If you're looking for reasons to be optimistic, the stat sheet from the Seattle Sounders' 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Saturday is a good place to start. For a second, let's ignore that scoreline (and, yes, we're quite aware that is the only statistic that really matters). The Sounders really did play pretty good.
The Sounders had 20 shots to the Timbers' 10. The Sounders had about 60 percent of the possession. The Sounders had 11 corner kicks to the Timbers' 1. Just about anywhere you look on the stat sheet, the Sounders had the advantage.
Obviously, the Timbers were much better at maximizing their opportunities -- and that's a major issue -- but there's every reason to believe that if the Sounders can repeat this performance on Thursday that the result could be better.
There was also some encouragement to be found in individual performances. Osvaldo Alonso was an absolute beast, completing 54 of 59 passes and being seemingly everywhere on the field. Clint Dempsey, despite not scoring a goal, looked like the best player on the pitch. Diego Valeri was basically a non-entity. Will Johnson was not a huge factor.
All of this is surely of little solace, but it's at least reason to hope.
POR - Darlington Nagbe (Kalif Alhassan) 67'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (Shalrie Joseph, Brad Evans) 90'
Seattle Sounders FC - Marcus Hahnemann, Zach Scott (Mauro Rosales, 63), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Leo Gonzalez (Marc Burch, 84), Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Clint Dempsey, Adam Moffat (Shalrie Joseph, 77), Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle.
TOTAL SHOTS: 20 (Dempsey, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Dempsey, 2); FOULS: 13 (Alonso, 4); OFFSIDE: 1 (Johnson, 1); CORNER KICKS: 11 (Dempsey, 8); SAVES: 3 (Hahnemann, 3).
Portland Timbers - Donovan Ricketts, Jack Jewsbury, Mamadou Danso, Pa Modou Kah, Michael Harrington, Diego Chara, Diego Valeri (Kalif Alhassan, 61), Will Johnson, Darlington Nagbe (Ben Zemanski, 73), Ryan Johnson (Jose Valencia, 83), Rodney Wallace.
Substitutes Not Used: Milos Kocic, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Frederic Piquionne, Sal Zizzo.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (R. Johnson, 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (R. Johnson, 2); FOULS: 21 (Wallace, 5); OFFSIDE: 1 (Wallace, 1); CORNER KICKS: 1 (W. Johnson, 1); SAVES: 4 (Ricketts, 4).
POR - Rodney Wallace (caution) 44'
SEA - Lamar Neagle (caution) 48'
POR - Ben Zemanski (caution) 84'
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry; Mike Rottersman
4th Official: Drew Fischer
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Cloudy and 50-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach
(Opening statement...) "I thought from the run of play we did enough to deserve a result. Obviously our finish wasn't as sharp as Portland's-they finished far less opportunities than we had. Our finishing needed to be a little bit better... The goal at the end of the game was very important for us, it gives us an opportunity to go down there and win. I think when you look at possession and where the ball was on the field and who created more chances-whether it's corner kicks or things like that-we showed that we can carry the game, too. We just have to go down there and carry the game to them and score."
(On Portland's strategy...) "I thought they tried to counter and play very direct and just try to spring counters and try to take advantage of their fresh legs over ours. I think at certain times in the game and on the field we looked a little more fatigued, obviously, because it was our third game. Like I said to the guys just now, when we go to Portland we're going to be sharp, we're going to be rested, and we're not going to have heavy legs."
(On DeAndre Yedlin's status for Thursday...) "He'll be ready. It was touch and go today. But he's a young player, I've never really seen him play injured, so you don't know how he could carry though. A guy like Leo (Gonzalez) has played through a lot of pain and, as I said, 80% of players wouldn't play if they had the pain he had. But I know Leo knows how to manage his pain and play and so he gave us a good 75, 80 minutes out there. With DeAndre we weren't quite sure, but he'll be ready to go on Thursday."
(On Scott's injury...) "He got hit in the ribs. I don't know how he got in the ribs, it wasn't a foul, but he got he got hit in the ribs and it really tightened up on him and in the second half it felt tight, he made a movement, and he felt something pop."
(On Dempsey's health...) "I think for him it's not only his shoulder but also fitness. He has played three games now in a week without preseason so a little bit of fatigue [fatigue] affects your sharpness. Again, the way we created our system I think we create opportunities where we are in dangerous positions. At times we need to be a little more dynamic-take that risk in the final third, take that risk and take that shot. Maybe go for it a little more."
(On the late goal...) "It's an important goal because we are down by a goal, it's halftime of the game. We feel very confident we can go to Portland and win. Just as Portland came here and won, we feel very confident we can go there and win."
