OK, so maybe it wasn't the best performance we've ever seen from the Seattle Sounders. They didn't dominate quite to the degree that some of us may have been thinking they would when we realized the Portland Timbers were going to be without their top two defensive midfielders. But there was a lot to like in the Sounders' 1-0 win on Sunday.
First off, beating the Timbers is not as easy of a task as it once was. The reality is that Caleb Porter's team has lost just four of their first 25 matches. No other team in MLS has lost fewer than seven. Less we think that being away from Jeld-Wen Field is the main reason, know that the Timbers have also lost a MLS-low three times on the road. Only one other team has lost as few as four times.
How the Sounders won is also worth noting. All the periphery stats said the Sounders were the better team. The Sounders had 52 percent of the possession, won 56 percent of the duels and completed about 30 more passes than one of the top passing teams in the league. They also out shot the Timbers 15-10.
Sure, the Timbers had their moments and easily could have scored a goal or two. But let's remember the Sounders blew some golden opportunities of their own and Donovan Ricketts had to come up with just as many big saves as Michael Gspurning. The Timbers talked a lot about how they "deserved" better, but I'm not entirely sure they really did.
And anyway, that doesn't really matter anymore. The Sounders moved into fifth place in the Western Conference, are just two points behind the second-place Timbers with two games in hand and are a bit closer to first-place Real Salt Lake than the eight-point gap suggests, as the Sounders have four games in hand on them.
SEA - Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales) 60'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Shalrie Joseph (Mauro Rosales 56), Lamar Neagle (Djimi Traore 90+1), Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson (Servando Carrasco 90+5).
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Johnson 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Johnson 3); FOULS: 10 (Alonso 5); OFFSIDE: 1 (Johnson 1); CORNER KICKS: 9 (Rosales 6); SAVES: 4 (Gspurning 4).
Portland Timbers - Donovan Ricketts, Alvas Powell (Sal Zizzo 82), Pa Modou Kah, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Michael Harrington, Jack Jewsbury (Ben Zemanski 86), Kalif Alhassan, Diego Valeri, Rodney Wallace, Darlington Nagbe, Ryan Johnson (Jose Valencia 61).
Substitutes Not Used: Milos Kocic, Rauwshan McKenzie, Ryan Miller, Steven Evans.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Alhassan, Johnson 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 players, 1); FOULS: 16 (3 players, 3); OFFSIDE: 2 (Johnson 2); CORNER KICKS: 9 (Valeri 8); SAVES: 2 (Ricketts 2).
POR - Pa Modou Kah (caution) 59'
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson, Adam Garner
4th Official: Tyler Ploeger
Time of Game: 1:55
Weather: Cloudy and 72 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
* Tonight's attendance is 67,385. This is the largest-ever for a soccer game in Seattle. It also marks the second-largest attendance in MLS history for a standalone match, and the third-largest worldwide this weekend.
* Seattle extended its club record unbeaten streak to 10 games (7-0-3), which is tied for the second-longest in MLS this season.
* Sounders FC is now unbeaten in 10 (8-0-2) all-time matches played in front of a crowd of over 40,000, outscoring opponents 21-7.
* Seattle is second in the West and third overall with 1.61 points per game. Seattle has lost just once in its past six outings (4-1-1).
* Eddie Johnson scored his sixth goal of the season, ranking second on Sounders FC. Johnson now has four goals in five games against Portland, matching Fredy Montero for the most goals versus the Timbers. Johnson now has six goals and one assist in nine Cascadia Cup matches against Portland and Vancouver.
* Mauro Rosales recorded his team-high sixth assist of the season, including his fourth game-winner. Seattle is now 23-2-7 all-time in MLS when Rosales scores (11) or assists (32).
* Sounders FC improved to 3-1-3 versus Portland in MLS play, including an unbeaten record of 2-0-2 at home. The two sides previously drew, 1-1, at CenturyLink Field on March 16. The third and final meeting is October 13 at JELD-WEN Field.
* Overall, Seattle is 42-28-11 in 81 all-time meetings against Portland soccer teams, dating back to the North American Soccer League in 1975.
* Sounders FC now sits first in the 2013 Cascadia Cup standings: Seattle (2-1-1, 7 pts.), Vancouver (1-1-2, 5 pts.), Portland (0-1-3, 3 pts.) The Timbers are the current-Cup holders after Seattle won in 2011.
* U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey made his home debut for Sounders FC.
* Four players in Seattle's starting lineup were on the original MLS roster in 2009: Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Zach Scott. Additionally, starters Leo Gonzalez and Lamar Neagle were on the Sounders FC roster in 2009.
