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Sounders vs. Timbers recap: Early Cristian Roldan goal proves enough

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This was just the third 1-0 result in the Sounders-Timbers rivalry during the MLS era.

Photo credit - MikeRussellFoto

SEATTLE — There was nothing particularly attractive about the game, but the three points count all the same for the Seattle Sounders. After scoring a 4th minute goal on a Cristian Roldan header, the Sounders were mostly content to let the Portland Timbers carry the play.

The Portland Timbers will likely feel a bit hard done. Not only did they have reasonable shouts for a couple handballs in the box, but they outshot the Sounders 19-8. Few of them caused the Sounders much trouble, though.

It did not start out so pedestrian.

Despite the holiday weekend and early kickoff time, the Sounders’ first matchup with their rivals to the South managed to live up to the hype before the match even started—and it got even crazier minutes into the match. The Sounders were missing a couple of key players, but their starting XI was pretty close to first choice. The Timbers, however, were missing a big part of their midfield: Diego Chara. His foolish sending off against Montreal last week earned him a suspension for this match. Chara’s presence was sorely missed, and the Sounders managed to eke out a 1-0 win over their rivals after Cristian Roldan’s very early goal.

Perhaps buoyed by the crowd and the rivalry buzz, the Sounders came out flying from the first minute. A deep shot from Nicolas Lodeiro forced Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson into an acrobatic save that nearly rolled into his own net. Luckily for the Sounders, it earned them a corner. Chad Marshall flicked Lodeiro’s corner across the face of goal to Roldan, reacted perfectly and was able redirect the ball into the net despite a defender draped all over him to put the Sounders up 1-0 early.

The Timbers had a strong spell of possession following the goal, but the Sounders defense was equal to everything thrown at them. A short injury break after Portland’s David Guzman tackled Clint Dempsey near the Portland box allowed both teams to catch their breath. Portland flew right down the pitch after the stoppage and nearly had a shot on goal, but Diego Valeri missed Sebastian Blanco’s lofted cross by inches. Seattle showed off some slick passing in the Portland box about 30 minutes into the half, but it only resulted in a Harry Shipp shot that barely went over the bar.

A long spell of tepid soccer from both teams followed, including more than a handful of stoppages for injuries and a very curious yellow card to Stefan Frei for time wasting. Both teams lost the ball constantly, and the Timbers gave the home side more than a couple scares. The best of which came from a corner with just minutes left in the half, but the final ball skewed wide. A little kerfuffle started between Roldan and Blanco after the latter tackled the former, but no action was taken by the referee beyond a free kick for the original foul.

Seattle entered the second half without making any substitutions, but Portland took off David Guzman and replaced him with Amobi Okugo. Guzman may have taken an elbow from Dempsey late in the first half, but it’s not certain if the substitution was for that or for tactical reasons. The away side had a few early chances, notably two free kicks from just outside the box on that they couldn’t capitalize on.

After a fairly uneventful stretch in which Portland was convinced of a handball by Chad Marshall in the box, the Sounders had a great free kick opportunity of their own. Lodeiro’s shot was nearly perfect, but it flew less than a foot over the bar. Frei had to make an awkward charge out of his box afterwards, barely beating Fanendo Adi to clear the ball from the forward’s feet.

Another dangerous set piece from the Sounders nearly saw them find a second goal, but Marshall headed Lodeiro’s corner a bit too high. Morris showed some excellent control in the Portland box after latching onto a through ball, but he didn’t make a decision fast enough and gave Gleeson time to get in position to block the pass. Another great opportunity from a through ball fell for Morris as he tore down the pitch with defenders nipping at his heels. Despite the tugging and pushing, Morris didn’t go down and the referee didn’t whistle for a foul, and his eventual shot came to nothing.

Both sides tried to push for goal late in the half, but there very few clear opportunities for either side. At one point, Roldan took a dangerous kick from Dairon Asprilla to the neck/face/chin, but the referee didn’t deem it more than just a foul. The Timbers, desperate for a goal, were baited into a number of fouls and mistakes that killed nearly any chance they had to get on the scoresheet. The Sounders held strong in the dying minutes to keep it 1-0 and take a valuable three points from their rivals.

The win allowed the Sounders to move within two points of the fifth-place Timbers and three points out of second. They’ll next face the Columbus Crew on Wednesday.