(On Mauro Rosales' performance...) "Mauro did well for us. He came in, we felt we needed to add something if we could and we knew that we could also get him on some set pieces. At first we brought him in centrally, he's just not very comfortable centrally. So we shifted back into a 4-4-2 with him and (Lamar) Neagle on the flanks, so he could attack on the flank a little more. For us right now it's just better to stay in the diamond."
(On defensive weaknesses...) "Obviously on the second goal I thought there were a number of times I thought we could win the ball-we could have double teamed the guy in the corner, we had a chance to win the ball. Djimi Traore probably needs to stay on his feet there. If you're going to leave your feet in the box you need to win the ball. He knows that, he's a veteran player. Early in the game we gave too much space to (Jack) Jewsury. Adam (Moffat) was tucked in too far, as was Leo. So Jewsbury got a number of touches, you saw in the second half that really disappeared... So he got forward, Ryan Johnson makes a good near post run, we don't follow him all the way and he hits the ball first."
(On Martins' status...) "We got to see where [Martins] is. Hopefully he will be able to play some in the next game. Obviously Lamar (Neagle) does a lot of work for us. Hasn't had the production, necessarily, but he has gotten close and has been unlucky at times. For sure we are going to miss his work rate, but we will figure it out.)
(On set pieces...) "Dempsey has been taking our corners for the last three games... I just didn't think we lined up well. We had chances to win some balls at the near post, and we didn't take advantage of that. Maybe he didn't work the corners as well as he may have liked, but it was either him or Brad (Evans) taking the corners and he felt comfortable hitting them. He was unlucky on his free kick in the first half as well."
(On Dempsey's fitness...) "I think you're going to see a guy pretty close to fitness next Thursday. This is a hard week. When you play three games you're certainly have built a lot of fitness, so we just got to give him a chance to recover and I think you'll see a fully fit guy on Thursday."
(On the number of offensive chances...) "When the ball doesn't go in the net, that's challenging. It's not like you sit there and we say 'are we tight in the first legs or whatever.' I thought we came out and we played. I thought they tried to sit back and counter early on and they had some success with that. I thought we carried the game to them. If we could have finished... Obviously the free kick of Dempsey in the first half, I think someone had a header, someone had a good header in the first half. There were times we were right around the box and our last pass just wasn't there. We got to execute that. In terms of dominating the game territorially, being in the right part of the field, putting pressure on them, I thought we did a job."
(On the team's mindset for Thursday...) "Our feeling is we were down by a goal at halftime-that's what we're talking about. We just got to go down there and play a good second half. We know we got to go down to Portland and win. It's no different. It's a one-off game that we got to win. If Portland comes out and says 'we're going to attack it from the back and play for a tie' that's obviously something Caleb Porter could choose to do."
(On the team's confidence...) "We lost 1-0 and I think we hit the crossbar three times. We feel confident we can go there and win."
(On Shalrie Joseph's appearance...) "He's been healthier, he's been training better. He was someone we kept on the bench in case we just needed a big option up front. He had won the flick on the throw-in that set up the goal for (Osvaldo Alonzo), so he gives us that. Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get into the game, and into the rhythm of that game, which was fairly end-to-end at that juncture, and we're changing systems again to put him into the game, but I thought he contributed on that goal, which was an extremely important moment for our team."
(On Marcus Hahnemann's performance...) "I don't think there was a whole lot he could do on the first goal and I don't think there's a whole lot he could do on the second goal. Outside of that, I thought he handled what he needed to do. His kicking was good and he didn't have a ton to do."
Osvaldo Alonso - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On his goal...) "That goal gave us the confidence to go down there and play our game. We will see what happens Thursday."
(On tonight's game...) "They just scored an early goal. We had some offensive opportunities that we missed, but we were able to score the late goal and that gives us an opportunity on Thursday."
(On getting ready for Thursday...) "We have to take care of our bodies. We have to relax before the next game.
(On the physicality...) "You have to know that a game between Portland and Seattle is going to be like that."
(On how important the late goal was...) "It was good because now we are only one down for the next game. It just gives us a chance to win the game."
(On if scoring late gives you more confidence for Thursday...) "Yeah, that goal makes you confident. Better to go down there down 2-1 instead of 2-0. Just one less goal that we have to score to advance to the next round."
Mauro Rosales - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On chances created giving the team confidence...) "Yeah, of course. Having the chances shows that we are in the right positions and moving the right way. Making chances for the strikers and making chances for anyone else gives us a way to win the game. This is why we have to keep the same mentality that we had this game. I think we are in a position where we can turn around."
(On getting the late goal...) "We know that the goal that we got is something that is really important for us. We have to stay positive. We didn't play a bad game. I think it was a really good game. Taking out the goals that came against us, I think the team played the way we did against Colorado. The energy and the willingness to put effort in the team was there. We had a couple of offensive chances that we missed, but I think scoring the late goal was really good for our team."