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach
(On his thoughts of the match...) "Obviously we are happy with getting the win. It was a hard-fought game. It was an exciting game, for sure, for the fans. I thought it was a little more physical than it needed to be. That took a little a bit away from the quality of the game, but obviously we are pleased with being able to get a clean sheet. We are pleased the one goal was enough to give us the three points, because that was the most important thing."
(On Eddie Johnson's goal...) "Every player gets up to play in front of crowds like this. It was a good kick from Mauro, Eddie rose well to get a little redirection on it to beat Ricketts with it. He's one of the guys we look for on set pieces because we know he jumps well, along with some of the other guys going in there. Obviously it's the set pieces that sometimes make the difference in a tight game and any player is happy score in front of a big crowd."
(On the importance of the win...) "It's the three points, it's winning against our rival. Those things are important. We still have games in hand on people, so we continue to gain. But it's also just the team, the confidence, it's the first time we had Clint with Eddie up front."
(On the look of the offense...) "The only guy we were missing tonight was (Obafemi Martins). So once we get everything out there. I thought Lamar had a good game, so that triangle with Lamar on the left worked. He played well on the left, so we are starting to see how it's going to work and fit together when they are all on the field."
(On Dempsey's performance...) "We still are a little bit in preseason. I thought his energy was good [...] He is still gaining his sharpness and still gaining his fitness, but he is coming along. It was a hard game for him today. Stats say he got fouled four times, I thought he got fouled more than four times."
(On the record-breaking attendance...) "Today I drove in around 2:15, 2:30 and I already saw all green walking around [...] It was fantastic. When you're out there as the team marched out for the national anthem, you just look and saw everything full. I still pinch myself every time I see that."
(On the progressiveness of attendance...) "I think we're moving forward. I think we're getting there [...] You never really thought this was going to happen. You see our league moving forward, you see the continued support. I was watching TV, the Montreal game, and the fans there were fantastic in that game. But nobody compares to our fans, turnout in numbers like that is indescribable to me."
(On Dempsey's skills...) "There were a couple things he did. I know there were a couple "oohs" and "ahhhs" from the crowd and a couple of moves that he made. For him to know our guys and for our guys to know him it's going to take a few games. He's the kind of player who has really quick feet. Sometimes I watch him in warmups or watch him in practice and he does stuff that many people can't do."
(On deciding to rest Traore...) "We just thought (Djimi Traore) had some things bothering him and we felt it was beginning to affect his play. We figured if we could rest him on the turf game, next week we play on grass again and it would be better to rest him on the turf game."
(On deciding to start Zach Scott..) "His flat out commitment to every second of every game is something that sometimes helps our team."
(On the performance of Gspurning...) "I thought it was good. The saves he made early were fantastic. He stuffs Johnson on the breakaway and there was maybe one he came flailing out on the cross. Outside of that I thought he was pretty solid. He held what he needed to hold, he didn't bobble or give any rebounds. I think we were slow-reacting a couple of times, because Ricketts spilled two or three balls and we should have been a little more aware, and we're going to have to be a little bit better, but I thought Michael was pretty clean, with maybe one or two exceptions."
(On substituting Joseph...) "Shalrie tweaked his knee in the first half and played through it in the first half, and tried to see if he could play through it in the second half, so about six, seven minutes we felt he couldn't play through it. So we wanted to come with Mauro at that point and move Evans inside, because that was our best option. Mauro always supplies something for us on set pieces. Games are hard fought and there is a lot of challenges and a lot of tackles, and that is not always your strength as a player, but he certainly helped us with set pieces and should have had a goal as well when he come in on that one cross and came very close to a goal. He was definitely a plus for us coming off the bench. It's great to have a player like him to come off the bench."
Clint Dempsey - Sounders FC Forward
(On making his home debut...) "Yeah, the crowd was awesome. Anytime you play in front of 67,000 [67,385] fans, it's always like a dream come true. When you're a kid, that's what you dream about. Yeah, they were behind us the whole way and I think them pushing us helped us get that victory, get those three points. Now it's about getting on a good run of form, getting the points we need, and making the playoffs."
(On how Seattle-Portland compares to the other derby matches he's played in...) "It's up there. It's physical, it's reckless challenges, it's getting frustrated, it's battling through it, showing character-that's what you have to have in these types of games. Being able to push yourself to the limit, but not too far-you don't want to get a red card or stuff like that. I thought the team showed a lot of character, kept a clean sheet, and Eddie-that's what he does. He comes up in big moments and helps you score. I'm happy with the three points and it's always good to beat your rivals."
