The recent sag in fortunes — the Sounders were 1-3-1 since beating Portland 2-0 July 13 — needed only a game against the rival Timbers to re-discover dominance, this time delivering a 4-2 beat-down Sunday at Portland’s Providence Park, led by a dazzling brace from Obafemi Martins.
The Sounders (14-7-3), playing their fifth match in 15 days, regained the lead in the MLS Supporters Shield with 45 points and finished the regular-season series with Portland 3-0-1, including a win in the U.S. Open Cup. They also moved atop the Cascadia Cup standings at 2-1-2.
After a dispiriting 1-1 draw with San Jose Wednesday, Sounders leader Clint Dempsey lamented, “I’m feeling tired,” igniting fears among some Sounders fans of a doomsday swoon similar to one that concluded the 2013 season with one one win in the final 10, including a loss to the Timbers in the postseason.
Dempsey has been at it since his January loan to EPL’s Fulham, including full-tilt at the World Cup. He’s had only one goal in the six games since his return from Brazil, but began turning matters in the 35th minute when he took a pass from Martins as he slid past a defender in the box, thern pushed a left-footed shot away from charging GK Donovan Ricketts into the net.
That made for a 2-0 lead, the first score coming at 17′ when Martins charged straight down the middle to accept a perfect cross from Brad Evans for a point-blank score from five yards.
For various reasons, the Dempsey-Martins tandem had little time together in midseason, but Sunday demonstrated the difficulty it presents for defenses.
By the 70th minute, the rout was on when substitute Chad Barrett took an outbound pass from Dempsey, then looked to pass before stopping when he realized he was unmarked. He turned toward goal, his shot from 12 yards only grazed by the fingertips of Ricketts.
Three minutes later, the Timbers (7-8-10) regained a little dignity when a long cross from Rodney Wallace found Fanendo Adi directly in front of the goal. His volley made it 3-1 and brought the crowd back into it.
But Martins killed that momentum three minutes later on a spectacular solo trip through the Timbers defense.
He spun a 360-degree move to escape one defender, then charged forward, stumbled and regained balance behind the defense. Needing to beat only Ricketts, he lifted a soft left-footer over the lunging goalie into the net.
Adi scored again in stoppage time, but it was far too late to stop only the third loss in the Timbers’ past 28 home matches.
The Sounders get a five-day break before hosting Colorado at 1 p.m. Saturday.