Clint Dempsey did it again. The forward scored an ugly, but fitting goal to lift the Seattle Sounders to a 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers on Sunday. It was the sixth time he'd scored against the Timbers and the fourth straight game against them in which he'd found the back of the net.
The chances were hard to come by for both teams, especially in the first half when no one seemed particularly interested in committing numbers forward. Obafemi Martins nearly pulled off another amazing goal, spinning around a defender and sending a ball through the box that beat Adam Kwarasey, but was too wide. That was about the best chance the Sounders could muster until Lamar Neagle had a little bit of space on the right wing, but his curling left-footed shot was pushed wide by Kwarasey.
The Timbers, content to pack the midfield and look for counters in the first half, showed much more life in the second half. Maximiliano Urruti forced Stefan Frei into his first save in the 51st minute, slipping a tackle and firing off a low curling shot from about 16 yards out.
That seemed to give the Timbers a spark, and they forced the Sounders onto their backheels for the next 20-odd minutes. Soon after, Diego Chara forced Frei into another save on a long-distance effort and Darlington Nagbe whistled a shot from about 22 yards out. The Timbers continued to press and actually appeared to take the lead in the 70th minute when Nagbe chipped a ball over the defense to Urruti, who buried his shot. But the goal was waved off as Urruti failed to hold his run long enough.
It was just eight minutes later that Dempsey found the winner. Andy Rose found himself with an open look from about 12 yards out off a long throw from Dylan Remick. Although Kawarasey was able to make a diving save of Rose's shot, he failed to control it and Dempsey was in the right place to clean up the mess.
The Timbers nearly equalized just a few minutes later, but Frei was able to push Fanendo Adi's header off the crossbar.
- Crazy as this may sound, but the Sounders barely missed Chad Marshall. Sure, the Timbers had some good looks, but most of them were from distance and not the kind of thing Marshall would have been able to do much about. Adi managed to get a couple good looks -- and Marshall would have been helpful there -- but Brad Evans and Zach Scott had a tidy match. Yes, the Timbers are not full strength. And sure, they haven't looked great on offense. Credit where it's due, though, the Sounders defense held firm and registered their fourth shutout of the season. It took the Sounders 14 matches to get to four shutouts a year ago.
- That said, another huge match from Frei. It seems so long ago that he was making game-changing mistakes, because he now looks like a confident keeper who controls his area and makes plays when he needs to. The stops on Urruti and Chara weren't exactly world class, but they weren't easy and he got just enough of Adi's header to keep it out. So refreshing.
- The offense is still a ways off from clicking. All the pieces are now here, so there's not an easy explanation. Credit to the Timbers for making life difficult in the middle of the park, but that only shines a light on how badly the Sounders need to be able to attack from the wings. Maybe they need more contributions from their fullbacks, both of whom were pretty well stuck in their own end in this one. This team can't simply rely on Dempsey and Obafemi Martins every week, though.