A week of anticipation about the resumption of the Sounders-Timbers series led to a game in which little was settled.
In their first Major League Soccer meeting, Seattle and Portland played to a 1-1 draw before a crowd of 36,593 – the largest to attend an MLS game at Qwest Field.
“It was a good battle,” said Sounders forward Nate Jaqua, a native of Oregon. “It was obviously very disappointing, having the lead the way we did. You would figure that we could close that game out and get a good victory, get three points at home, so that’s disappointing.”
The game did not disappoint in terms of atmosphere.
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By mid-afternoon, fans in Sounders gear were dotting the area from the stadium to Pioneer Square. Then, about an hour before kickoff, stadium ushers closed off the stairs from the north plaza to the end zone seating, as 500 visiting supporters from Timbers Army were ushered into their designated section. Finally, just before kickoff, the Emerald City Supporters unfurled banners depicting Sounders through the years: Jimmy Gabriel, Preston Burpo, Fredy Montero, Marcus Hahnemann, Brian Schmetzer and finally Roger Levesque amid other banners reading “Decades of Dominance.”
“I thought the atmosphere was great,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously you had their fans, so that something that normally you don’t have: a loud group from the opposing team. ... But at the end of the day, we’re at home. We need to get three points when we’re at home.”
The game was played in a steady downpour, and Portland seemed to get the better of the action through the scoreless first half.
But when Seattle opened the scoring in the 56th minute, it was longtime Timbers nemesis Levesque who started it with a cross to the top of the penalty area. There, Montero got his head to the ball ahead two Portland defenders, flicking it on to Alvaro Fernandez. With both time and space, Fernandez beat keeper Troy Perkins to the inside post.
Levesque had come on in the 42nd minute for Brad Evans, who suffered a right groin strain.
“I thought we scored a good goal,” Schmid said. “In the beginning of the second half we got a hold of the game based on what we talked about – settling the game down a little bit – which was hard in this weather. I think the weather suited them a little bit more in the sense that they just try to go direct anyway.”
Then, in the 65th minute, the Sounders’ scouting report came to life as Mamadou Danso headed in a free kick from Jack Jewsbury.
“We know they’re a dangerous team on set pieces; we talked about it all week,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “They started winning a few more set pieces in dangerous positions, and Jewsbury hits a great ball in, and they’ve got some big bodies in there. We’re a little frustrated because we all feel that we dropped our line a little bit too quick and let them get on top of us. You get a big kid like Danso in there, and he’s going to win some stuff. Unfortunately, he just beat me to the ball. I couldn’t quite get there quick enough, which is frustrating.”
The game played out scorelessly from there. The draw left Seattle at 3-3-5, Portland at 4-3-1.
“Better teams than us have lost here, and I think we played good football tonight,” Portland coach John Spencer said. “I think we showed a lot of character tonight. ... We had the Rose City jerseys on, we came back and got an equalizer.”
The teams meet again on July 10 in Portland.
But the rivalry continues in a smaller way today, as the Sounders and Timbers reserves will meet at 1 p.m. at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
The Sounders varsity returns to action at 7 p.m. Saturday, when Sporting Kansas City visits Qwest Field.