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Fernandez helps Whitecaps earn draw with Timbers

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3/2/2014 12:00:25 AM
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PORTLAND, OREGON – Uruguayan midfielder Sebastian Fernandez scored his first goal of the preseason as Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Portland Timbers played to a hard-fought 1-1 draw Saturday at Providence Park.

After the host Timbers opened the scoring in the third minute, Fernandez smashed home a late second-half penalty to salvage Whitecaps FC's undefeated record at the Rose City Invitational.

The 'Caps finish the tournament as the top team with a 2W-0L-1D record and enter next weekend's season opener undefeated in four preseason matches.

Vancouver's squad on Saturday looked similar to the one that defeated Portmore United 5-1 last weekend, though there were a few changes.

Right back Ethen Sampson and striker Kenny Miller came in to replace Steven Beitashour and Darren Mattocks, who are both away on international duty.

Midfielder Gershon Koffie also drew into the starting lineup, which moved Russell Teibert up to the right wing. And goalkeeper David Ousted made his first appearance of the tournament.

Saturday's contest got off to a physical start at Providence Park, which is often the norm in meetings between these Cascadia rivals. In fact, there were a total of 16 fouls committed in the first half alone.

Unfortunately for the Blue and White, however, an early foul led to Portland's first goal of the match – a Will Johnson free kick from 25 yards in the third minute.

The 'Caps nearly equalized a few minutes later when Fernandez let loose a curling strike from distance, but Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts tipped it just over the goal.

Aside from the early marker, there wasn't much between Vancouver and Portland in the opening 45 minutes. The host Timbers came on in spurts, but the 'Caps back line anchored by Jay DeMerit and Andy O'Brien kept them at bay.

For Whitecaps FC, Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Mezquida looked particularly dangerous. The 22-year-old showed great vision on a throughball to Miller in the 18th minute and some nifty footwork in midfield a few minutes later.

The 'Caps couldn't connect in the final third, however, and it just about cost them .

Portland had a great chance to double their lead in the 35th minute, as Maximilano Urruti slipped behind the 'Caps defence only to float his ensuing effort over the crossbar.

They came close again just after the break, when Darlington Nagbe found some space in the middle of the park before letting loose a heavy strike from 20 yards that went just wide.

At the other end of the park, Whitecaps FC showed some attacking flair again in the second half. And they received a boost just after the hour-mark, when local lad Erik Hurtado and Argentine midfielder came Matias Laba into the match – followed shortly by winger/striker Kekuta Manneh.

And the trio combined to set up Vancouver's equalizer in the 79th minute.

After a receiving a pass from Laba in midfield, Hurtado took a touch and released Manneh into the box before the Gambian was hauled down by Timbers defender Jack Jewsbury. Then Fernandez smashed home the ensuing penalty kick to level the score at 1-1.

Manneh had a pair of half-chances in the dying stages of the match, but in the end the Cascadia rivals battled to a hard-fought 1-1 draw – just as they did in each of their three regular season meetings in 2013.

With the draw, Whitecaps FC conclude the preseason with 4W-2L-1D record.

Sebastian Fernandez (Photo: APShutter.com)

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(Photo: APShutter.com)
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