PORTLAND, Oregon — Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter figures a draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps is a fair result given the circumstances.
Matias Laba scored in the 58th minute to pull the Whitecaps even in a 1-1 draw with Timbers in a Cascadia Cup rivalry match Saturday night.
Diego Valeri scored in the first half for the Timbers, who had won six of their previous eight games. But what stood out to Porter was the nature of the goals — coming in the weaker half for each side.
"We found the goal in the first half and we didn't play our best, and they found the goal in the second half and they didn't play their best," he said.
Portland, coming off a 3-0 loss at Philadelphia last weekend, was jockeying with the Whitecaps for position in the Western Conference.
With a win, Vancouver (10-8-3) could have pulled even with FC Dallas atop the standings, despite dropping its previous two matches. With the draw, the Whitecaps ended the night even with Kansas City in third place, while Portland (9-7-5) and Seattle were knotted in fourth.
The match ended on a contentious note. Vancouver defender Jordan Harvey was sent off with a red card in stoppage time after a slide tackle from behind on Valeri. A shoving match broke out between the teams at the final whistle, and Portland's Will Johnson appeared to exchange words with the officials, resulting in a yellow card followed by a red.
"I think he was talking to the ref at the end of the game — and the ref didn't like what he said," Porter said.
It was the third meeting between the teams this season. The Whitecaps won the opener 2-1 in Vancouver and the last also ended in a draw in Portland.
The Whitecaps are the defending winners of the Cascadia Cup, a supporter-created trophy given to the winner of the three-way season series between Pacific Northwest rivals Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
The Sounders currently sit atop the Cascadia table with six points, while the Whitecaps and the Timers each have five.
Johnson's blast from out front of the penalty box for the Timbers went just inches wide in the 15th minute. A minute later on the other end, goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey come off his line to stop Kekuta Manneh's hard shot. Nat Borchers slid to deflect another Manneh attempt in the 23rd.
It was Valeri's second goal in nine games this season after rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, then an ankle injury following his return. Last season's leading scorer for the Timbers nearly added a second goal in the 49th minute but his effort went just wide.
Vancouver coach Carl Robinson sparked his team with a pep talk at the half.
"We went behind, and I challenged them at halftime: 'You've got to weather the storm when you come to Portland,'" Robinson said. "They're a fantastic team, very well-coached, and they put you under pressure, and that's what they did today. We bent, but we didn't break."
Laba's blast sailed past two defenders and just out of reach of a diving Kwarasey to even the score.
It was Laba's first goal of the season, and he celebrated by rushing to the opposite end of the field for the contingent of Whitecaps' supporters who made the trip south of the border to Providence Park.
Gaston Fernandez gave Portland its best chance to pull ahead in the 85th minute, but his arcing shot drifted just over the crossbar. Three minutes later, Valeri's free kick went into the box where Borchers got a foot on it, but Ousted dived for the save.
A day earlier, Portland made a move to boost its offense, signing Argentine forward Lucas Melano as a designated player. He will join the team once his documentation is complete.
Melano, 22, comes to the Timbers from Argentina's first-division Club Atletico Lanus, where he had five goals in 14 games this season.