At least temporarily, Clint Dempsey is the joint-MLS leader in goals, his hat trick in Portland, Ore., vaulting him to four on the season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Three from Dempsey, two from Chara leave Seattle tied in Portland, 4-4


PORTLAND, Ore. — Eight goals and a hat trick from the player who has quickly become a focal point of the Portland-Seattle battle made the season’s first meeting between Cascadia rivals an all-time classic, even if the Timbers and their fans left Providence Parks with misgiving about the team’s late collapse. Giving up goals in the 85th and 87th minutes to complete a Clint Dempsey hat trick, the Timbers saw a two-goal lead descend into a 4-4 draw, a result that leaves Caleb Porter’s team winless on the season.

Portland now sits 0-2-3 after five matches, having yet to win or lose at home. Seattle, on the other hand, overcame last week’s late heartbreak against Columbus to inflict some disappointment of their own, with Dempsey’s late conversion from the spot leaving the team 2-2-1 on the season.

Seattle’s Kenny Cooper opened the scoring in the third minute as the Sounders covered their first corner kick, but goals in the ninth and 14th minutes from Diegos Chara and Valeri gave Portland its first lead before the quarter-hour mark. Clint Dempsey’s second goal of the season in the 24th minute allowed Seattle to go into halftime tied, 2-2, but early second half goals from Chara and Maxi Urruti handed the hosts a 4-2 lead.

source: Getty Images
At least temporarily, Clint Dempsey is the joint-MLS leader in goals, his hat trick in Portland, Ore., vaulting him to four on the season. (Photo: Getty Images.)

In the 85th minute, a cross from Lamar Neagle saw Obafemi Martins find Clint Dempsey at the edge of the six-yard box, with the U.S. captain’s third goal of the season bringing his team within one. Two minutes later, after DeAndre Yedlin was brought down in the penalty area by Ben Zemanski, Dempsey’s third goal of the afternoon salvaged a point for the Sounders.

Dempsey, who arrived in Seattle in the middle of last season, has become a lightning rod for fans of a team that sat atop the league’s Allocation Order at the time of his arrival. Now the target of Timber fan derision, Dempsey’s three-goal statement marks his first salvo to the opposition support, with Portland’s crowd left stunned after he engineered Seattle’s response.

Seattle was on the board with the first good chance of the match in the minute when a corner from Gonzalo Pineda found Jalil Anibaba unmarked just beyond the far post, 10 yards from the byline. The defenders volley was headed into the right side of goal before Kenny Cooper touched it, but with the former Timber creeping in a the far post, Anibaba’s teammate tapped home the game’s first goal.

Just before the nine-minute-mark, however, an unlikely source brought the Timbers even. On a ball played toward the middle just inside Portland’s attacking third, Chara won possession from Pineda and drove toward goal. Pulling up just outside the penalty area, the Colombian beat Stefan Frei into the left of goal, a soft right hand from the Sounders keep unable to stop the midfielder’s first goal in three years.

Two minutes later, Cooper nearly had his second of the match, drawing a leaping save from former Sounder Andrew Weber that kept the ball from finding his upper-right hand corner. It was a stop that proved especially valuable two minutes later as Portland look its first lead of the season.

source: Getty Images
Diego Valeri’s first goal of the season made it 2-1 on Saturday in Portland, Ore. (Photo credit: Getty Images.)

Off a Chara-forced turnover in the center circle, the Timbers quickly found Darlington Nagbe on the left, who played wide for the oncoming Michael Harrington.  The Portland left back’s pass to Diego Valeri found the Argentine with Anibaba at his back, something that proved irrelevant as the Timbers’ creator turned on a left-footed shot that found the top of Frei’s goal, making it 2-1.

Ten minutes later, the Sounders were back even. A Norberto Paparatto giveaway in his defensive third allowed Cooper to play the ball back in to Osvaldo Alonso, who headed toward the middle of the field for Obafemi Martins. Caught out after the bad giveaway, Portland had nobody to mark Clint Dempsey, who Martins found in the middle of the area for Seattle’s second goal.

Chances for Cooper (who forced another diving stop from Weber), Max Urruti, and Dempsey saw a first half primed for goals end with four, something the changed early in the second. With two goals within 12 minutes of kickoff, Portland had the day’s first two-goal lead.

In the 55th minute, it was Chara again, this time with help from Alvas Powell and Kalif Alhassan. The end product, however, was much the same as his first half goal. Allowed to carry the ball toward the edge of Seattle’s penalty area, Chara again beat Frei into the left of how, his court Major League Soccer goal giving his team their second lead of the day.

Two minute later, Seattle handed Portland a four. After an ill-advised back pass from Cooper, Anibaba had the ball taken off him by Urruti on the edge of his defensive third. The Argentine forward went in alone on goal, with Chad Marshall trying in vain to catch up as the 23-year-old curled his shot inside the right post, giving the Timbers a two-goal lead.

In the 85th minute, after the Timbers seemed destined to claim victory, Dempsey recovered one of Portland’s second half goals, finishing from close range after a buildup down the right found him in front of Weber’s goal.

Two minutes later, Seattle’s unlikely comeback was completed. After a run behind the defense saw Yedlin pulled down by Zemanski in the right of the penalty area, Dempsey finished in the middle of Weber’s goal, his hat trick leaving the Sounders on even footing after the eight-goal shootout.

The result also snaps Seattle’s three-match losing streak to their arch rivals, who had eliminated them from last year’s playoffs. Meanwhile, Portland’s winless run to start the year is at five, with the team’s defense continuing to prove a liability.

MLS Cup Playoffs: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans celebrates after Sounders' Nelson Haedo Valdez scored a goal against Sporting Kansas City in the second half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. The Sounders beat Sporting Kansas City 1-0. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There’s a ton to unpack here, so we’ll dive right in. The Seattle Sounders topped Sporting Kansas City in the final knockout-round game of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nelson Valdez scored the game’s only goal, an 88th-minute header, but not without supreme controversy. For starters, Valdez was offside as Joevin Jones played the ball into the box, just as Matt Besler was on a free kick for Sporting earlier in the second half. Besler’s goal was ruled out for offside, Valdez’s was allowed to stand. Benny Feilhaber, perhaps in his final game for Sporting, played like a man possessed and so nearly singlehandedly won the game for Sporting at multiple points on the night. Stefan Frei stood on his head and refused to allow such an occurrence. Osvaldo Alonso could have been sent off twice on the night — once on a straight red; once on a second yellow — but finished the game with just a single caution. Up next, the Sounders will take on Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

10′ — Zusi hits the post with a strike through traffic — Benny Feilhaber’s through ball to set up this double-chance for Sporting in sumptuous, and fully deserving of a proper finish.

53′ — Besler heads home, but he’s offside — This is about as close an onside/offside decisions get.

79′ — Frei denies Feilhaber after a spectacular run — Feilhaber’s run was mesmerizing, but Stefan Frei’s save was the tiniest bit better.

88′ — Valdez heads home the late winner — If Besler was offside, Valdez was offside. An unfitting end to a thrilling game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Valdez (88′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.