The first local derby in the MLS era between Seattle and Portland was a tight, tense affair that was far from a classic.
The first Major League Soccer derby between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers ended in a 1-1 draw.
That pretty much sums up the desultory and disappointing match.
Neither side impressed in the ballyhooed rivalry rematch, but the Timbers win by securing the draw on a rain-soaked night before 36,593 fans, a new record, at Qwest Field. It was just the second point the Timbers have been able to muster on the road.
Yes, the atmosphere was buzzing inside the stadium. Yes, the Portland supporters filled their allotment of 500 seats. And yes, the Sounders’ supporters, including the Emerald City Supporters, did their part unfurling impressive banners, known as Tifo, before the start of the match.
The night was set for an electrifying game of soccer. But the players didn’t follow the script. The Sounders lacked four starters due to injuries, and the Timbers prefer a direct style that pivots on set plays and knockdowns. Hardly the makings for a crisp match.
The first half was about as disjointed and disappointing as it gets. The scoreless 45-plus minutes saw neither side, nor any player, impose his will on the game. The Sounders recorded no shots on goal in the first half; Portland just three. Coach Sigi Schmid said the first half was “hit and miss, patchy and was pretty helter-skelter.”
“I think they did a good job the first half of letting us not get into a good rhythm,” Schmid said. “Obviously, we’re not pleased. We had the lead and we gave it back.”
Because of a late injury to midfielder Erik Friberg’s ankle, he’s day-to-day, Schmid went with rookie Servando Carrasco and Osvaldo Alonso in the center of the midfield. Both played too deep and had trouble connecting with forwards Nate Jaqua and Fredy Montero.
For his part, Montero’s performance was lackluster. He was virtually invisible in the first half until the very end when he fired a dangerous free kick from 25 yards out that sailed just right of the post. His second-half effort proved only marginally better. But it was a night that could have used some Montero magic, one ripe with opportunity for Montero to elevate his play and take command of the game.
Sometimes derby matches can be taut affairs, or they can be wide-open matches with end-to-end action. This match never rose to the level of an “el classico.”
But both sides picked up the intensity in the second half. Seattle looked the more lively and scored first in the 52nd minute. Roger Levesque, who subbed in for an injured Brad Evans (pulled groin), got a foot on the ball about 25 yards out.
Levesque was streaking down the right channel and popped the ball to Montero, who was inside the 18-yard box, and he flicked the ball over Portland’s defenders to a wide open Alvaro Fernandez on the left side. The Uruguayan international took a couple touches and then drilled the ball into the net.
When I saw the play shaping up I started yelling and calling the play, especially when I saw the two defenders going after Fredy (Montero),” Fernandez said, through an interpreter. “After the flick, I was one-on-one with the keeper and I was able to finalize.
Qwest Field erupted and the Sounders’ faithful went into rapture. It seemed like the game would produce only one goal — and Seattle got the vital lead.
But Portland did what it does fairly well–scored a goal on a set piece. In the 65th minute, Portland midfielder and captain Jack Jewsbury floated a free kick to defender Mamadou Danso, who headed the ball into the net to get the equalizer and send the Portland fans into delirium.
Jewsbury has been a good addition to Portland’s midfield and put on a solid display against Seattle — probably the only player to really impose himself tonight.
“Jack Jewsbury has been fantastic for us, that is why we brought him here and made him captain,” Portland coach John Spencer said. “He has lived up to everything and more.”
Seattle brought on forward Lamar Neagle for Jaqua in the 79th minute to try to light a spark in attack.
But it wasn’t to be. Seattle couldn’t muster a little magic, a little something extra, to turn the match in its favor and secure the three points.
Said Kasey Keller: “Of course we would have loved 500 fans to drive home disappointed. We would love for our fans to be celebrating tonight.”