The Seattle Sounders’ troubles in the first leg of MLS playoff series continued tonight with a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field.
The result gives the Sounders a one-goal deficit to overcome Thursday when the aggregate-score Western Conference semifinal resolves in Portland.
Through six aggregate-score series over their five MLS seasons, the Sounders have been outscored 9-1 in the opening legs.
The trend continued Saturday as Portland scored the first two goals before the Sounders finally lightened their load with a goal by Osvaldo Alonso in the 90th minute.
Portland broke through against the run of early play in the 15th minute, when Ryan Johnson got his head on a cross from Jack Jewsbury and redirected it into the goal from a tight angle.
The Sounders almost answered five minutes later, when Clint Dempsey put at free kick into a top corner, but Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts managed to knock it over the bar. Dempsey had another near chance a few minutes later, but this time he sent the free kick just high.
The score lingered unchanged into the 67th minute, when Portland connected again. This time Darlington Nagbe made space with a sharp turn away from his defender in the box and beat goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann to the far side.
After that, Seattle had several chances to lessen its load for the resolution match. An Eddie Johnson header went just wide, a Dempsey rebound from 10 yards was fired wide, and in the closing minutes a Dempsey header bounce off the crossbar.
Nothing got through until the final minute of regulation when Alonso took a rebound in front of the goal and fired past Ricketts. It ended a streak of 371 shutout minutes for the Portland defense.
Seattle went without two players who had started the midweek win over Colorado. Right back DeAndre Yedlin was held out due to an ankle injury suffered against the Rapids. And Hahnemann was forced into the starting role due to No. 1 keeper Michael Gspurning picking up a red card in Seattle’s knockout round victory over Colorado.
Gspurning will be eligible for the resolution game, which starts at 8 p.m. Thursday at Jeld-Wen Field. However, midfielder Lamar Neagle will miss that one after picking up his second yellow card of the postseason on Saturday.
If the Sounders manage to even the aggregate score by the end of that match, there would be an additional 30 minutes of play. If the score remains even, the series would be determined by penalty kicks.
Over its history, Seattle has done better in the second leg of series, outscoring their opponents 6-4. However, they have lost four of those five previous series.
I’ll be back with notes and locker-room reaction.
90′ GOAL Seattle. Osvaldo Alonso sends in a rebound from in front of the goal, cutting Portland advantage to 2-1.
67′ GOAL Timbers. Nagbe scores, and suddenly Sounders down 2-0 in series with second leg in Portland.
63′ Rosales on for Zach Scott. Evans shifts to right back.
Second half: … is under way. No changes.
Halftime: Portland, 1-0. Sounders’ Clint Dempsey came close on a couple of free kicks — one saved, one just high — but not much dangerous happening in run of play.
Shots, 9-7 SEA; on target, 3-2 POR; corners 8-0 SEA; fouls 9-8 POR; possession 56% SEA.
15′ GOAL Portland. Ryan Johnson redirects Jack Jewsbury ball at hyper-tight angle. Timbers, 1-0.
First 15 minutes: Majority of play on Sounders’ attacking end. No score, or great chances.
First kick: … has been struck. We’re under way.
Lineups: Sounders starters: Hahnemann; Gonzalez, Hurtado, Traore, Scott; Alonso, Evans, Moffat, Dempsey; Neagle, Johnson. Reserves: Herrick, Burch, Estrada, Joseph, Rosales and Rose.
Timbers first 11: Ricketts, Jewsbury, Danso, Kah, Harrington, Chara, Valeri, W. Johnson, Nagbe, R. Johnson, Wallace. Reserves: Kocic, Alhassan, Jean-Baptiste, Piquionne, Valencia, Zemanski, Zizzo.
Pregame: It is rainy but not raining at CenturyLink Field, about two and a half hours before the 7:23 p.m. first kick of the first leg of the Sounders-Timbers playoff series.
Coverage on NBCSN will begin at 7, and the game will be heard on the usual radio outlets. I’ll blog it here, with additional comments on Twitter @donruiztnt.
The pitch: The picture above shows the combined NFL and MLS field that the Sounders and Timbers will play on tonight in the first leg of their MLS aggregate-score series.
The Sounders didn’t train on the pitch this week. Here’s what coach Sigi Schmid had to say when asked if there could be any confusion for the players, or any implications other than the esthetic nightmare.
“Obviously you’d always prefer not to because it’s better for TV and everything else, and I think the sport has come a long way in this country in that that used to be the common sight,” he said. “For sure it was the common sight when you look back at the old NASL days. It’s become an uncommon sight. Unfortunately with the scheduling with our game happening when it is, with the Seahawks game happening the next day, the organization has always been very good about trying to avoid the football lines whenever possible. If it would have been avoidable they would have done it. Unfortunately, it’s not. We want our guys to take a look at it before the game just so they have a feel for it, and then it is what it is. It should be easy for the referee to figure out 10 yards, though.”