(On the physicality of the game...) "It comes along with it. It's going to be physically played. It's a man's game. You just have to keep getting up and try to figure out ways to avoid challenges and try to get good looks-try to play people through, try to get shots on goal. I'm happy with the way things are going. I feel like I'm getting stronger every game in fitness and my quality of touches, and the looks that I'm getting, and it's only a matter of time before it starts falling in the net for me."
(On if he thought Portland made it a point to be physical with him...) "They're a team that's aggressive, but also a team that has quality that. They did a good job of moving the ball around and keeping possession. For us, I thought we did a better job in the second half in the way that we moved the ball around, the way we kept it in the attacking third, the way that we created chances. We had a lot of corners and we got some set pieces from fouls, and that's what we ended up scoring on. It's always going to be like that when you play in derby games where you're playing against your rivals, nobody wants to lose; everybody's going to show that they came to play. Today I thought we had more quality and thought we deserved the win."
(On if the atmosphere lived up to the hype...) "Yes. The fans were great. It's awesome to play here, to play in front of 67,000 [67,385]. Like I said, it's what you dream about as a kid. Having their support, it helps you. They're the 12th man. We just have to keep going, stay confident, keep pushing, and that will help us get the goal."
(On if the atmosphere is comparable to what he'd seen in England...) "I'd say it's comparable to some things you see, but at the same time I'd say it's better. It's definitely more fans than what I played in front of at Fulham-their stadium didn't hold that many. That's why we're top 30 in the world as far as attendance. Playing in front of 67,000 [67,385] fans, that's not something everybody gets to experience."
(On his chances...) "Yeah, I tried. I had a little ninja-kick to try to put the ball in, wasn't able to get there. I had a bicycle [...] I had a header cleared off the line. I had a shot the keeper saved for a corner. Had a heavy touch in the first half, I could have done a little better with that. All in all I am getting good looks, just a matter of time before goals and assists start coming, but I happy with the touches that I was getting. More importantly I am happy the way the team played and getting three points. I don't care if I score at all, as long as we win. That's the most important thing."
(On transitioning to the team...) "You're getting used to the way they play. (I am) getting more training sessions and being able to build that team chemistry. Also my fitness is getting there. I am trying to play catch up. These guys are in midseason form and I'm preseason, so I'm trying to hit the ground running. But I am feeling good, getting stronger every game. The team has done well. I've played in three games, we have two wins and a loss, so hopefully we can build on those wins and get the points necessary to get to the playoffs."
(On playing this game after two games on the road...) "It's not about getting games out of the way, it's about enjoying it. I hope that there were more games. That's why I want to help this team and trying to get that push for the playoffs. Once you get in the playoffs, anything can happen. But I am enjoying being in the games I've been a part of, and I always look forward to the next game. The most important game is the one that's coming up and making sure you get the right points."
(On playing with national team members Johnson and Evans...) "Yeah, I would say them, Shalrie Joseph, Marcus Hahnemann, those are all guys I've played with before. I've played with Alonso, he's run enough for two people, Djimi Traore, who has had a great career, Obafemi Martins, I can just name the whole team, really. It's good to play with players you've played with before. It's made it an easy transition to the team because I haven't felt like an outsider. I have been able to joke around from the get-go, so it's great to be playing here and great to play with guys you've played with before."
Mauro Rosales - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On his thoughts on the match...) "It was good, we got the three points. We controlled many parts of the game. It was a great game, exciting game. Getting the three points in a rivalry, the confidence was great for us. 70,000 people to go along with it in the stadium, how good is that? Now everybody is going home happy."
(On the magnitude of this match...) "We needed these three points against Portland because they were up. And also for the Cascadia Cup and we are playing for the fans here. We want to keep moving. This is enough here and we want to keep moving and prepare for a big game against Columbus and everybody has to be ready again."
(On the record-breaking attendance...) "That doesn't surprise me anymore. These fans they made everything today and they've made everything the last five years... They are going to be here forever, it's something great for us. Being here at my age is a dream come true."
Eddie Johnson - Sounders FC Forward
(On his thoughts of the match...) "It was a difficult game. The beginning of the game they made it difficult for me. They did a good job of making me play with my back to the goal and capitalizing on too many touches. The game opened up in the second half and we got Mauro on the field, who is a good crosser of the ball, and we've had a good relationship since last year. It shows how important he is to the team. For me, I did what I get paid to do-score goals in the box."
