It seemed somehow serendipitous that on a day when we turned the calendar to June, the Vancouver Whitecaps were establishing a litany of new “firsts” as they overturned the Portland Timbers in a pulsating, enthralling encounter in the Rose City.
Vancouver's first ever win over their expansion cousins (and, obviously, a first at Providence Park) came after nine attempts. That seems hard to believe given the Whitecaps' run of results leading up to the two Cascadian rivals joining MLS from North America's second tier.
Equally amazing, the 4-3 loss at home was Portland's first in 23 games, a remarkable record stretching all the way back to March 9, 2013 when the Montreal Impact took all three points at the then Jeld-Wen Field.
The win extended Vancouver's unbeaten run to six games, another first for the young MLS franchise. That may not pop off the page like a 22-game unbeaten run at home, but when you also include a road game at the Columbus Crew and home games with the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders in that period, the achievement seems a bit more noteworthy.
Two converted penalties was a Whitecaps first on the road. (They did score twice from the spot against Real Salt Lake at home, late in the 2011 season). While referee Kevin Stott put himself in terrific position to see both first-half incidents in Portland, it's hard not think about the penalty gods who somehow erased a dubious decision from a week ago with the Whitecaps leading Seattle.
Erik Hurtado scored his first ugly goal of the season. The Beaverton, Oregon boy came home to bury a psychologically punishing chance that completely changed the complexion at half-time. The predatory instinct of Vancouver's fifth-overall pick from 2013 was clearly on display after he forced a great save from Donovan Ricketts before bundling the ball home by anticipating a rebound. It's a difficult feat to score four goals in four-straight games, but Hurtado has done it four different ways and, for good measure, showed a different quality by beautifully setting up Kekuta Manneh leading to the second penalty. Goals at Philadelphia on Saturday and Montreal after the World Cup break would tie and then break the five-goals-in-five-MLS-games record held by Camilo over June and July of last year.
But perhaps the most exciting “first” of all was the two goals and two assists from Whitecaps midfield maestro Pedro Morales, who, with each passing game, looks like an odds-on early season choice for MLS Newcomer of the Year. The Chilean conductor out “number 10'd” last year's recipient of that award, Diego Valeri, by quite some margin. His vision to pick out Hurtado on the first-half stoppage time 3-1 goal was incisive and impossible to defend. But his delay, recognition, and then exquisite ball to Jordan Harvey early in the second was even better and it proved to be the game winner. Morales is a bona fide superstar and one who seems to be relishing his role with the club. It looks likely that he'll provide some more milestones before this season is done.
The Whitecaps will now get a chance to cross another couple of “firsts” off their list - a first goal and victory at PPL Park in Philadelphia, where the 'Caps visit the Union this Saturday. Judging by their current form, and their ability to “feast on the East” that seems like a pretty safe bet.