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Timbers dominate Sounders, book place in Western Conference final vs. RSL

Diego Valeri


PORTLAND, Ore.- Not since the Timbers inaugural season as a professional soccer team had the club knocked their rival, the Seattle Sounders, out of postseason play. But that is exactly what Portland did on Thursday night in front of a frenzied crowd, some of whom had waited 38 years for a match of this magnitude.

Portland set the tone early and ran past the Sounders at Jeld-Wen Field by a final score of 3-2. The win gave the club a 5-3 edge on aggregate and put the Timbers in the MLS Western Conference Finals for the first time. Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, and Futty Danso found the back of the net in front of a frenzied home crowd. DeAndre Yedlin and Eddie Johnson scored for Seattle in the second half, but it was too little, too late for Seattle.

“At home, we are a team that wants to run our opponent over and I thought we did that for good periods of tonight. Our pressure was as good as I’ve seen out of this group, all season,” head coach Caleb Porter said. “When we had it going, I thought we were very relentless.”

The Timbers came out firing, rather than trying to bunker down after beating Seattle 2-1 in the first leg of the series. Portland’s aggressive style gave Seattle little chance as the Timbers used quick counters and long passing sequences to blow by the Sounders backline on multiple occasions. Extending back into the regular season, it was the third Timbers victory over their rival in the last 25 days.

“It’s not easy to beat a team three times in a row. We were able to do that and I think that was a credit to how hungry our team is right now,” Porter said. “They are on a mission, right now. And the best thing I can do is stay out of the way. And I tried to do that tonight. I wanted to just release them and let them go. Getting to 3-0, there was some scary stuff that we put together as a team.”

Midway through the first half, Will Johnson delivered from the spot after Djimi Traore handled the ball in the penalty area. Michael Gspurning went the wrong way as the Timbers captain slotted home the kick in front of the Timbers Army.

Diego Valeri continued his magical first MLS season with a give-and-go combination with Rodney Wallace that led to a sliding finish from the Argentine DP. The goal sent the Timbers into the halftime break with both momentum and a two-goal lead for the match. Even without the goal, Valeri left his mark on the match with numerous creative combination plays and passes.

While Osvaldo Alonso carried the Sounders during the first leg of the series, he was unable to replicate his performance Thursday, especially in the first 45 minutes. The other Seattle midfielders were unable to pick up the slack.

“I thought tonight we got outplayed in the first half. We didn’t play well in the first half. They closed us down, put pressure on us,” Sigi Schmid said. “We didn’t play forward. I thought we lost the game in the midfield.”

When Futty Danso headed home a Wallace cross moments after the second half restart, the rout seemed to be on. Seattle was able to muster two goals in a two-minute stretch in the second half, but in the end, the club had dug themselves too deep a hole. The late goals given up will not be lost on the Timbers going forward, however.

“The two goals, obviously, is something that grounds us a little bit,” Will Johnson said. “We know if we switch it off for just a second, we can give up two goals just like that.”

The Sounders began the must-win match with Shalrie Joseph getting the start in place of Lamar Neagle, who was out due to yellow card accumulation. By the time attacking substitutes, Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales, entered the match the Sounders were four goals down in aggregate.

“What we wanted to do was get Shalrie in there and have him play a little more advanced, and at least physically be able to battle with their center backs,” Schmid said. “But he ended up dropping in too far and taking spaces that Demspey normally gets the ball in, and as a result we were disjointed in the first half.”

The victory was the first for Portland in a playoff series against Seattle since the club’s inaugural season in the NASL in 1975. While aware of the intense rivalry, most Timbers players seemed to consider the Sounders just a team standing in their way.

“We’re so focused on advancing and just getting to the next round, if we drew Seattle, so be it. If it was Colorado that we had to beat, so be it.” Will Johnson said. “It means a great deal to our fans and we want to do right by them. So obviously we are happy that they can trash-talk their rival fanbase. But for us, it was just another team that was in our way.”

Portland has not lost a home match in any competition since March 9 and hasn’t lost to a Western Conference opponent at Jeld-Wen since July of 2012. The homefield advantage created by the fans goes hand-in-hand with the style the Timbers are currently exhibiting.

“It helps our style of play and the way we press and attack teams. I think the atmosphere fuels that even more,” Timbers defender Michael Harrington said.

Portland will head to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake for the first leg of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday night. After having a recovery day Friday and practicing Saturday, the club will take a charter to Salt Lake Saturday afternoon.

It is a quick turnaround for the club, but they seem to be peaking at the right time.

