Games between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers have a way of making everything outside of the stadium in that exact moment completely irrelevant. That looked to be the case as Portland shook off a midweek game in Mexico to look like the team most up for it through the first half, but two Sounders goals in the second half were enough to secure a 2-1 win. Seattle struggled to maintain possession for long stretches, ultimately ceding possession 54.7% to 45.3% in a reversal of what anyone would have expected coming into the game.
Brian Schmetzer worked his magic at half-time, and in a sideline interview at the start of the second half lamented the lack of energy his side had shown up to that point. Things looked to take a turn for the worst when Jeremy Ebobisse earned a penalty about 10 minutes into the second half, but Diego Valeri was twice denied from the spot, first by Stefan Frei and then by the post after an encroachment by Nouhou resulted in the kick being retaken. Raúl Ruidíaz went down to the other end and earned a penalty of his own not long after, and made no mistake when it came to putting his away. Fredy Montero marked his return to the rivalry as a substitute with a goal of his own in the 79th minute, that would prove to be the winner after Portland scored on an impressive free kick deep into stoppage time. Seattle sit at the top of the table with 10 points through 4 games, and head to San Jose on Wednesday at 7:30 PM with a chance to keep their run going against the San Jose Earthquakes.
11’ – Will Bruin puts the moves on a couple defenders in the left side of the box and plays a pass to Ruidíaz in the center of the area, but his first-time shot is wide right.
49’ – Alex Roldan gets the ball in a dangerous area and hits an excellent cross to the penalty spot to find Ruidíaz, but the forward’s shot isn’t anywhere close.
56’ – Shane O’Neill gives up a penalty to Jeremy Ebobisse, but Diego Valeri’s penalty is straight at the stone wall that is Stefan Frei. Encroachment by Nouhou means the PK is retaken and missed.
63’ – Raúl Ruidíaz steps up for a penalty that he earned himself after a hustle play by Cristian Roldan. Ruidíaz sends the ‘keeper the wrong way to take the lead. 1-0
76’ – Fredy Montero hits a shot from distance cleanly, but it’s blocked by the ‘keeper. Ruidíaz nearly gets on the rebound but the defender appears to beat him to it and clears him out in the process.
79’ – After Montero gets taken down by Diego Chara, João Paulo’s service is perfectly placed for Montero to run onto. Montero’s header easily beats the ‘keeper, doubling the lead. 2-0
90+4’ – A Jordy Delem foul set up a free kick opportunity that Bill Tuiloma took full advantage to deny the Sounders a shutout with an incredible finish. 2-1
Putting the league on notice: The Sounders were the second best team on the field for significant stretches of the game today. Portland were on short rest and had Brian Schmetzer saying that his side was the one that looked like they’d just played at altitude on Wednesday, but Seattle limited the actual chances that Portland had and Stefan Frei and the goal post teamed up to deny Diego Valeri from the penalty spot twice. After that, Seattle’s talent advantage shown through as Raúl Ruidíaz and Fredy Montero both struck against the team they love to hate. Despite a late goal from Portland, Seattle showed that even when they don’t play well they’re capable of getting a result in a difficult environment, even with Nico Lodeiro unavailable again.
Welcome (back) to the rivalry: Two of the big contributors in this win were a couple new or returning Sounders. Kelyn Rowe, prodigal Seattle son, got his second consecutive start and was quietly one of the better performers in a largely frustrating first half. He looked immediately at home in the best rivalry in the league, giving and getting plenty of bite. Fredy Montero got his first chance to play in a Sounders-Timbers game since 2012, and he wasted little time to make his mark. A shot from distance showed his intent, while earning a foul in a dangerous area and finishing with a decisive header for the winning goal proved that he hasn’t lost a step during his wandering years.
Bend but don’t break: One would hope that playing with three center backs would help to solidify a defense, but there had been reasonable questions to start the season about how well Seattle’s CB group would adjust to their new roles in the formation. Through four games the Sounders have only given up 2 goals while facing some pretty potent opposition, and it’s not just been Stefan Frei playing the game of his life week after week. Seattle is limiting chances in dangerous areas, and even when the opposition do get a look at goal it’s seldom an easy one. Cleaning up the team’s possession play should make everyone’s job easier, but the defense is standing up to the test so far.
‘We’ve had Clint, we’ve had Raul and we’ve had Fredy. We’ve got guys who are Portland killers. Fredy was leading jingle bells and I’m hopeful we’ll get Miami more from him.’ – Schmetzer
— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) May 9, 2021
15 — Kelyn Rowe led the Sounders with 15 duels.
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