Marcus Hahnemann - Sounders FC Goalkeeper
(On the situation being down 2-1...) "When you see 2-0 up on the scoreboard that's not what you want to see. But it's a different concept for a lot of people to understand. Every time talk to somebody you have to explain it. But it's just total goals so it doesn't really change. Right now I know it's not nice but it doesn't change how we approach the game in Portland. We're still going to go out to win the game and that's all we have to do. If we win 2-1, 1-0 or whatever it is it goes on total goals and we go onto overtime, which is what we'd need to do anyway if we had a draw. Sometimes when you win (in the next game) you're playing for a draw it doesn't turn out so well normally. So it's better that you have to approach the game and you have to go win."
(On the mindset after Alonso's late goal...) "That goal was huge for us. We were so unlucky today. We hit the bar a couple of times. The one that Clint headed into the ground got cleared hit the bar. We were putting them under tons of pressure at that stage. The ref didn't see it; it happened so quick and gave them a goal kick that lets off the pressure a bit. Obviously that goal is huge for us."
(On Dempsey's chances...) "I think that's what we expect from Clint, creating chances. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they hit the bar and sometimes the keeper makes a really good save like on the free kick but eventually if you hit the ball on target enough it's going to go in. No matter how bad it is, it's going to go in eventually. We're creating tons of good chances and I think the game was exciting. The result is not what we wanted to see but we're creating a lot. And obviously I'm disappointed; I let in two goals today. That's pretty frustrating."
Clint Dempsey - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On the impact of Alonso's goal...) "Yeah it's important. Going into the last game you'd think out of two games that you'd have to win one of them if you wanted to advance so if we can win 1-0 and take it into overtime. You'd expect you'd have to win a game in a two game series to go through."
(On many chances tonight...) "Yeah, I had a free kick, he made a save for a corner. I had another free kick that hit the post. I had a left footed shot that went just wide. Then I had a header that hit someone on the line. It hit their knee; it ended up being a goal kick but it should have been a corner. Then I had the header at the end but I had my chances tonight. I was happy with the looks that I got and getting touches on the ball. It just seemed like one of those nights where it wasn't going to go in for me. It's important that we got the goal that we did get and like I said you'd think in two games that if you wanted to advance you'd have to win one of them and if we win 1-0 during regulation then that will take us into overtime. So, hopefully we can get the job done."
(On impact of preparation due to late goal...) "I mean it's going to be a difficult game but you have to go out there and play your best if you're trying to stay alive. You don't want to go home, you don't want it to end and out of two games you think you'd have win one to go through. We have to make sure we get the job done and I think we have the quality and with a few days' more rest because we've kind of been running and gunning here of late maybe that will help us do that."
Caleb Porter - Portland Timbers Head Coach
(On the game...) "You can put your hand up the puppet of stats and make them say whatever you want to say, so at the end of the day, we got the win, deserved the win, took our chances well, thought we defended well. They had a little bit more of the ball, but that was a little bit of the game plan we had. We wanted them to have a bit of the ball so we could roast them on counter-attacks and I thought we were very dangerous on the counter all day long and I thought we were organized. They didn't have very many clear looks outside of balls dumped in, long throw-ins. Obviously they got the goal on the long throw-in at the end, but for us to stop that team on the road with the talent they have and the freedom they're given to float around, they didn't get a goal from the run of play, so I think that's a real positive that we defended well against them. Again, they had some shots from distance. They didn't have a ton of great looks where they got in behind us, so I thought we were very organized and played a very pragmatic game on the road and at the end of the day it's a win on the road."
(On Portland's defense...) "They've been great, you know. They've been great. I mean, the last nine games now, they've been very tight, very organized. We haven't given up many goals; I think we've had six clean sheets. In the playoffs, you have to defend well and we're defending well and we're fine in goals also. Ryan Johnson comes in, hasn't highlighted as much recently and we called his name, put him in, he scored us a goal and worked very hard today. Obviously [Darlington] Nagbe showed what he's capable of, so we have different guys at different times that step up. We've done that all season long. I never know who's going to score, but I know there's someone that's going to score because, again, we're a team that plays together. We defend as a team, we attack as a team. I thought today, the result was fair."
(On the physicality of the match...) "No, that's soccer. There's going to be physicality in a high-level soccer game. I've never seen a high-level soccer game where it wasn't physical. You've got two good teams - teams that don't want to lose - our team refuses to lose, and Seattle's in our way right now. We want to move on in this tournament and Seattle's a team that we drew and we're one step away. We've got to obviously have a good performance next game - Thursday at home - but they've got to come in our home field and get a piece of us in order to get through, and I like our chances. Obviously we have to play as well as we did this game. We have to be as hungry. We have to fight as hard. We have to be as organized. But we can play better and I know we will play better at home."
