured. “It’s not easy when results aren’t going your way, it’s not easy when you have a thin roster.
“I knew that I would see the best out of them.”
Porter and Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson, who have butted heads in the past, had less-than-friendly exchange moments after the game ended.
“I just said ‘congratulations’ to him. That was it,” said Robinson, playing his cards close to the chest.
“It’s between Carl and I,” said Porter. “We shook hands … there’s a comment and I didn’t care for it.”
Jeremy Ebobisse scored Portland’s other goal in his MLS first start, while Andrew Jacobson replied for Vancouver.
Blanco gave his team its second lead in the 49th minute when the Argentine midfielder sliced through the Whitecaps defence before a kind bounce resulted in him getting the ball back on a nifty backheel from Ebobisse and rolling his fourth past a helpless David Ousted to send the Timbers’ boisterous travelling supporters at B.C. Place Stadium into a frenzy.
‘We weren’t good enough’
“First half we played exceptionally well, got the equalizer…