The Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders squared off on Saturday at JELD-WEN Field for Cascadian bragging rights, an argument that rages on after the match ended in a 1-1 draw with second half goals from Fredy Montero opening the scoring and Rodney Wallace equalizing.
Timbers interim manager Gavin Wilkinson looked a genius as he made one change from the team that lost 3-nil at the Colorado Rapids in their last match, Costa Rican international Wallace replacing the suspended Steven Smith at left fullback.
Sounders manager Sigi Schmid made a couple of change to his preferred lineup, Andy Rose stepping in for Christian Tiffert and Steve Zakuani retaining his place over the injured Mauro Rosales in midfield. The Argentine’s absence was substantial, his 13 assists by the far the most on the team leaving a major gap in distribution for the visitors.
A subdued tifo display from the Timbers Army just after the national anthem was a result of agreement with Sounders supporters groups, the banner asking Timbers players to seize the moment a clear sign of the importance of the cup tie. At the opposite end of the stadium, a thousand plus Seattle fans begged to differ with messages of their own.
Bright Dike made Seattle sweat first when he challenged Michael Gspurning for a loose ball in the opening minutes, the netminder doing well to recover quickly enough to clear the danger before Franck Songo’o could put back the rebound at the edge of the box.
Eddie Johnson earned a free kick after a collision with David Horst just outside the Portland eighteen yard box. Montero and Osvaldo Alonso lined up behind the ball in the 7th minute, but the chance was wasted when Montero drove his shot into the wall.
The Timbers were offered the next opportunity when Leo Gonzalez brought down Sal Zizzo on the right wing, but the midfielder’s ensuing set piece delivery was cleared easily by Seattle. After ten minutes gone a ball fell to Alonso in the Portland box, but he snatched at the volley as Donovan Ricketts watched the ball go wide of his post.
Alonso tried his luck again, but a long range effort just prior to the quarter hour mark rose high over the bar. Diego Chara then made a foray deep into Seattle territory, but his pass back to Dike left much to be desired as the striker’s delayed effort clattered off the shins of the Sounders defense.
Seattle then presented the match’s as yet most dangerous attack when Zakuani’s cross was blocked by Ricketts, Brad Evans follow up shot lacking the angle as he sent his effort wide for a throw in.
23 minutes into the encounter a neat exchange between Chara and Songo’o released Kosuke Kimura into space, but the defender’s squared cross was snuffed out by the alertness of Sounders centerback Jeff Parke.
Minutes later Portland looked worried after a heavy challenge from Seattle’s Eddie Johnson left Chara in a heap, the striker’s awkward tackle drawing the first yellow card of the game in the 26th minute.
The match was more probing and prodding up to this point, neither team really testing the goalkeepers as the half chances ruled the day, but a 36th minute cross from Songo’o just missed the outstretched leg of a lunging Chara as the bar clipped wide of Gspurning’s far post.
Songo’o then forced Gspurning into a save two minutes later, a blast from outside the area tipping off the keeper’s gloves before Gonzalez could clear for a corner. As the corner came in, what looked a weak header from Dike nearly caught Seattle out, the ball resting in the top netting as it looped over the crossbar.
Montero looked to give Seattle an opening in the 41st, but Horst cleanly took the ball with a sliding effort to deny the Colombian. Portland captain Jack Jewsbury then brought Gspurning off his line two minutes later, but the strike went harmlessly wide of the goalpost.
As injury time was entered Johnson found time to turn inside the Portland penalty box, but his shot was deflected into the path of Montero, whose half headed effort went over the bar to serve as the last opportunity of the half for either side.
The starters remained intact for both teams after the interval, and it was Seattle’s Evans who made the first attempt on goal, but he was disappointed to put his shot into the side netting after Rose picked him out unmarked at the far post.
The Sounders pressured Portland again five minutes into the half when a menacing cross forced Ricketts to punch clear, but the keeper’s bravery was punished when he collided with Johnson as the striker tried to score. Ricketts looked less than stable as he lay prone for several minutes, but the Jamaican recovered to carry on after a brief respite.