(On scoring the goal...) "The ball got out wide to Mauro and I just had to attack. I knew it was going to be a frustrating game, but for me I wanted to use my experience and when the opportunity came rise to the occasion."
(On the importance of winning the match...) "It was a huge three points. But most importantly it was a derby game and we know important it is to these fans and how important it is to this organization. We want to win the Cascadia Cup."
Zach Scott - Sounders FC Defender
(On if there is anything sweeter than beating Portland...) "Soccer-wise no. Portland is not high on my list of things that I love, but soccer wise it doesn't matter how your season is going, if you beat Portland and win the Cascadia cup for your fans it is tremendous."
(On how you felt when you heard you would start the game...) "I didn't feel anything new. I prepare every week like I am going to start. If I ever get to the point where I feel like I am not the starter I will hang up my boots. That's not the type of guy I am. I am going to prepare like a starter and when that opportunity comes then I will be ready. It is that much sweeter to work your way back into the lineup when it is an opponent that you love playing against."
(On the large crowd...) "That was pretty cool. It was definitely up there on my list of amazing things I have been able to do because of soccer. The inaugural game for the Sounders was something pretty surreal and I feel like this tops that. 40,000 fans already seems so loud that adding 20,000 fans on top of that wouldn't be a big deal, but it felt like 67,000 fans out there."
Michael Gspurning - Sounders FC Goalkeeper
(On the game...) "68,000 [67,385] fans, playing Portland, playing a great game, awesome night. A night that I will remember in 20 years."
(On the crowd...) Absolutely. "We knew what we had to do for the fans. 68,000 [67,385] came to see us win and we wanted to win so badly. We gave everything we had and fortunately we got a great 1-0 win."
(On [Darlington] Nagbe's shot in the second half...) "I saw the ball and I went for it. It wasn't about me in that situation. There are so many guys who deserve credit because it was such a great team effort. Eddie [Johnson] made the goal, Mauro [Rosales] made a great cross, and all four defenders in the back were great. It was really a team effort today. It was absolutely fantastic."
(On Zach Scott starting...) "I think Zach [Scott] is born for these games. His physical play was a huge factor in the game."
Caleb Porter - Portland Timbers Head Coach
(On what the message to the team was after the game ...) "Well, we played well. It was a very even game. For us to come in to this environment and basically go toe-to-toe with one of the most talented teams in the league and control large periods. We had chances. It was a very even game and it was a real credit to our guys, especially with the fact that we had several guys out. For us to come into this game and play as well as we did and perform as well as we did is commendable. For me, that's going to be the case. We're not surprised 25 games, and that's part of the reason why we played as well as we did. This team takes the field believing that we can beat the Seattle Sounders with 70,000 fans and with three or four guys out. That's the expectation and that expectation is there because we've proven that home and away. We're going to continue to be in every single game we play, and not just hoping to win, but expecting to win. I thought the performance was good, the mentality was good. I thought especially in the first half, we controlled large periods. I thought at times we were the better team. But, in the end, we're going to keep suffering if we don't find goals and if we don't continue to sort out set pieces. This game will continue to be cruel and we'll continue to leave games feeling disappointed unless we find goals and unless we stop goals. With the way we play, with the way we built this team, with depth we have, with the mental toughness we have, with the fighting spirit we have in this locker room, we will go into every game, we will have the ball, we'll be tough to break down defensively and we'll be in positions to score goals. And yet, we won't win unless we find goals and we won't win unless we stop teams from executing set pieces. We made a jump as a team and we're pleased with where we're at, but at the same time, we're not satisfied and we want to continue to get better because moral victories for me, for these guys, for our owner, they're empty because we're good enough. If we weren't good enough, we'd be saying next year, we'd be saying we've come a long way, but we're not there yet. We're there. That was an even game. We're right there. It's not good enough - for me, the guys, anybody - for us to be saying at the end of games that we played well and lost because we are good enough to win these games. And we were good enough today. I thought we played well enough to win. But in the end, you don't deserve to win unless you find the goal and you don't deserve to win unless you stop guys from scoring on set pieces. And they know that and they realize that. These guys just have to step up individually and they will. We'll go into the game against Salt Lake, and like every game, we're going to have a ball, we're going to control large periods, it's going to be a tight game, an even game. And if we find the goal, we'll win the game. If we don't, then we'll suffer again."
