PORTLAND – Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers will start meeting regularly again next season when Portland joins Major League Soccer.
But when the U.S. Open Cup brackets threw them together Wednesday night, they gave Northwest soccer fans plenty to look forward to with a thrilling match that was even through regulation, even through 30 minutes of added time, and wasn’t settled until Seattle’s Zach Scott’s final penalty kick went into the back of the net.
“It’s still butterflies going up there, but it’s a good feeling,” Scott said. “I’m just trying to concentrate on repetition. That’s really what PKs are: Just do the same thing every time you’re up there. I knew where I wanted to go the whole time. It was just a matter of following through.”
What Scott did was go high and right into the net, where Timbers’ goalkeeper Steve Cronin had no chance.
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That finally gave the victory to Seattle, which converted four penalty kicks to Portland’s three after the clubs had played to a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.
And it all played out before a chanting sellout crowd of 15,422 at PGE Park.
“These fans, though somewhat a bit R-rated, are phenomenal,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “It’s going to make for one of the best rivalries in sports.”
With the victory, the Sounders advance to the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, where they will play host to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday at Starfire Sports Stadium.
The Sounders-Timbers rivalry dates to 1975, when both franchises were part of the North American Soccer League. It seemed to end last season when Seattle moved to MLS. However, the teams were matched in last season’s Open Cup, with the Sounders’ win helping propel them to the tournament title.
If MLS scheduling remains unchanged, the teams will meet home and away in league play starting next season.
“I think this is going to be one of the premier games next year in this league,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said before the game. “The game Seattle-at-Portland and the game Portland-at-Seattle will be two of the games. They can talk about the Classico in L.A., but I don’t think it’s going to compare to what’s going on here.”
Schmid used the Open Cup match as an opportunity to rest his regulars … or to give opportunities to his reserves. Either way, the only familiar faces in Seattle’s starting lineup belonged to goalkeeper Kasey Keller and defender James Riley. The rest of the starters were Tyson Wahl, Scott, Taylor Graham, Nathan Sturgis, Michael Seamon, Sanna Nyassi, Miguel Montano, Nate Jaqua and Roger Levesque.
Portland coach Gavin Wilkinson went mostly with his first team.
Seattle got on the board first when first-time starter Seamon passed down the far side to first-time starter Montano, who crossed to Nyassi in the box on the far side. He headed it on to Jaqua, who headed it into the net.
“I think Montano played a real good ball in and Sanna spotted me and was kind of able to cut it back,” Jaqua said. “It was a little far, but he was able to cut it back right on my head and I was able to put it by Cronin.”
However, the Sounders created their own problem in the 38th minute, turning the ball over in front of their goal. Ryan Pore passed to Bright Dike who slipped it past the diving Keller for the equalizer.
That held up until the PKs, but there was plenty of excitement along the way.
Seattle dominated the final minutes of regulation. However, the best chance came from a Timbers counterattack, which ended when Graham made a dangerous sliding tackle in the penalty area, stripping the ball from Dike.
Graham wasn’t so fortunate a few minutes later when he received his second yellow card, forcing the Sounders to play the last 19 minutes short.
Before meeting the Galaxy in Open Cup play next week, the Sounders will return to league play Sunday at league-leading Los Angeles.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more on the U.S. Open Cup match, go to: blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer