SEATTLE — For a team that’s now gone 11 straight without a loss, the Seattle Sounders probably aren’t feeling too good about themselves right now. After grabbing the lead with a first-half goal from Cristian Roldan, the Sounders gave up a penalty at the very end of the first half and were forced to settle for a 1-1 tie with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.
Even worse, Nouhou picked up a red card in stoppage time and barring the Disciplinary Committee overturning the questionable call, he’ll miss the Sounders’ next game on Sept. 10 against the LA Galaxy.
The Timbers visited the Sounders for the third MLS matchup of the Cascadia rivals, and there was even more than regional pride at stake. The home side came into the match in first place in the West with 41 points, while the visitors sat barely below them with 40 points and one more game played.
Seattle came into the match with few issues on the injury front, and fielded pretty close to a first-choice team. Seattle changed things up for the away match in Vancouver on Wednesday, but we saw a pretty similar XI to the one fielded against Sporting KC. Osvaldo Alonso is back from injury and into the starting lineup, and Nouhou replaced Joevin Jones.
The game started a bit brightly, with the Timbers jumping onto the front foot and earning three corners in the opening minutes, but they did nothing with the opportunities. Seattle settled things down and kept the Timbers at bay, though the visitors did all they could to rattle the home side with some choice fouls (called and uncalled) in the first 15 minutes.
After one such foul was finally punished when Sebastian Blanco saw yellow for an elbow into Kelvin Leerdam’s face, the Sounders picked up the pace and controlled things in the Timbers half. Nicolas Lodeiro took the first corner of the game for Seattle and, after the ball bounced around a bit between players on both teams, Cristian Roldan poked the ball into the net to open the scoring in the 18th minute.
Portland roared back after the goal in an attempt to even things up, but the Seattle defense kept them at bay. Things stayed pretty even for the rest of the half until, right as injury time kept in when Stefan Frei was judged to have fouled Darren Mattocks near the goal. Referee Mark Geiger gave the Timbers a penalty, which Diego Valeri dispatched in the 47th minute.
Seattle nearly came out of the blocks with a goal in the opening minutes of the second half when Clint Dempsey sent Jordan Morris through on goal with a perfect through ball, but Morris’ effort was weak and right at goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. After a pretty even spell of play, the Sounders had a huge chance from a set piece when Lodeiro was brought down about 15 yards outside the box. Dempsey took the chance directly, but it flew straight at the wall. Minutes after, Nouhou made a great run and cross to Roldan in the box, but the midfielder took too many touches and his shot was blocked.
Morris had yet another chance like his earlier one after he made a terrific run to beat the offside trap and latch onto a Lodeiro through ball, but his shot was again straight at Attinella. Brian Schmetzer made his first change of the night in the 60th minute, bringing on Victor Rodriguez for Will Bruin. Caleb Porter also made his first substitution, making clear his plans for the match by bringing on defender/midfielder Lawrence Olum for Dairon Asprilla.
While neither side had any brilliant chances after, the Sounders certainly controlled possession and had the better opportunities for most of the second half. The Timbers looked set to park the bus for much of that time, but they did nearly take advantage of a couple of Sounders defensive mistakes. A great chance came for Lodeiro just after 80 minutes, when Rodriguez put in a great cross from the right side, but the Uruguayan was surrounded by defenders and had his shot blocked from close range.
Schmetzer made another sub in an effort to find a go-ahead goal, bringing Lamar Neagle on for Morris in the 83rd minute. Portland had a couple chances from a free kick and corner kick after, but they failed to capitalize on either.
As the Sounders pushed and pushed in the dying minutes, they had multiple chances that came extremely close—and including a couple potential hand balls. One, in particular, clearly struck the arm of Timbers defender Zarek Valentin, but no call was made. Geiger added insult to injury when he decided to send off Nouhou for a supposed hand to the face on Diego Chara—a player who never dives, right?
The Sounders’ hopes of reclaiming the Cascadia Cup are also on a bit of life support, as they would need to beat the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sept. 27 and would then likely need the Whitecaps to beat the Timbers in their final matchup.