“In the end, we were the better team and we deserve to move on in the series. I thought it was some of the best stuff of the year for our team, both sides of the ball,” Porter said. “But again, I think there is still more in this team, so that’s what is scary.”


  1. Dont’ know if you al saw that banner the Timbers’ fans had up “Seattle, Does does your Clint hurt” I thought that was the best of the nught.

    • Maybe they can also have some murky rule about Seattle, LA, NY (and in the future Miami) being allowed 5 DPs to everyone else’s 3. Still won’t help if Seattle can’t play like a team.

      /conspiracy theory

  2. What a great performance by the Timbers and a lot of credit must go to Caleb Porter. He has the Timbers playing like I think Klinsmann wants the USMNT to play.

  3. neutral here and it was an entertaining game! solid performance by the Timbers. i think it’ll be good for Dempsey to get a rest before a potential loan.

    • YES, if we had Nagbe & AJ up front the USMNT & Klinsi could really surprise some opponents in Brazil or for the next WC. CONGRATULATIONS to the Timbers/Porter for two outstanding qualification victories against the Sounders. Keep-up the great soccer & sharpen the defense a little to win it all, the MLS championship!!

      • Talking about Nagbe in the next is extremely premature. He is certainly a talent and could feature in the next cycle but slow it down a bit.

      • Yeah, I do agree Travis. And sorry about going off above, I wasn’t explicitly talking about you. Nags has a chance, needs citizenship in 2 years and he’ll be primed to be in pre quals and friendlies.

  4. Portland with a dramatic turnaround from last year to this year. Porter changed the character of the whole team by getting quality players at every position and not global name DP players as is seattles habit. This allowed porter to sure up the defense because he had the salary cap to do so. Seattle defense has been a problem since they came into the league especially against the better playoff teams.

    RSL made a big mistake by gift wrapping will johnson to Portland last offseason. He’s been on a championship side now so he knows how to bring it in the playoffs.

  5. I wish my Red Bulls had shown that kind of killer instinct at home. Their mentality under Petke is better than it has been in the past, but something was missing against the Dynamo. (It also would have helped to have Cahill up top and Luyindula in the midfield, but that’s another story.)

    Good for Portland. They are an entertaining and well-coached bunch. Assuming they reach the final, I will root for them over either the Houston Bunkers or Complaining KC.

    • Actually, the Red Bulls did have that killer instinct, they just left their shooting boots in the locker room, and ran into a great bunkering team and a hot goal keeper. (Two of those reaction saves by Tally Hall were unbelievable). It was just one of those nights where you knew that no matter what RBNY did, they couldn’t score after the Dynamo tied it on that gaffe.

      Portland does play some classy soccer though. Actually I would much rather see RSL or Portland win it rather than the physicality of SKC or the bunkering of Houston.

      • I’m curious about this bunkering. Can you guys quantify it a bit for me please? Looking at the stats for the year… roughly 50% possession,, 5th in the league in shots. Now where the team is weak is actually converting those chances. 13th is SOG and only scored 41 all season. Now I will grant you that we bunkered Sunday because the red bulls kill us on the counter. For example the game 10/20. NYRB won 0-3. Shots 20-5 dynamo possesion 61 to 38. 9/8 NYRB won 4-1.. Shots 15-10 Dynamo.. possesion 57 to 43.. again more dynamo possession. 6/30 NYRB won 2-0 Shots 14-11 Red bulls and possession was equal.

        So what is your definition of bunkering?

      • Here are the stats from Wednesday (RBNY numbers first):
        possession 54-46; attempts 23-9; shots on goal 9-3; corners won 903; open crosses 42-13; fouls committed 15-21. The point here is that in he playoffs, against better teams (by regular-season finish), Houston plays a defensive strategy, conceding possession, slowing the game with a foul where needed, and happy to nick a goal or two. Effective but, despite their name, not overly dynamic.

      • LOL. Go watch the highlights and see New York taking shot after shot like a bachelor party. Houston just got away with a couple sweaty goals over the 2 games. Thus they survived their Battle at Bunker Hill.

