PORTLAND, OR – Fredy Montero scored his fourth goal in as many games as Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-4L-1D) went toe-to-toe with the league-leading Portland Timbers (5W-2L-1D) on Saturday afternoon at Providence Park.


It just wasn’t enough in the end.

The Timbers held on for a 2-1 victory and continued their red hot start to 2017 thanks to first-half goals from Darlington Nagbe, who opened the scoring with a world-class 18th minute strike, and former Whitecaps FC striker Darren Mattocks, whose 40th-minute marker proved the winner.

Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson made two changes to his starting lineup on Saturday, and a slight change in shape, inserting midfielders Andrew Jacobson and Tony Tchani for Russell Teibert and Alphonso Davies in a new-look 4-1-4-1 formation.

And for large parts of the opening half, it had the desired effect.

The ‘Caps managed to find some nice pockets of space in midfield and showed some promise going forward, coming close on headers from Christian Bolaños, Montero, and Jacobson. They actually outshot the Timbers 10-7 and had just about the same amount of possession, but Portland hurt them where it matters most – on the scoreboard.

In the 18th minute, Nagbe tiptoed around a pair of defenders before firing home an absolute rocket off the underside of the bar from the edge of the box. And in the 40th minute, Nagbe found some space in midfield again, this time playing the ball out wide to Diego Valeri, whose cross from the right was tapped home by Mattocks at the near post.

And just like that, it was 2-0 Timbers.

The ‘Caps did not go away lightly, however. It was all Vancouver early in the second half, and they got their reward just before the hour-mark. Montero pulled the ‘Caps within one on a 59th-minute penalty after Bolaños was pulled down by Timbers right back Alvas Powell. Timbers keeper Jeff Attinella made the initial save, but Montero did well to convert his own rebound.

Montero nearly added a second in the 76th minute.

After a receiving a feed from Bolaños on the left side of the box, the Colombian cut back and just missed the top right corner with what would have been a spectacular chipped effort.

The ‘Caps continued to pour on the pressure in the dying stages but simply couldn’t find an equalizer. It was an encouraging road outing for the ‘Caps, who outshot the Timbers 16-11 and controlled large parts of the match.

And they will be hoping to build on it a week from today when they visit Montreal Impact in the second match of their season-long four-match road trip.