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Goals from Johnson, Nagbe lift Timbers over Sounders


Photo by Jane Gershovich/Soccer By Ives


SEATTLE – The Portland Timbers wrapped up the regular season as perhaps the hottest team in MLS. That showed no signs of changing as the Western Conference semifinals got underway Saturday night in front 38,507 at CenturyLink Field.

Portland entered the match undefeated in its previous eight games and coming off a 5-0 thrashing of Chivas USA in its regular-season finale. The Timbers opened the playoffs just as they finished the season, playing with poise and disciplined defensive organization, riding goals from Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe to a 2-1 win in the opening match of this two-leg, aggregate-goal series.

It was the Timbers’ first ever playoff match as an MLS side, but a casual observer wouldn’t have known it.

“This team is very confident right now,” said Jack Jewsbury. “We’re very comfortable in the way we’re playing. We can morph into different teams depending how the game is going. If it’s direct, we can fight with you. If it settles down, we can possess and go that way. It was a great start for us, very nice to get the goal, and especially nice to get the win.”

The second leg will be played on Thursday at Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 p.m. ET.

While Seattle began the match with an energy belying its busy schedule, Portland opened the scoring in just the 15th minute after Diego Chara found Jewsbury streaking alone down the right sideline. The veteran right back took a touch to gather himself before whipping in a near-post cross that Johnson flicked on for the 1-0 lead.

“The majority of the balls make it to that near-post area,” Johnson said. “It was a good, weighted ball and I did good enough to redirect it and it was a good finish.”

Despite losing the possession battle for much of the night, Portland doubled the lead in the 66th minute, when Nagbe turned on a pass into the box from substitute Khalif Alhassan and beat both Djimi Traore and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann from 12 yards out.

“It was a great first touch and a great finish,” said Jewsbury. “He’s an unbelievable talent and a guy that’s come along for us this year. I’m just so happy for him because he’s such a great kid on and off the field as well.”

Timbers head coach Caleb Porter implied his team—usually so possession-oriented—was more than happy to let the Sounders have some of the game.

“We wanted them to have a bit of the ball,” said Porter, “so we could roast them on counterattacks, and I thought we were very dangerous on the counter all day long.”

Portland absorbed 20 shots and defended 11 Seattle corners over the course of the match.

Seattle did manage to secure a late score, a 90th-minute goal that could prove critical in the second leg.

Late substitute Shalrie Joseph flicked on a deep throw-in from Brad Evans, and Osvaldo Alonso scooted in from the top of the area to bury a left-footed volley from the penalty spot.

“The goal at the end of the game was very important for us,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “It gives us an opportunity to go down there and win.”

Clint Dempsey proved to be the most consistently threatening player for either side throughout the night, but found himself bedeviled at every turn.

Donovan Ricketts made a leaping, fingertip save on Dempsey’s 20th-minute free kick. Another free kick hit the post. A left-footed, 15-yard volley sailed wide left in the 75th minute. And in the waning minutes of regulation, a clean header on a Mauro Rosales free kick slapped off the FieldTurf and floated inches over the crossbar.

“I had my chances tonight,” Dempsey said. “I was happy with the looks I got, and [happy] getting touches on the ball, it just seemed like it was one of those nights [where] it wasn’t gonna go in for me.”

It was the Sounders’ third game in just seven days, a fact Schmid felt impacted the game.

“I think at certain times in the game, on the field, you could tell that we were a little more fatigued,” he said.

That left the Sounders looking forward to a few days rest before the second leg.

“When we go down to Portland,” said Schmid, “we’re going to be sharp, and we’re going to be rested, and we’re not going to have heavy legs.”

Aside from being fatigued, the Sounders were also missing Designated Player Obafemi Martins and standout rookie DeAndre Yedlin to injury. Yedlin, at least, should be back for the second leg.

“He’ll be ready,” Schmid said after the match. “It was touch-and-go today, but he’ll be ready.”