  6. Credit to Porter, he out coached Sigi in the first leg. Had a game plan that worked to perfection and Seattle’s lack of width really hampered their ability to create true scoring chances. With last night’s game, Sigi wasn’t out coached by anyone other than himself. Starting Moffatt and Joseph signaled he wasn’t there to attack, but play a scared, bland, defensive game. Schmid was signing his own walking papers. You can’t go into that game, with that line-up and expect to catch them on the counter. You have to play like you’re 1-0 down. The line-up we ended with was the line-up we should have started with. When Rosales and Oba came on, to no surprise, Seattle creates chances. Yes, Portland was on lock-down mode then, but that’s the point. They had the freedom to go at Seattle out of the gates because they knew the team on the field wasn’t quick or creative enough to hurt them. The blame has to fall on Schmid as we’re seeing consistent results in the playoffs. He falls back on “good ‘ol boy” strategy and fails to challenge himself to adapt his game. He’s done an admirable job up to this point, but successive playoff failures has to be answered for. I’m hopeful that whatever comes next for the Sounders is a step in the right direction. The player personnel we have could truly be a force to reckon with, with a few tweaks, better tactics, and locker room management. The HC job in Seattle is a tough one. If Sigi is out, I’m nervously excited to see who will be in the running.

  7. Sigi has to go and bring in fresh flood, dont recycle a coach. The fans are tired of seeing this same thing happen every single postseason. Portland were clearly the better team in this series as much as it pains me to say. I hope RSL beats them because it will be unbearable if Portland wins a title this year. There will be some changes at the Sounders with players to, will be interesting to see

    • What is hilarious about it? Because Seattle has a larger fan base? Because Portland is smaller than Seattle? Do you have a favorite team, or is your favorite thing about MLS to hate on Seattle and it’s fans? Same goes for Dan and RB.

      • I don’t often smack talk but when I do, its because others can’t seem to stand the fact that Seattle get 40K rabid, devoted fans a match, win or lose.

      • Wow, that the answer to the question is not obviously speaks volumes about your view right there. And then (as usual) comes the Sounders supporter’s favorite knee-j3rk rationalizations: that we must be envious of the big crowds in Seattle or we’re just haters.

        It would be funny precisely because Seattle is the higher-profile team that’s always going on and on to the rest of us about how great they are and the huge fan base and just being generally condescending to everyone else around the league, but most especially to their Cascadia rival Portland, obviously smaller as a city and with even less time in the league under their belts than Seattle has.

        But sure, it couldn’t be about any of that, it must be because we’re all envious of the crowds and just hating on Seattle. OK.

    • The Timbers are the best team in MLS, so I don’t get the comedy, except for Sounder’s fan dislike, which is fine I guess.
      Wait til next year.

      • right, but we haven’t got there yet. so to say Portland is the best team prior to actually winning the cup is wrong. and since NYRB had the better record, it’s hard to argue Portland is better. for the moment.

      • Actually no. It’s pretty straight forward to say the Timbers are the best team right now. Would you argue that DC is a better team than RSL because they won the open cup? Of course not, they just got lucky and the margins are so close in soccer that an aberration can happen from time to time.

        Portland went into KC and won there. Even in the opening game of the season Portland was better than NY, but they were just beginning to play Porterball and didn’t have their offensive/defensive balance quite right.

        NY won the SS by soaking up points from a weaker eastern conference. The only team that has truly outplayed Portland is Salt Lake, and now the real MLS championship is about to begin.

      • “actually, yes” (say in snotty 10 year old voice)

        nothing you said proved Portland is better. just your OPINION.

        NY won the SS. Portland has yet to win MLS Cup. until then, you can’t say Portland is better as a statement of FACT.

        do i personally think Portland is a better team? same, if not better. but my point was in response to AcidBurn who said the best team is determined by the Cup (as an example of why Portland is the best)…which has NOT been won yet. meanwhile, the SS HAS been won.

        for F’s sake, it’s a simply Fing comment.

      • and as stated below, it’s entirely possible AcidBurn was being sarcastic, which makes you look even more ridiculous.

      • Personally I think the SS should mean the most … unfortunately with an unbalanced schedule it has less meaning than it should (the best team in the softer conference or potentially the one that gets more difficult home games and thus more easy road games gets better opportunities to get more points). Arguably the west was deeper than the east this year which may have shaved some points off the best teams totals. The East averaged 44.9 points per game while the West averaged 48.6 (the average team in the west was another win and another draw better than the average East team).

        I don’t have a problem with the playoffs – they are fun and an end of the season tourney is what it is (certainly not the be-all / end-all in a game where final scores are generally very close and the difference between winning, drawing, or losing when quality teams match up is often a very small one.

        That said, until MLS goes back to a balanced schedule (play everyone, one home and one away), the validity of the SS identifying the “best team” is questionable.

  8. I still think that once the Sounders have a chance to integrate everyone, they probably have the most talent in the league. They should be really good next season.

    • Sounders have a ton of talent, but no creativity in the middle of the park. Put someone like Valeri, Morales, or Higuain as the playmaker and the Sounders would be lethal. Alas, those guys don’t grow on trees, and the Sounders spent their money on other things. I don’t know how they’d do it, but were I their management, I’d get rid of Rosales and try to offload Obafemi Martins–then spend the savings on a central midfielder and a left back. Maybe offer four or five players to Columbus in exchange for Higuain? Sigh…

      • I don’t see why you need Martins, EJ, and Dempsey. Pick 2 of the 3 and then sign your playmaker.

      • I think EJ is gone this summer, I am sure he wants DP money and it would not be good to give DP money to all three.

      • First of all, Rosales is the type of playmaker you speak of. Also, I was at the game, and can tell you that of the players that cared, based on their play and body language:
        Not so sure about the rest of the team honestly. Dempsey, in particular, was a ghost. . . and I’ve been a fan of his, having watched him at Fulham two years ago.

      • I think people need to start evaluating Dempsey on what he is doing now, not what he did a few years ago. People are cutting him an incredible amount of slack. It’s been a LONG time since he has lived up to the hype and it just might be that his best is behind him.

        He’s invisible with the NATs and now, disappears in the playoffs. This is not what a DP does

  9. Man, to have that horrible start and recover from it, but then hit the Dempsey debacle and go on to flame out so dramatically against Portland, of all teams, this year turns out to be just one gigantic serving of crow for the Sounders…

  10. And at the point where the Sounders were down huge in a playoff series, they actually score some playoff goals…where have I heard that one before ?

    • Houston can play a good counter, Omar Cummings is rounding into form? I see Portland flying high however Houston with a good game plan could suprise anybody. Kinnear’s is one savvy strategist , Brad Davis is dangerous on the set peices. Do not count anyone out of this. Salt Lake just beat the defending champions .

      • DCU won the US OPEN CUP, 1 shot, 1 goal. Bunker Ball is boring and shows no class. Houston only had 4 shots in the second match, all goals scored withing the home/away were gifted to them vs RBNY, fck you mean man.

      • Yeah Dynamo have been successful and know how to punish mistakes. Their soccer is the most unattractive anti-futbol in the league. I’m sick of that team coasting through the season and sucking in the CCL only to make the final of MLS Cup every year. Say NO to negative soccer.

    • Dude, you really dont want to see KC in the final. Talk about a crappy game. SKC will foul and break up the game and then dive and cry

    • Real will win.The Sounders have not recovered from the Dempsey signing.This is no big win.They squeaked into the playoffs.Confidence gone.It’s funny that you guys are looking past Salt Lake.Their confidence is high and so is yours.You think they’re on a mission?I’m sure they are.So is Real.Portland should be scared.

      • No doubt, if MLS were to draw it up, they would have hoped for LA, NY and Seattle to drop out, leaving a media exec’s dream of Portland, Salt Lake, Houston and Kansas City.

      • Disagree…the MLS is looking for passion at this point to pull in the casual fans. People in the major markets don’t really care so much about MLS and so just putting their teams in the championships is not going to improve ratings.Showing a raucous and passionate crowd in Portland is what they need more than a 85% full stadium in Carson or Harrison.

      • I disagree – it looked awesome for the Houston match and is a pretty awesome looking arena. But during a regular season game with 7 trillion people who are transplants and have so much else to do and trying to get to Harrison is nightmare from what I’ve heard. But no, in the playoffs this year and the games I watched I was pleasantly surprised.

      • I hate to say dude, but he’s right. I’m an RBNY aficionado and I’m the arena a lot. I can safely say that our casual support sucks. Unlike Portland, Seattle, & Sporting, to many of our team’s fans rather hang out on the concourse to buy food & drink instead of being at their seats watching the match and that’s if they show up at all.

      • Does anyone really believe the Timbers would even exist in MLS had it not been for the Sounders? If they do, than they are delusional….

      • Awesome. Maybe Portland can send Seattle a dozen roses to repay the “debt”. I do wonder what matters most… how you got there, or what you do after you arrive?

      • You are aware that the push to elevate Portland’s USL team to MLS started and ended before Seattle ever played a single MLS game right? Seattle’s first MLS game was March 19th, 2009 and the official Portland announcement came the following day — and had absolutely zero to do with the Sounders first MLS game the night before.

        Yes, the flounders got there first, mostly for structural reasons (Hollywood ownership who saw the USL as the dead end that it is, particularly in Seattle where it was drawing less than 3500 fans a game).

        Those who believe Portland and Vancouver owe their MLS existence solely to Seattle are just revisionist historians.

      • Where and when were the Sounders ownership and fans before the Portland City Council?

        So, your assertion may be false then?

    • This stuff always makes me laugh when I hear about conspiracies to help the “big” teams. Whatever they’re doing, it clearly isn’t working.


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