The Portland Timbers saw the Sunday match as a bigger deal than the Sounders and played like in the first half, then hung on to frustrate a withering Seattle attack in the second half and prevail 2-1 to extend the Sounders winless streak to a club-record seven matches.
The rivalry game was chippy throughout and climaxed in stoppage time with red-card ejections for Seattle’s Fredy Montero and Portland’s Lovel Palmer. The outcome reflected Seattle’s continuing problems on defense as well as an emotional immaturity that is leaving them shorthanded.
The Sounders (7-5-4) lost their first game in Cascadia Cup play by continuing their habit of letting the opponent score first, then being unable to recover. Portland (4-6-4) scored in the 18th minute when Steven Smith sent a long, rolling cross from the near sideline to Kris Boyd right in front of the goal. Boyd, a designated player and the Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading scorer, somehow was able to get free behind the Sounders defense and scored easily.
In the 33rd minute, the Timbers scored what proved to be the game-winner and electrified the sold-out house at Jen-Weld Stadium (20,438) when David Horst leaped above the Seattle defense to get his head on a corner kick, drove it into the ground and one-hopped it past Andrew Weber, starting his second game in Seattle’s goal.
Portland, 1-2-3 in its last six matches, had been shut out in four of its last five contests, and was mortified by a loss in U.S. Open Cup play May 30 to an amateur team, Cal FC. Speculation was growing that coach John Spencer needed to win the derby game against Seattle to save his job. Fortunately for him and the Timbers, who climbed out of last place in the Western Conference, the Sounders defense was pliable, now having given up 12 goals in the past six games.
The Sounders renewed hope in the 58th minute when Eddie Johnson, offering some deft ball-handling in the penalty area, managed to create space for himself and boomed a 15-yard left-footer into the goal’s upper left corner.
But despite repeated opportunities in the second half, the Sounders failed to find an equalizer.
The Sounders, 0-4-3 in their last seven games, have to pull themselves together quickly for a match Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup play against MLS foe San Jose. Coach Sigi Schmid had hoped to spread out playing time, and because the Sounders are the three-time defending Cup champions, they have a big investment in Tuesday’s game, but he didn’t find the right combination Sunday.
The red-carded Montero is eligible to play in the Cup, but will have to sit out the next MLS game, as did Alvaro Fernandez Sunday for a foolish red-card foul against Kansas City Wednesday.