By JOSE M. ROMERO
The Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers rivalry is already good, and it's only going to get better once it hits the Major League Soccer stage.
After a 1-1 draw through regulation and extra time, the Sounders escaped the Rose City with a victory (4-3 on penalty kicks) in another dramatic chapter in this NASL-days rivalry.
Wednesday night's game at PGE Park was entertaining, and Portland had the better run of play, though the Sounders started with nine reserves. Sigi Schmid wasn't taking the USSF D-2 squad lightly, though — he did sub in Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani.
The Sounders played with 10 men for the second period of extra time, but veteran keeper Kasey Keller saved their bacon with two saves in the PK round.
Here are five thoughts about Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup match:
- Portland had better find a way to hang onto forward Bright Dike for MLS next year. The Columbus Crew's first-round pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft caused the Sounders plenty of fits along with scoring a 38th-minute equalizer. He tallied a hat trick in the Timbers' U.S. Open Cup second-round match as well.
- The Sounders needed a confidence boost in the wake of a bad loss at Philadelphia Sunday. This win helped, but back-to-back matches against the L.A. Galaxy are up next, the second one being in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.
- Portland will need to upgrade at goalkeeper. Steve Cronin has experience, but I don't think he's the answer at the MLS level. He should have saved at least one of the PKs and almost Robert Green'ed a shot during regular time.
- Good game for Sanna Nyassi of Seattle, for the most part. Also, Nate Jaqua, who played in his second match after battling a long-term injury, scored a confidence building-goal in the 13th minute off a feed from Nyassi. With a healthy Jaqua and the soon-to-arrive Blaise N'Kufo, the Sounders will have depth at forward and more scoring options.
- This rivalry was good in the NASL days and strong in the USL days. The teams played before big crowds in Portland this year (15,422 Wednesday night) and last. When both teams are in MLS, it has a chance to be the premiere rivalry in the league.
What did you think about Wednesday night's match? Which rivalry do you think is/will be the best in MLS?
Share your thoughts below.