(On the goal conceded...) "I mean, again, if you go into the game on the road you want to win if you can, you hope even maybe to get a draw, so again that puts us in the driver's seat coming back at home and now we're at home and we're in a great position. And if we win the game at home, then we're through. Simple."
(On his decision to start Ryan Johnson...) "We've got options up there, good options. Like I've said all along, we're going to pick the guy up top that we think fits the opponent we're playing and for me it made a lot of sense to go with Ryan Johnson. He's done well in training. He scored a goal off the bench last game. But more important than that, we felt his strength in the air, his physicality, his ability to hold the ball up, his athleticism, his pace and power was a good matchup against [Jhon Kennedy] Hurtado and [Djimi] Traore. There's some games where it's a better matchup for Jose [Valencia] There's some games it's a better match-up for [Frederic] Piquionne, and obviously Max Urruti's been injured, so we feel like we have four very good options and we'll continue to pick the guys we think fit the game."
(On defending well...) "I think it's the entire team. We defend from the front. Our front guys are the ones that initiate the pressure, so I think it's 10 field players and our goalkeeper that deserve credit for us defending well. It doesn't get to the backline a ton, but when it has recently, our center backs, our outside backs have been really good defending crosses, defending set-pieces and limiting the opponents' ability to get behind us and really break us down. They had a lot on the ball, but they really didn't penetrate a ton and I think that's the key. Mature teams, experienced teams on the road, you have to be able to absorb at times, that's just tactical football. You're naïve to think that you're just going to have the ball and be up the field in the front half for 90 straight minutes, on the road with 60,000 fans, playing a team that's been in the playoffs the last five years. I think for this team to come in here and to get a result says a lot about how far we've come. It says a lot about this team. It says a lot about how seasoned we are even though we've not been together very long."
(On the importance of getting the first early goal...) "First goal is always important. We've been emphasizing that recently. It's an important thing to do. If you can get the first goal, usually at the very least you tie or win. Most of the time, you don't lose, so I think that was crucial and it made them now have to open up. We talked about just being patient, that the second goal was in there if we were patient, which it was - we got the second goal - and in the end, they got a goal, but it doesn't change a ton."
Jack Jewsbury - Portland Timbers Defender
(On scoring the first goal...) "It's something, not just here in Seattle, it's something that we've harped on for quite a while; starting games well. There was a patch in the middle of the season we weren't doing that, and it's been a focus for us, so we were pressing. We wanted to start on the right foot and it was nice to get the goal early."
(On his assist...) "The reality is, me and Mikey (Harrington) pick and choose our time to go forward. We're not overzealous about it. If it's not on, we don't go for it. They were obviously really concerned with Darlington [Nagbe] in front of me. With him doing that, it opened up some space for me to get down the line a few times tonight. We've been working on our crossing. Ryan [Johnson] made a great run and I was able to find him."
(On Darlington Nagbe's goal...) "It got switched over to our side, Kalif [Alhassan] came inside and I overlapped and took [Leo] Gonzalez with me. Kalif ran at Adam Moffat and it opened up some space. He played a good ball, and Darlington [Nagbe] had an unbelievable first touch to get around the defender. It was a great first touch and a great finish. He's an unbelievable talent and a guy that's come along for us this year. I'm just so happy for him because he's such a great kid on and off the field as well."
(On settling an inexperienced team down early...) "This team is very confident right now. We're very comfortable in the way we're playing. We can morph into different teams depending how the game is going. If it's direct, we can fight with you. If it settles down, we can possess and go that way. It was a great start for us, very nice to get the goal, and especially nice to get the win."
(On heading home with a lead...) "It's a place that we've been very tough to beat and we feel good about our chances. We wanted to come here and push the game to get a win and we'll do the same at home."
Ryan Johnson - Portland Timbers Forward
(On his goal...) "The majority of the balls make it to that near post area. It was a good weighted ball and I did good enough to redirect it and it was a good finish."
(On making that run...) "It was just instinct. The odds of the ball making it to that far post run are a lot harder so the near post run is a good one. As a center forward, you want to first make that near post run, but you have to time it right. I hesitated and hesitated and then made my run and it worked out good. Those are things you practice all the time in practice and it worked out."
(On the importance of scoring an early goal...) "We always believe if we score the first goal, we're going to win the game. It definitely played true today. Going into halftime with a lead is huge for us."
(On winning and heading home...) "It's confidence. To come in first place gives us the confidence to know we can come here and get the result like we did. Now going back home where we have the best home record in the league, we're confident that no one is going to come there and beat us."