‘We’ve always bounced back’: Whitecaps seeking redemption in Portland

‘We’ve always bounced back’: Whitecaps seeking redemption in Portland

VANCOUVER — Bryan Meredith’s debut for the Vancouver Whitecaps didn’t go the way anyone wanted.

Just 14 minutes into Wednesday’s game against Los Angeles FC, the 31-year-old ‘keeper had conceded four goals. The final result saw the ‘Caps thrashed 6-0.

The ugly performance simply wasn’t Meredith’s fault, said Vancouver defender Jake Nerwinski.

“Looking back on the goals, there’s nothing he could have done,” he said on a video call Friday. “I didn’t want to leave him out to dry like that. No goalie deserves that.”

The Whitecaps (5-8-0) will look to make it up to Meredith on Sunday when they face the Portland Timbers (6-4-3).

The native of Scotch Plains, N.J., is expected to again start in goal for Vancouver.

He’s the club’s third starting ‘keeper this season, following Max Crepeau, who fractured his thumb in July, and Thomas Hasal, who is recovering after suffering a head injury in Vancouver’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Sept. 19.

A condensed schedule will see the Whitecaps play six games in September, so training time has been hard to come by. That’s made it hard for Meredith to create habits with the team’s defenders, said coach Marc Dos Santos.

“But Bryan has all of our trust. We’re with him, we want him to do well, we want him to adapt well,” he said.

Meredith admitted that stepping into the role of starting goalie hasn’t been easy, but he feels up to the challenge.

“It’s a bit difficult,” he said. “In goalkeeping, you like to get into a rhythm. Having games every week helps. That’s why I’m looking forward to Sunday — there’s a lot to build on from our last game and I’m looking forward to it.”

Portland have just one more win than the Whitecaps this season, but the Timbers currently sit in second place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference.

Vancouver occupies the ninth spot, two points out of a playoff position.

In order to snag a victory over Portland and move up the table, the entire Whitecaps squad will need to be stronger defensively, Nerwinski said.

“We need to make sure that our back four, with our midfielders, are tight and don’t allow easy shots,” he said.

Defending collectively was a big focus at training on Friday, Dos Santos said, because the Whitecaps know that Portland’s midfield is dangerous.

Offensive threats like Diego Valeri will pose a challenge, but the coach fully expects his players to be ready — even after an embarrassing result in L.A.

“We’ve always bounced back,” Dos Santos said, noting that the team responded to a three-game losing streak earlier this season by winning two of their next three matchups.

“That brings me with high levels of confidence that what was L.A. was L.A., that we’re going to be able to respond, at least in the performance level. Result wise? You never know. It’s a game, it’s a sport. So it could go either way.”

PORTLAND TIMBERS (6-4-3) AT VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (5-8-0)

Sunday, Providence Park

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE?: Though the game is being played at the Timbers’ stadium, the Whitecaps will technically be the home side on Sunday. All three Canadian MLS clubs have moved south for the rest of the season due to COVID-19 border restrictions and Portland is the ‘Caps temporary home base.

GONE STREAKING: Timbers midfielder Yimmi Chara has scored in three consecutive matches for Portland.

GOAL DIFFERENTIAL: Portland has scored 26 goals in 13 regular-season games, the second-most among MLS teams. Vancouver has allowed 30 goals this year, the second-most across the league.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2020.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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