PORTLAND, Ore. — The curse of late goals struck again. For the third time in four road matches, a post-80th minute goal forced the Seattle Sounders to drop points. This time, it was Sebastian Blanco’s 87th minute goal that snatched away what would have been a well-deserved tie.
The Sounders had some decent looks going forward, but ultimately were forced onto their heels for much of the second half until finally breaking when Samuel Armenteros split a couple defenders to put Blanco in on goal.
The loss leaves the Sounders with four points from a brutal three-game stretch in nine days, but also on just eight points through nine matches heading into a bye next week.
For a large portion of the middle third of the match, the Sounders seemed to find some room to run on the left side. Twice Nouhou found himself in space with open looks on goal. His first, in the 43rd, came after a Magnus Wolff Eikrem started a counter. But Nouhou’s shot went wide. Then right after halftime, Nouhou again got loose on the left only to fire a short directly at Jeff Attinella.
The game started to turn a bit after Nouhou came off in the 60th minute with an ailment that seemed to baffle head coach Brian Schmetzer. Jordan McCrary was forced to deputize and did get forward a few times, but the relative lack of cohesion started to slow as the Timbers started to regain momentum.
Shortly before Nouhou came off, Gustav Svensson made what was shaping up as the play of the match when he somehow managed to poke away what looked to be an open look by Diego Valeri.
The Sounders’ defense was dealt another blow around the 72nd minute when Kim Kee-hee sustained an elbow that required stitches to his head and had to be removed. Handwalla Bwana entered, with Jordy Delem taking Kim’s spot along the backline.
The once highly organized Sounders backline started to show a bit more bend at that point, and finally broke in the 87th minute. Cristian Roldan first failed to win a 50-50 with Armenteros, then Delem stepped a bit early and allowed Blanco to get goalside. That left Svensson as the last line of defense and was just a beat to late to react, allowing Blanco an unimpeded chance.
Goal number five of 2018 from Blanco was an absolute beauty. #PDXSEA100 #RCTID pic.twitter.com/9hTpG5ZG9x— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) May 13, 2018
Signs of life
- Say this for the Sounders in their last four road games: They’ve competed and shown no signs of quitting. If not for a mental lapse in Kansas City, they likely get three points there; if not for a rare physical mistake by Stefan Frei at LAFC, they get a point there; they were deserving 2-1 winners in Toronto; and a point would have been a perfectly fair result in Portland. Yes, they were out shot 10-5, but they also held a 13-8 tackles advantage and won the 17 more duels than the Timbers.
- In other words, if you’re looking for something to build on, the Sounders’ road form has shown some marked improvement over the first few games.
Not rewarding themselves
- Schmetzer has talked about players needing to reward themselves and the Sounders keep failing to do that. Whether it’s an inability to find the net at home against the Crew or games like this where one late mistake sinks them, the Sounders just aren’t doing enough to get the results they need to turn their season around.
- There are some signs of some locker room strife. Waylon Francis was left in Seattle for reasons Schmetzer declined to elaborate on; Schmetzer was clearly frustrated with Nouhou who apparently pulled himself off the field; and Frei seemed to be calling up some unnamed teammates for not doing everything they could to keep their bodies in shape and get back onto the field.
- It was a different sort of frustration, but Schmetzer also called out youngsters like Handwalla Bwana and Henry Wingo for not doing more to influence the game. In about 20 minutes, Bwana only managed six touches. In his one promising moment, he dribbled into the box but couldn’t pull the trigger on a shot. Wingo was a touch more active in his 12-plus minutes, but only managed one touch in the offensive third and that was a backwards pass. Some ups and downs can be expected for players like this, but they do need to learn from these types of performances.
It was physical
- Robert Sibiga was at least consistent in that he was allowing a lot of physical play, but there could be some disciplinary action after the match. Delem probably should have been sent off for his tackle on Valeri and Liam Ridgewell seemed to be getting some retribution on Delem later in the game. Sibiga actually went to VAR after Blanco’s stoppage-time tackle on Delem, but that seemed to be no worse than the third toughest tackle of the match.
4-3-2-1: Antinella; Valentin, Ridgewell, Mabiala, Powell (Asprilla 86); Paredes (Flores 77), Chara, Polo; Valeri, Blanco; Adi (Armenteros 77).
5-2-2-1: Frei; Nouhou (McCrary 60), Svensson, Marshall, Kim (Bwana 72), Leerdam; C. Roldan, Delem; A. Roldan, Wolff (Wingo 78); Dempsey.
Blanco (Armenteros (87)
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