PORTLAND, Ore. — There isn’t a team in the world Clint Dempsey seems to take more joy in scoring against than the Portland Timbers. He did it again on Sunday, and this one may have stung the worst.
Dempsey’s 94th minute header -- from a Roman Torres cross, no less — allowed the Seattle Sounders to escape with a point despite playing the entire second half down a man. Brad Evans was sent off in the 44th minute for effectively denying a goal-scoring opportunity, which also led to a penalty and allowed the Timbers to equalize. The Timbers actually grabbed another right before halftime, when Dairon Asprilla headed in a corner.
Seattle arrived in Portland with nearly all first choice players available, but coach Brian Schmetzer opted to start Dempsey on the bench, keep Gustav Svensson in midfield, and push Cristian Roldan to attacking midfield. The Timbers were missing a couple of players to suspension, Sebastian Blanco and Roy Miller, but were otherwise at mostly full strength.
Even though kickoff time was moved to the evening to help protect players from the heat, it was still quite warm (and humid) at Providence Park at game time. The game kicked off fairly evenly, with the Sounders sustaining attacks well but not getting into any truly dangerous positions. The Timbers had the first real chance of the game after Svensson’s giveaway at midfield allowed them to counter with speed, but Fanendo Adi’s shot was saved by a flying Stefan Frei.
Seattle’s onslaught of the Portland goal continued, and mistakes by the defense allowed them even more chances. Roldan set up Svensson for a clean shot from the top of the box, but a deflection sent the ball out for a corner. Things stayed pretty even until the 27th minute when Joevin Jones led a counterattack charge down the pitch to open the scoring. Jones rushed down the the left and took a shot that Gleeson deflected right back into space in front of Jones, who fired the rebound into the back of the net.
Things got even more interesting near the end of the half, when the Sounders defense crumbled. It started when Torres slipped trying to clear a header, which left Darlington Nagbe looking at an open chance. Evans tried to recover, but took down Nagbe from behind. Referee Ricardo Salazar deemed it worthy of a penalty to Portland—and a red card for Evans. Adi converted the penalty to put things level in the 45th minute. Seattle was clearly smarting from the goal and sending off, and the Timbers continued their onslaught into injury time. Dairon Asprilla managed to break free of his marker in the box on a corner kick, and headed the ball into the near post to put Portland up 2-1 just seconds before the end of the half.
Despite going down a man before halftime, the Sounders didn’t make any substitutions going into the second 45, though Roldan started the half at right back in Evans’ absence. Seattle managed to hold their own in the opening minutes of the second half, but they were clearly smarting from the go-ahead goal and it took some time for them to get their feet under them in attack. Schmetzer finally made some changes in the 57th minute, bringing on Dempsey for Morris and Nouhou for Jones; apparently Jones is having problems with his knee that required injections before the match.
Both Sounders substitutes had an immediate impact on the match, including a solo run by Dempsey that was thwarted in the box just before he took a shot. Minutes later Dempsey saw Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson slightly off his line and fired off a deep lob that came in just over the bar.
Another defensive problem almost cost the Sounders again just before the 70th minute, when a miscommunication between Roman Torres and Stefan Frei nearly allowed the Timbers to poke the ball into the net. Seattle had a scare of a different sort minutes after, when a clearance in the box nailed Chad Marshall in head and forced the referee to immediately call for medical staff. After a lengthy delay, medical staff cleared Marshall to return to the pitch with less than 20 minutes to go.
It looked like Seattle might have a legitimate chance in the 83rd with a free kick in a dangerous spot outside the corner of the box, but Lodeiro’s effort flew pretty high over the bar. Schmetzer made his final sub in the 87th minute, bringing on Aaron Kovar for Bruin in an attempt to snatch a last-minute equalizer. The Sounders had been creating some decent half-chances before, but it was all Timbers in the dying minutes as the Sounders did all they could to just hang on.
Seattle threw numbers forward in injury time in sheer desperation, and it finally paid off. With just minutes to go, Torres collected the ball on the right wing and fired in a deep cross into the box. Amidst the many white and green shirts jostling in the box, Dempsey came up big and headed it in to make it 2-2.
Dempsey has nine goals in nine career games against the Timbers, the most he has against any club team.