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Timbers spoil Whitecaps' first game at BC Place Stadium

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Associated Press
10/2/2011 8:35:20 PM
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VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps have four games left on their Major League Soccer schedule.

Goalkeeper Joe Cannon is worried some players might have already quit for the season.

A frustrated Cannon questioned the commitment of some of his teammates Sunday after Vancouver lost 1-0 to the Portland Timbers to spoil the Whitecaps' first game at the newly refurbished BC Place Stadium.

"I think in the future we've got to find out who has that heart," Cannon said. "I'm not going to point any fingers. I'm not different than any guy on this team.

"We just need more heart. That's the bottom line."

Kenny Cooper scored in the 25th minute as Portland took advantage of Whitecaps' defender Alain Rochat's mistake at midfield for the game's only goal.

Portland midfielder Diego Chara fed Cooper a perfect ball and the big forward hammered a shot from the top of the box over Cannon's outstretched fingers.

"It was a huge win," said Cooper. "It feels good to get three points against them."

It wasn't the way the Whitecaps wanted to christen their new home. The enthusiasm that bubbled before the match turned as flat as yesterday's champagne.

"You went away frustrated and disappointed," Vancouver interim coach Tom Soehn said. "I didn't think we had the best energy in the first half.

"That's hard to explain when you look at this venue and the excitement. We gave away a bad goal. There is no looking back. Teams punish you for mistakes."

Martin Rennie has already been signed to be Vancouver's coach next season and Cannon worries some of the current Whitecaps don't realize they could be playing themselves off the team.

"If feel like every game is an audition," Cannon said. "You know the new coach is watching every single move you make.

"There is no room for error anymore. You would think these guys, you would see a little bit more bite."

Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit seemed surprised by Cannon's comments.

"Define heart," DeMerit said. "I think it's just a level of effort and commitment.

"It's a simple formula. When you put that in for 90 minutes a lot of times results go your way. A lot of times results haven't gone our way. I think that says it all."

The Whitecaps came close to tying the match in the dying moments when striker Eric Hassli missed on a header. The frustrated Frenchman was left pounding his fist into the turf.

Portland and Vancouver, old rivals from past leagues, are both playing in their inaugural MLS seasons.

The Timbers improved to 11-13-7 and remain in the playoff hunt.

"I think that was one of our best performances on the road this year," Portland coach John Spencer said. "It gave us an opportunity ... to keep the guys focused on what we have to do.

"If we can win two or three of the next couple of games we have a chance to make the playoffs. If we don't, we won't get there."

The Whitecaps have the worst record in the league (4-16-10) and are playing for pride and jobs next season.

Among the sold-out crowd of 21,000 celebrating the return to BC Place was a large contingent of Timbers fans. Dressed in green they sang and waved flags throughout the match.

The Whitecaps supporters did their best to drown out the visitors by pounding drums and chanting.

Included in the $563-million renovation is a retractable roof that opened moments before kickoff. A huge, centre-hung video board showed the action in HD so sharp it looked like you were watching at home on your own TV.

The game was played on a modern Polytan synthetic surface, considered one of the best for soccer. Throughout the building there are 800 Wi-Fi points and 1,150 digital screens, wider seats, improved acoustics and enhanced concession and bathroom facilities.

"It's a great venue," DeMerit said. "It's a fantastic facility.

"It's our home now for the future and it's a great place to be."

The CFL's B.C. Lions played the first game in the new stadium Friday. Capacity for football is over 50,000, but that is reduced to 21,000 for soccer.

When the Whitecaps play a special curtain is drawn to mask the unused seats in the upper tier. The seats are close to the field, making fans feel like they are part of the action.

Beaming Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi looked around the stadium with the pride of a new father.

"I'm absolutely satisfied," Lenarduzzi said. "There are a lot of things we assumed would be good but we could never tell until we were in here.

"It's everything I expected it to be."

Jeff Mallett, one of the team's owners, loved the atmosphere.

"From our standpoint it looks absolutely fantastic," said Mallett, the former Yahoo president who is a part-owner of the San Francisco Giants.

"We are going to get that authentic soccer environment we know is critical. It's going to be a great place to watch a football match."

MLS commissioner Don Garber also was impressed.

"It's another home for clubs where they can control their destiny a bit more," he said.

Notes: Rochat played the match wearing a mask to protect a broken nose suffered in a Sept. 17 game against the L.A. Galaxy. ... Lenarduzzi was a member of the NASL Whitecaps team that played the first game at BC Place on June 20, 1983, a 2-1 win over Seattle before 60,342 spectators. ... Portland won the first meeting of the season 2-1 on Aug. 20.

Timbers celebrate (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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