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The Vancouver Whitecaps wasted a golden opportunity to strengthen their MLS playoff bid after losing 3-0 to the Portland Timbers on Saturday night at BC Place. The Timbers victory saw the visitors leapfrog the Whitecaps in the Western Conference standings, moving Portland to the fifth and final playoff place on 34 points, one more than Vancouver, who sit in sixth. THE FORMATIONS Both teams lined up in 4-2-3-1 formations. Once Portland took the lead in the second half, Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson brought on Darren Mattocks and switched to a 4-4-2 formation, with Pedro Morales dropping to left midfield and Mattocks partnering Erik Hurtado up front. THE GAME The opening half was a cagey affair, with each team canceling the other out. Given the importance of the match, this was almost predictable; a Whitecaps win would have seen the hosts take a five-point lead over the Timbers (with a game in hand) for the final place in the Western Conference playoff race, so the Timbers knew they had to keep the game tight. With Portland coming off a 4-2 humiliation at the hands of the Seattle Sounders, they were also desperate to bounce back with a solid defensive performance. In many respects, this game was a positional duel. Pedro Morales against Diego Valeri; Matias Laba and Russell Teibert against Will Johnson and Diego Chara. Which teams players would perform their respective duties better? While the teams were even in the first half, in the second half there was only one winner. Portland put on as good a performance from an away team at BC Place as I have seen all season. The midfield duo of Johnson and Chara was outstanding; they owned the space in front of the Portland back four, and nullified the threat of Morales completely. The Chilean playmaker had his worst performance at home in a Whitecaps jersey, in large part due to the tenacious play of Johnson and Chara. The duo kept things simple in transition, and found the feet of Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and Rodney Wallace, or relieved pressure by bringing the Timbers fullbacks into play. Fanendo Adi led the line really well for Portland, and the big man gave Vancouvers Andy OBrien and debutant Kendall Waston all they could handle at the back. While Adi didnt score, he demonstrated just how valuable it can be to have a striker in the team who can hold up the ball and bring the attacking midfielders into play. This is something that eluded Vancouver all evening, because neither Erik Hurtado nor Darren Mattocks has a good enough tactical understanding of the game to lead the line as a lone striker. One of the key roles for a lone striker is to provide an option for fullbacks and wide midfielders to play the ball forward into feet. This keeps the team in possession of the ball and allows them to bring their creative midfielders into play further up the pitch. Far too often, Hurtado was caught on the wrong side of the pitch when the Whitecaps were building up down the flanks, meaning that Portland could get very tight in midfield without having to worry about the threat of the ball being played into Hurtado or in behind their back four. A small tactical point that is being lost on both Hurtado and Mattocks; both players routinely fail to execute this crucial role for Vancouver. This failure had a significant knock-on effect for the Whitecaps. With Portland tightening things up in midfield, Pedro Morales had little room in which to operate. Morales tried to link with Mauro Rosales - who was also making his home debut for Vancouver - but all too often, their interplay came to nothing as Portland was able to get numbers around the ball. This is one of the challenges for Vancouvers coaching staff: Can they teach their young players to understand that the game is about more than what they do with the ball at their feet? If the likes of Hurtado, Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh and Teibert are going to go on and be first team regulars, they have to offer much more to their team when they dont have the ball at their feet. Teiberts role in the team on Saturday was important for Vancouver, and it was on display for all to see in the first half as he did some excellent defensive work to nullify Diego Valeri. But if the first half was a plus for Teibert, the second half highlighted the concern I have with his overall game. When Vancouver are at their best, their three central midfielders all stand out. Laba provides excellent defensive protection, Morales gets on the ball and is the creative fulcrum of the team, and Gershon Koffie provides power, athleticism and excellent ball retention. Those three players complement each other really well. Yet with Teibert in a central role in place of the injured Koffie, the Whitecaps failed to click. My worry for Teibert is that he suffers from a case of being "good not great". His greatest asset is his fitness, but that isnt really a defining characteristic for a central midfielder. The ability to run all day is considered par for the course in the modern game – every midfielder is fit. It is the other things that they do (within the framework of the teams tactical approach) that make players valuable. Teibert is a good passer of the ball, but not in the same class as Morales. Teibert is a good defensive screen, but nowhere near as good as Laba. Teibert can run all day, but he isnt as powerful, athletic or strong in possession of the ball as Koffie. Teibert doesnt excel in any of the areas that one would normally categorize midfielders, which is what led me to state during the broadcast of the game on TSN that he "doesnt impact the game". It may seem at face value to be a blanket statement, but when one considers it in the context of what Robinson needs his midfielders to do in his chosen tactical approach, it becomes very clear. Teibert is not better than the other options Robinson normally has at his disposal, and must improve or he will be in danger of forever being second choice. The second half performance from Vancouver was poor though, and Portland deservedly stamped their authority on the game when Alvas Powell glanced a header past David Ousted to open the scoring. A slip from Kendall Waston allowed subsitute Maxi Urrutti the time he needed to double Portlands lead before great work from Darlington Nagbe set up Rodney Wallace to make it 3-0 for the visitors. If Teibert needs an example of a midfield player who impacts the game for his team, he need look no further than Nagbe or Valeri - both were excellent for Portland. THE GOOD Its difficult to praise a defender when a team concedes three goals, but Kendall Waston put in a good shift in his first start as a central defender for Vancouver. He had a few half chances from set pieces, as well, and looked a threat to score when the delivery was good. The Whitecaps need to devise a way to spring Waston free in the penalty area if they are to capitalize on his aerial ability. THE BAD Conceding three goals at home in a derby game is bad enough to deal with, without having individual players singled out for failing to perform. Write this one off as a bad day at the office and start preparing for the next game against DC United on Saturday, Sept 6 (10pm ET, 7pm PT, TSN1). THE STAR MAN Darlington Nagbe was a real handful for Vancouver all night. His movement was excellent, drifting in from the right side of midfield to find space between the lines against Vancouver. Perhaps Gershon Koffie would have been able to combat Nagbes power, but with the Ghanaian unavailable through injury, Nagbe had a field day against a Whitecaps midfield that wasnt at the races. Hank Aaron Jersey .ca. Mr. Fraser, It looks like Martin Brodeur is coming back to play for the Blues. I was wondering if you have any great stories or fond memories of your time on the ice with Brodeur - in the NHL, or maybe even the Olympics. Bob Uecker Braves Jersey . Patty Mills had 20 points, Tim Duncan had 11 points and 13 rebounds in limited action, and San Antonio rolled to a 110-82 victory over Milwaukee that kept the Bucks winless in the new year. http://www.baseballbravesproshop.com/ad ... es-jersey/. The Australian is competing in his final season in Formula One and still looking for his first win this year. He will look to end Vettels run of six straight race wins on Sunday. Webber, who is fifth in the championship, earned his second pole from the past three races and 13th of his career. Adam Duvall Jersey . - Chris Davis hit a two-run double, scoring Nelson Cruz in his Orioles debut in Baltimores 9-7 win over to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. Brian McCann Braves Jersey . Klein went undrafted in the NFL last year following his senior season with the Wildcats. He was invited to the Houston Texans rookie camp, but was not offered a contract.The man who brought as much value to the position as anyone in football history, Smith is the career rushing leader with 18,355 yards. DeMarco Murray, the guy currently toting the ball for the team Smith helped win three Super Bowls, the Dallas Cowboys, isnt faring too poorly this season. Murray has rushed for at least 100 yards in all eight games, an NFL mark, and is on pace to gain 2,000 yards on the ground.Further proof, Smith says, that the running back is an important cog, even in todays pass-happy NFL.That the league has drifted to becoming a quarterback-focused league, the demands for a running back have been neutralized a bit, Smith says. Everyone wants to get that quarterback.But there are not that many Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Mannings or Tom Bradys or Philip Rivers. Its been proven through time that to have success in the NFL, you have to have that balance.Look at the teams who have won Super Bowls recently. Seattle last year could run the ball. Pittsburgh, Baltimore. Even San Francisco when you go back, could run the ball. And we could run it. You have to have that running game to win championships.Smith believes Murray can crack the 2,000-yard barrier, but only if he and everyone around him can stay healthy. Thats already in question with quarterback Tony Romo nursing a back problem.Smith plans to attend the Super Bowl and has hopes the Cowboys will get there for the first time since he helped them win the 1995 NFL title. First, hell be attending the college football championship at the Cowboys home stadium, which he calls Jerrys World.As part of a contest sponsored by Keurig (www.Tailgate.Keurig.com), fans can win a trip to the game to spend time with Smith — and not just brewing coffee.Its a chance for me to engage with the fans up close and personal, Smith says. We can talk football and anything else they want to talk about.___LYSTEDT LAW: The Brain Injury Alliance of Washington will celebrate this weekend the passage of youth sports concussion laws in all 50 states.The NFL and USA Football, the governing body for the sport, have played roles in helping get the Lystedt Law passed throughout the nation. Commissioner Roger Goodell will accept the organizations 2014 Leadership Award on behalf of the NFL at a gala in Seattle.Such laws were inspired by Zack Lystedt. In 2006, Lystedt suffered a brain injury following his return to a middle school football game after sustaining a concussion. Zackery, his family and a broad range of medical, business and community partners lobbied the Washington state legislature for a law to better protect young athletes in all sports.In 22010, Goodell sent letters to the governors of 44 states that did not have concussion laws urging them to pass something similar to the Lystedt Law.dddddddddddd The NFL advocated for the laws until every state had one.That has happened.The passage of the Lystedt Law in all 50 states is an important step for all young athletes and their parents, says Goodell, whose teenage twin daughters have played soccer and lacrosse. The Lystedts and the Brain Injury Alliance of Washington should rightfully be proud of all that they did to make the nationwide passage a reality. We are honoured to support their work to protect all young players, no matter what sport they play.We will continue to focus on making our game better and safer and setting the right example on health and safety in sports.VACATION OR SUIT UP?: The New York Giants cost cornerback Mike Harris a vacation.A member of the Lions practice squad, Harris was on his way to the airport for a flight home during Detroits bye week when he got a call that the Giants had signed him on Tuesday.Vacation over.Harris changed his plans and planes, went to New Jersey and practiced with the team on Thursday for its game against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday night.Harris, who spent the 2012-13 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and made seven starts in 31 games, is ready to play.You have to be ready, Harris said. You never know when your number is going to be called.In Harris case, you also never know where you are going to be when your phone number is called, and what it might cost you.I would rather lose the bye week rather than spend another week on the practice squad, he said.JERSEY REPORT: As the league approaches the halfway point for all 32 teams, who has the hottest-selling jerseys?Who else but the quarterbacks?Denvers Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Andrew Luck and Seattles Russell Wilson rank at the top according to sales at Dicks Sporting Goods stores. Four other QBs make the Top 10: Baltimores Joe Flacco is sixth, Carolinas Cam Newton is eighth, New Englands Tom Brady is ninth and — even though he is a backup who rarely gets on the field — Cleveland rookie Johnny Manziel is 10th.Only one defensive player is in the Top 10, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly at No. 5.Fifth is Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, and seventh is Bears receiver Brandon Marshall.The defending champion Seahawks top the team sales chart, followed by Denver, Carolina, Chicago and Baltimore.___AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this story.___AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL ' ' '
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