PORTLAND, Ore. – Their divide in the Western Conference standings proved meaningless once the first whistle blew, with last place Portland and Supporters Shield-contending Seattle playing to a standstill in Saturday’s highly anticipated Cascadia Cup showdown.
Man of the Match: Fredy Montero is the first player in Major League Soccer history who could fill a DVD of his highlight reel goals. In the 57th minute, he did it again, opening up the scoring with a blast from just inside Portland’s penalty area, beating substitute Joe Bednik into the top of goal. Turning on a ball launched by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning that had sailed over Eddie Johnson and David Horst, Montero gave Bednik little chance to stop a lightning bolt that nearly got Seattle full points.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Seattle was without two key pieces. Midfielder Christian Tiffert, continuing to struggle with an ankle injury, was out, replaced by Andy “#24 under 24” Rose. More importantly, Mauro Rosales – who would have been able to take advantage of Portland’s second choice left back (Rodney Wallace starting for the suspended Steven Smith) – was also unfit to play. Brad Evans stayed on the right with Steve Zakuani getting another on the left.
- The lineups created a potentially decisive advantage against Portland right back Kosuke Kimura, who struggled to stop Colorado rookie Tony Cascio last Wednesday. In the 17th minute, Zakuani looked like his pre-injury self, bursting past Zimura to create Seattle’s most dangerous chance to the half, a lined cross that Donovan Ricketts couldn’t hold. The ensuing chaos eventually went out for a goal kick.
- On the same flank (going in the opposite direction), Sal Zizzo looked like he would have similar success against Leo Gonzalez, splitting the space between him and Zakuani in the third minute on a run into the penalty area. But that was the last Portland saw of that edge. Gonzalez was able to stay in front of Zizzo for the rest of the half, silencing Portland’s right winger for the rest of the match.
- Despite an active first 45, the teams were only able to generate one shot on goal (in 15 attempts). Franck Songo, cutting in from the left in front of Evans, was able to get to the middle of the field 24 yards from goal. A blast through traffic faded to the lower right corner, forcing a diving block from Michael Gspurning.
- The Sounders came out of intermission the stronger side, slowly pushing the Portland defense back over the half’s first five minutes. That control eventually yielded a chance down the left (Montero playing to Zakuani, who found Andy Rose wide). The ensuring cross saw Eddie Johnson and Ricketts collide at the edge of the box, and although the Timbers’ `keeper briefly tried to continue, backup Joe Bendik had to be brought on in the 57th minute. Montero opened the scoring seconds later.
- For the next 15 minutes, Portland dictated the game, not that Gspurning would have noticed. Despite a trivial catch on a floated cross, the Seattle `keeper was untested during the Timbers’s surge, one which saw Osvaldo Alonso, Evans, and Rose collapse even deeper from their normal positions. Reinforced at the back, Seattle seemed to have weathered the storm.
- In the 78th minute, Portland’s push proved to be the calm. Jack Jewsbury, taking a corner from Gspurning’s right, whipped a blazing inswinger that Johnson could barely push out for another corner. On the ensuing restart, Portland had their tying goal.
- A less spectacular restart saw Jewsbury find an unmarked Wallace near post, the Portland defender heading a ball down and in (the shot barely eluding Gonzalez and Gspurning). The chance was a replay of a first half corner that saw Wallace bounce a header over the bar. This time, he put Portland on the board.
- Defending the corner, Johnson was put in an impossible position. The Seattle attacker was marking one of Portland’s main targets, forward Bright Dike, but when Wallace came unmarked out of the Timber crowd, Johnson had to react quickly. Unfortunately for Sounders fans, EJ couldn’t mark two men at once.
- Another oddity about the corner: A number of events had to coincide for Jewsbury to be taking them. Smith, normally one of the Portland’s set piece delivery men, was suspended. Songo had been subbed off, while Zizzo had struggled with his delivery in the first half. Jewbury was more process of elimination than choice.
- One minute into stoppage time, Seattle’s defending on corners nearly cost them the match. A ball swung in from the right was allowed to drop just outside the six. Dike’s shot went off the base of Gspurning’s left post and rolled across the face of goal before it being cleared.
- Six extra minutes (accounting for Ricketts’ injury) were a long time for Seattle to hold on, but with Portland’s equalizer having salvaged the seized taken after Montero’s opener, the Sounders were no longer in a position to think three.
- In the 95th minute, however, they nearly got them. A cross from the right was poked away from Montero by David Horst, but the rolling ball outside the penalty area was drilled back on goal by Alonso. Hit right at Bednik, the shot came to nothing but a minute heart attack for Timbers’ supporters.
- At 96 minutes, Ricardo Salazar blew his whistle, leading to a strange, tenuous calm. The Timbers Army, moments after thundering screams off the south end’s large athletic center (sending their chants echoing back through Jeld-Wen), regressed to a hum. The players were left bent at the waste, spent. Too tired to shake hands, too stunned to leave, it was as if nobody told players and fans that today’s match could end in a draw. With this buildup – this rivalry – somebody has to win, right? Play `til a goal or collapse. They can’t be equals.
- Minutes later the players swapped shirts, saluted their fans and when to the locker rooms. Portland stayed on top of the Cascadia Cup standings, only three points in front of Seattle ahead of the teams’ Oct. 7 meeting at CenturyLink.