A very different lineup tonight from Sigi Schmid for the Sounders came into Portland needing a win to secure the Cascadia Cup and a spot in the playoffs, in addition to reclaiming the lead in the Supporters Shield race. That didn't happen.
Despite having some clear cut scoring chances in the first half, it was the Sounders who went into the locker room trailing at halftime after Kalif Alhassan scored the game's only goal off a second ball at the top of the 18 yard box on a Portland free kick. The Sounders were caught defending too deep on the set piece and DeAndre Yedlin failed to close down Alhassan before the shot was slotted past Marcus Hahnemann just inside the near post.
Dempsey injured his shoulder earlier in the first half and, after playing through the pain for awhile, had to come out of the game for a couple of minutes to have it wrapped up so he could remain in the game. After the injury, Dempsey seemed slower and less effective than he was earlier in the first half.
Seattle struggled to string together accurate passes in the attacking third. Lamar Neagle often waited too long to get rid off the ball, losing possession with passing options available to him on multiple occasions. With Dempsey playing through an injury, Neagle's lack of ability to hold the ball hurt Seattle's ability to keep possession and create chances.
In the 72nd minute, the game began to get ugly. As Jhon Kennedy Hurtado picked up a yellow card for a foul on Darlington Nagbe, Osvaldo Alonso got into an altercation with Will Johnson in which Johnson bumped Alonso from behind after which Alonso appeared to elbow Johnson in the side of the neck. Johnson may have embellished the contact, as he grabbed his chin and dropped to his knees, but there was clearly contact. Alonso was sent off after referee Hilario Grajeda consulted with one of his assistant referees, with every Sounder protesting the decision.
Seattle was forced to play the final 15 minutes of the match plus stoppage time with 10 men. Despite being a man down, the Sounders were able to create some dangerous opportunities after Steve Zakuani entered the match in the 78th minute. The best chance of the game for the Sounders came on an open shot Zakuani had near the penalty spot that was deflected by a Portland defender onto the crossbar and eventually cleared.
The loss by Seattle means that they will have to try to clinch a playoff spot in Dallas next weekend without the services of Osvaldo Alonso in the midst of a 5 game winless streak. Some positives that can be taken from this match is the much improved focus and organization on the back line. This could be partially due to the return of Leo Gonzalez or the change to Hahnemann at goalkeeper (who started against Portland for the first time of his career tonight).
The focus now shifts away from the Cascadia Cup and Supporters Shield and toward how the problems with this team can be fixed in time for the playoffs. Getting healthy will probably be the biggest key heading into the playoffs.