(On how he thought the midfield performed ...) "I thought they looked good. Very few teams probably come in here, especially with 70,000 fans and guys out and control large periods of the game, and I thought we did that, especially in the first half. When they found the goal, then it becomes a different game. Now we're chasing, now we're gambling, now we're getting stretched. You don't want to be in that position with this team because they're very athletic and talented. With time and space they can hurt you. So I thought once they scored the first goal, to some extent, they had more time and space to operate, which is to be expected, because we're now pushing through to try and level it. But up to that point, we really looked to be the team that was in control, the team that was pushing the game, the team that was going to be in a position to win the game. Next thing you know, there's a set piece and the whole game changes. This is a game of moments. You lose a moment, you lose a game. You get punished. It's cruel. I thought we had good performances across the board really from everybody. But if you're an attacker and you don't score a goal, to some extent, how good of a performance was it? Ultimately you're paid to score goals. These guys played well, but they know that have to find goals somehow. And that's the next step in this club's evolution. The guys marking, on box defending, they know that they have to stop goals - that's what they're paid to do. It's a 1-v-1 battle, and in the end, we didn't do that job and they've got to step up, and they know that."
(On if he sensed a change in the way things were going just before the goal ...) "No, not really. Not at all. It was a counterattack on a foul, a set piece. It was a play that happened a lot. We had a ton of those - we had corner kicks, we had free kicks, probably more than they did actually. I don't need to see the numbers to know that was a very even game and for us to be able to do that at this stage of this club's evolution is a real credit to how far we've come. But none of us are satisfied because we are capable of winning these games. We've got to take it up another notch."
(On how frustrating it is to not finish and struggle defending set pieces ...) "I mean that's just soccer. We play the way we play so we're in a position to win, to score a goal. I'm not angry. It's just a reality. To see the way we play, we're right there. We were toe-to-toe with that team, but the difference was they found the goal. You're looking at chances created, you're looking at possession, you're looking at the way the flow of the game went - it's an even game. In the end, we've got to find the plays and make the plays."
(On how the game started...) "I think we actually had more of the ball than they did in the first half. The plan was to have the ball and the plan was when they had the ball, to launch counterattacks. When you play knowing both teams are pretty even, you have to prepare for when you don't have the ball. We prepared for when they got us deep, to launch counterattacks. We also prepared to have the ball and make them defend us, and I thought we did a good job of that. We ran them around. There were times when they ran us around - it was an even game. That's all you can ask for. When you put your game plan and your lineup together, and prepare your team to go into a game of this magnitude against a team of this caliber, you can only hope to be in a situation where you're in the game and it's 0-0 at halftime and to start the second half, and we're not hanging on. We're controlling periods and they're controlling periods as well. But in the end, you're in a position to win. And you only win if you stop set pieces."
Michael Harrington - Portland Timbers Defender
(On the team's weakness in the game...) "There was a moment there in the second half we're getting beat on a set piece. That seems to be kind of a recurring theme over the last month or so where we're dropping points because we're not making plays in moments like that. So, a good performance, it's just that you got to make plays in the boxes on both sides of the field."
(On whether the team is feeling frustration in not winning games...) "Yeah, of course. It's always frustrating when you feel like you outplay a team and then you don't get opponents and we feel like we should be winning these games instead of tying them or losing them like we did tonight. So yeah, it becomes frustrating, but we'll stick with it. We'll continue to play the way that we've been playing. We just need to be a little bit more ruthless on both sides of the ball in the boxes."
Ryan Johnson - Portland Timbers Forward
(On his performance and the performance of his team overall...) "The keeper came out pretty fast on my one chance I had. And then the header back post [...] When I got my head on it, I swore it was in, but somebody got a piece on it, deflected it out. It's just one of those games that the chances just didn't go in. We're going to keep fighting. We got more games for the season. We'll be fine. We'll be in the playoffs at the end of the day."
(On how he felt the Timbers handled the game...) "We're right there. We know we're a good team. Everybody knows that we're a good team. We're just showing it, and we can handle the pressure. They finished their chance tonight and we didn't; that was just the difference. Next time, I think we'll be on top."
Darlington Nagbe - Portland Timbers Forward
(On what happened that Portland couldn't pull out the win...) "We played well the first half. I had a couple of chances, I had a breakaway and I hit the post. We just weren't fortunate to be up a goal at halftime. I thought we played well and were just unlucky in a set piece."
(On how Eddie Johnson managed to score the goal...) "I'm not too sure. I was marking Eddie Johnson, but it was a good ball in the box and Eddie got a head to it and flicked it in."
(On whether Portland controlled the game...) "Overall I felt like we had good possession during the whole game, and had some chances in the first half. The first half was big for us. If we just would have went away and got a goal in the first half, I feel like we would have come out in the second half and got more control of the ball and controlled the game, but when they got that first goal, it changed the game a little bit."