Here are the match highlights:


  1. Alonso was fantastic in that game, will need to be even better in Portland to thwart the counter as Seattle pushes forward into the attack. EJ was MIA and can’t be again. The Chara-Johnson pair is very versatile and the whole Portland team very organized/disciplined defensively, and Nagbe can change games in an instant. If Seattle can score early while Alonso hasn’t gassed himself out the tactics could get interesting in this next one. should be crazy atmosphere, and no gridiron lines 🙂

  2. I’ll say it again. Injuries, the coach or whatever else don’t mean anything. Portland is deeper, better coached and has the lead in the series with options in terms if tactics. Seattle has to commit numbers into the attack opening up themselves for more counterattack goals. Sounders season is done.

  3. Sounders need a complete overhaul, with the support and money, please a real grass surface, a new manager has to be the first order of business and a new GM because this team has issues. Some of which could be solved with the right manager. Players have been played out of position and dubious game time decisions have been made.

    • Rosales delivery on corners could be dangerous with his quality. The real danger is putting Dempsey in the mix and not kicking the corners. I assume Dempsey is kicking the corners to protect his shoulder.
      Rosales lacks pace and prone to dive. However, has vision and passing accuracy.

    • Portland say back and absorbed pressure, letting the team who just played midweek do all the running. Seattle won’t get that many chances on Thursday.

  4. Frustrating game for Seattle fans. Thought we actually played well and created some good chances but the finishing was very poor. Portland only created about 3 or 4 good chances and they were clinical with two of them so good on them. 2-1 is a lot better than 2-0 but still can’t feel great about Seattle’s chances in Portland. Would be huge if Yedlin or Martins could feature but it doesn’t sound great for either.

  5. Epic failure of MLS last night…this better be the last year fans are treated to such disgusting sights: astroturf and NFL lines on the field…shocking, humiliating, shameful!

    How is this is a “major” league?

    • Why don’t you ask Pele? He played on crowned astroturf fields. No need to be a soccer snob. The mid field tarps were far more embarrassing in NE than the “gridiron” lines.

    • Such a waste, nothing takes me out of the game faster then watching a game with football lines. You never have to watch a football game with soccer lines. Feels so second rate….

    • I recorded the game and started watching this morning. After 20 minutes I couldn’t stand the gridiron lines, turned off the game and checked the results on the inner webs.

    • Or the two point conversion.

      At least I don’t have to hear about how many fans the Sounders convinced to jump on the band wagon to lead the league in attendance for their soccer specific stadium.

    • Yep. Two great playoff games ruined (for purposes of watching them) by gridiron lines. It just makes it seem like you’re watching two high school teams with incredibly talented players. Those lines have to be a big obstacle to being taken seriously by the casual fan.

      And don’t get me started about the plastic turf . . .

      • First of all, screw the casual fan, they either are wearing a Man U jersey or a Seahawks jersey. If it is a Seahawks jersey, they don’t care aboit the lines as all of Seattle will be watching the game today.

        Seattle should have had put the lines on later for me…32 years of following a team…and quit a bit of money invested.

  6. i noticed that also, did anyone else notice how much moffat suxs. if he would have been subbed out a half time they would have had a chance. he cant cross the ball if his life depended on it. i thought it was funny watching dempsey having moffat open on the left and rather pass it to someone else. lol. he needs to work on his game.

    • Moffat, Joseph and Scott aren’t going to cut it. It’s too late for Seattle. Portland can play defensive again and hit on the counter like they did in this one. Timbers need just a draw to advance. This series is obviously over. Portland is better coached and has better players from top to bottom.

    • injuries have sapped this teams depth, there is nobody to use besides Moffat. After him the options are basically Rose or Joseph, which are worse than he is.

  7. Glad I’m not the only one who saw that.

    Evans clearly with the illegal throw on the Sounders goal. Not a hard call to make.

    • His whole foot has to be over the line for it to be a foul throw. From the replays I have seen it is hard to tell if his whole foot crosses the line or if his heel is still on the line. If his heel is still on the line then, according to the laws-of the game, it is a fair throw. I thought up until the Philly/SKC season finale that your whole foot had to be behind the line, but a goal from a Besler(?) throw-in brought up a debate and someone showed what the laws of the game said, which was that it was a fair throw.


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