SEATTLE — Portland Timbers wunderkind midfielder Darlington Nagbe turned in another gem of a performance against Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday. He scored the second goal of the 2-1 first leg of the MLS Western Conference semifinal.
With his team up a goal, Nagbe began a run on the left wing that left multiple Seattle defenders frozen in place. Kalif Alhassan played a pinpoint ball to Nagbe’s foot, and he took a touch to turn and then fire past Marcus Hahnemann to seal the match — and probably the series.
Beyond his nose for goal in that instance, Nagbe had another steady game as Portland’s creative outlet on the wing. He completed 24 of 27 passes, good for a 88.9-percent success rate.
In a first half largely dominated by the Sounders, Nagbe held the ball up well in the attacking third. In the 42nd minute, he burned two defenders on the right side of the penalty area before Osvaldo Alonso had to take him down.
Diego Chará receives an honorable mention for Man of the Match, mostly as a result of his tireless work rate and constant ability to find the action areas. Everywhere the ball moved, Chará was on the spot, whether it was in attack or defense.
He pressed forward from his holding midfield spot more often than usual, leaving Will Johnson to cover. Chará received a secondary assist on Ryan Johnson’s opening goal, as it was his pass that found Jack Jewsbury overlapping on the right side.
On the other side of the field, Alonso also played well on both sides of the ball. He completed 100 percent of his 23 attempted passes in the first half, finishing with 54 of 59 successful passes in 90 minutes.
Defensively, he patrolled in front of Seattle’s center backs as usual, with varying success. But in a game where the Sounders failed to create many clear-cut opportunities, despite its clear superiority in attacking personnel and boisterous home crowd, Alonso kept possession ticking and looked for seams going forward.
When the Sounders needed an influential player to step up, Alonso was on the spot in the form of his 90th-minute volley to give his team some hope on Thursday. Should Seattle mount any sort of comeback, it will have its Cuban talisman — steady all season and his entire career in rave green — to thank.