If talking won matches, Seattle would have walked away with this one from the opening kick. From Sigi Schmid to Brad Evans, Seattle ran its mouth essentially from the final whistle of its draw against Kansas City until when the busses pulled into Jeld-Wen Field.
What did the Timbers do? Punched them in the mouth. Twice.
Over the first ten minutes, Portland established early dominance, culminating in David Horst nodding a Franck Songo’o corner off the bar and Jack Jewsbury’s put back sailing just wide.
Five minutes later, however, there would be no crossbar to save Seattle’s faulty defense. After Songo’o played Steven Smith into space on the left wing, the Scot found his countryman inexplicably wide open in the box. Boyd’s sitter sat itself underneath Sounders keeper Andrew Weber and took a spin through the back of the net.
In the 25th minute, Boyd again found himself all by his lonesome in the box, but this time Boyd’s header toward the high center of the goal was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Weber.
No acrobatics could save Seattle on the ensuring corner, however, as an unharassed David Horst headed the ball down and into the back of the net.
The shell-shocked Sounders, however, would move onto their front foot as the half went along. In the 35th minute, Jeff Parke collected the rebound off a corner, but tapped the ball right at Perkins.
In first half stoppage time, Ozzie Alonso hit a swerving shot from thirty yards, but Troy Perkins was more than capable of tapping it over the bar.
Alonso asked a similar question of Perkins in the 53rd minute, as he unleashed a shot from 20 destined for the far corner, but again the Timbers’ keeper was there to tip it over.
In the 58th minute, however, Eddie Johnson found space after an ill-advised Horst tackle left the defense exposed. The former American international took the ball into the box on the Sounders’ right wing, and hit a very quality ball that bent it’s way into the far side netting.
From there, however, the Timbers defense that struggled to answer Seattle’s questions for the 15 minutes on either side of halftime found its moxie. Seattle continued to have the better of possession, but every attack found its demise in Portland’s backline without any appreciable drama.
In the 76th minute, lady luck almost gave the Timbers the killer, as Kris Boyd’s ambitious strike from distance deflected off Zach Scott, only to be kept out by the bar.
As long as Seattle remained within a goal, however, the fanbase that has been burned all too many times in the late going couldn’t relax. Luckily, the Army’s anxiety was overshadowed by the Sounders’ frustration. After Eddie Johnson took a swipe at Horst, Fredy Montero shoved the Timbers’ central defender, who looked a little Rosalesesque in going down. Montero’s shove – by far his biggest moment of the match – started a scrum that resulted in the sending off of the mercurial Colombian and Lovel Palmer.
Seattle never seriously threatened again. It was a deserved three points that takes the Timbers’ season momentarily off life support and gives Portland a much-needed shot of confidence heading into a critical but brutal stretch of games.
- Before I try my best to overstate the effect of this win, there is one troubling trend that continues; namely, the Timbers inability to play well for a full 90 minutes. It’s awfully hard to control a match for 90 minutes, but the Timbers have shown a pattern of playing very well for a short spell, then trying to weather the storm. The middle half hour almost saw the Timbers lose everything they built in the first 30 minutes. After Horst’s goal, the Timbers had a real opportunity to turn the match into a laugher before halftime. Instead, they let Seattle back into the game. A more complete effort is going to be necessary in a huge match against playoff rival Colorado this weekend.
- That said, maybe the most encouraging thing for me coming out of the match was the way the Timbers responded to conceding early in the second half. For the twenty-five minutes or so preceding the concession, the Timbers were chasing the game. The goal – whose quality, in all honesty, is undeniable – wasn’t a surprise. What was a bit of a surprise was the Timbers’ reaction. Shortly after the goal, the Timbers were content to keep possession for a couple minutes and slow the game down. Despite some irrational exuberance from the Sounders press, some very logical paranoia from their Rose City counterparts, and ample handwringing from the Army, I thought the Timbers were in good control of the match from that point on. The Sounders had a few mini-chances, but they largely ranged from highly speculative to toothless.