That return to action proved premature for Ricketts shortly after, the keeper forced to sub off as an arm injury ended his involvement as Joe Bendik came on as Portland’s first substitute in the 56th minute. Bendik will have wished the change could wait, as his first touch of the ball was to pick the ball out of the net less than minute later.
A long kick from Gspurning turned into an assist when the Timbers defense made the cardinal mistake of allowing the ball to bounce, Horst and Hanyer Mosquera both caught napping. Montero took advantage, turned and fired a looping shot over Bendik to the far corner to open the scoring in the 57th minute.
The goal was a rude awakening for Bendik, whose only other time on the pitch this year produced similar results in a loss to the Montreal Impact. Fortunately for the goalie, he looked more alive when Montero tested him with a header at the hour mark, the reserve keeper calmly catching the ball to settle down a shaken defense.
A Songo’o cross in the 65th minute went unimpeded through the box to Zizzo on the far side, and the winger’s cross back in looked wasteful until Chara stepped into the ball as Rose tried to clear. The Seattle midfielder clipped Chara as he put his foot through the ball, but the referee saw no infringement in what was deemed incidental contact rather than the penalty the home support clamored for voraciously.
Schmid made his first change in the 70th minute as Zakuani departed for Honduran international Mario Martinez, a like for like swap offering fresh legs to the away team for the final twenty minutes. Two minutes later, Songo’o was dispatched in favor of Danny Mwanga, the Timbers looking to press forward for the final quarter hour and change.
Wallace laid off to Jewsbury in the 76th minute, but the skipper’s speculative effort sailed high over the bar. A minute later Zizzo burst into the box, only for Seattle to clear for a corner. The corner was whipped in by the captain, but Jhon Kennedy Hurtado rose highest to put out for a corner on the opposite side.
Jewsbury’s delivery beat the defense at the near post to find Wallace, who headed the ball down past a sprawling Gonzalez and Gspurning, neither of whom could prevent the ball from crossing the line in the 78th minute to level the score for Portland.
Seattle, who looked well in control of the match following Montero’s opener, now started to show a lack of discipline as Martinez earned a yellow for a reckless challenge on Mwanga.
The Timbers turned up the tempo as the minutes ticked down, Jewsbury taking two chances that Seattle uncomfortably rejected to keep matters level. Wilkinson made his third and final change just after in the 84th minute, Kalif Alhassan replacing Zizzo to offer another creative outlet to try and turn the game.
Mwanga was put through a minute later, but Hurtado intervened before the Congolese could get off a clear shot. Seattle retaliated with a couple of cracks of their own, but Bendik was equal to the task as he appeared to regain his nerve following his dubious introduction.
Chara was again on the turf in the 87th minute, an injury forcing him off for the remainder of the match, forcing the Timbers to close out the proceedings a man down. That task became a much more onerous burden when six minutes of injury time were announced in the 90th minute.
Portland nearly stole the match two minutes into stoppage time when a Jewsbury corner fell to the feet of Dike, only for the forward to beat the defense but not the post as his shot caromed off the line.
Seattle countered in the 96th minute when the ball spilled to Alonso, the Cuban putting his laces through the ball from distance but straight at Bendik, who corralled the ball to preserve the draw.
The result leaves Portland still holding a slight edge in the Cascadia Cup standings, but they now must earn a point on the road in remaining cup matches at Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps in October. Before Portland can focus on bringing the prize back to Portland, they must resume league play on Wednesday at the San Jose Earthquakes followed by a match at Real Salt Lake in a week’s time.
The immediate attention of the Timbers falls to the so far insurmountable ask of winning on the road, a hill they’ll need to climb if they want to build confidence for away trips in Cascadia. A draw wasn’t a perfect result, but clawing back to earn a point after the adversity of losing a starting goalkeeper and conceding first gives Wilkinson and company the chance to fight another day.