- As a practical matter, the win is massive for the Timbers. Portland enters a stretch where they will play four matches in 14 days starting on Saturday, including away matches at Salt Lake and Colorado and home fixtures against the Quakes and Galaxy. Everything tough, but nothing impossible. Portland sits four points outside the playoff picture – with the fifth place team surging. Simply put, if Portland hadn’t come away with three points yesterday, it would start to be awfully hard to find a way back. The task in front of Portland these next two weeks is still daunting, but now Portland has at least some margin for error and a good dose of confidence. If Portland can muster 6 points out of those four matches, they will stay afloat. More than that, and the Timbers are surging. Less, and there could be tough sledding ahead.
- Finally, thank you and congratulations to all who put together and pulled of the magnificent tifo display. Absolutely top notch.
Troy Perkins, 7.5 – Pretty fantastic stuff from Troy. He was consistently in the right spots and made a number of crucial saves. Nothing he could do to keep out Johnson’s strike. On the whole, one of Troy’s better performances.
Steven Smith, 6.5 – Good ball in on the assist, and combined well with Franck Songo’o on the left side. The Sounders were coming down the Timbers left flank quite a bit, and Smitty got caught upfield once or twice, but had a good day defensively as well.
Futty, 7 – A real quality center back. But for injuries and suspensions, the Timbers central defense is absolutely stellar. Injuries and suspensions notwithstanding, it was still pretty good on Sunday.
David Horst, 6 – Very, very effective getting forward in the first half hour, with one goal and another nod clanging off the bar. Obviously, his grade is depressed a little bit because of his culpability on Seattle’s goal, but overall a very good effort from Horst.
Jack Jewsbury, 5.5 – Fairly quiet night on the right side of the defense. Nothing to criticize, and the silence is worthy of some praise, as well.
Franck Songo’o, 6 – Good night going forward for Franck, and a Songo’o-Smith partnership looks well worth exploring. Had a tough task defensively for much of the evening as he found himself on Mauro Rosales frequently. Gave up a few more 50-50s than I would like to see, but his attacking more than made up for it.
Diego Chara, 7 – This was just classic Diego. Very disruptive in the midfield, and did very well at getting the attack going from deep in the midfield. Whenever you see an opposing team get frustrated, you have to look at Diego. He must just be torturously annoying to play against.
Darlington Nagbe, 5.5 – Nagbe is still clearly struggling with his confidence, but he did provide some pretty good holdup play and distribution to the wings. Otherwise, a pretty quiet night for Nagbe.
Kalif Alhassan, 4 – As always, Kalif had some nice moments, and this may be a bit harsh, but I thought he should have been able to do better considering the relative weakness of Seattle’s left side on Sunday. Hopefully the hamstring injury isn’t too bad.
Mike Fucito, 6 – Thus far for Portland he’s been a scrappier but slightly slower Jorge Perlaza. Ultimately that will have to result in scoresheet production, but I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a few more starts to see if he can grow into the attack a little bit.
Kris Boyd, 7 – When Boyd scores a goal he gets a good grade. He scored one and was robbed of another. More importantly, however, Boyd is becoming the clear leader of this team and seems to be the heir apparent to Jack’s armband. And then there’s this.
Sal Zizzo, 6 – Very good outing for Sal, as he was the most dangerous instigator of offense for the Timbers after coming on. Assuming Kalif’s hamstring keeps him out a couple weeks – which they usually seem to do – I expect to see Sal get a few full 90s.
Danny Mwanga, 4 – Pretty anonymous. I thought the Timbers lost a little verve when Fucito went off. Utterly absurd to start to doubt him at this point, but he has a competition on his hands for the second striker role.
Lovel Palmer, INC – Barely saw the field before he gave a flying forearm to Eddie Johnson. He doesn’t get a grade for that, but he might get a smile. Also, it took him no more than 2 minutes after coming on to take his first hopelessly long strike that sailed 15 feet over the bar. He just can’t help himself.
Preseason Prediction: Timbers 1, Sounders 1. Fernandez and Songo’o.
Actual Result: Timbers 2, Sounders 1. Boyd, Horst, and Johnson.
Onward, Rose City!