TACOMA, Wash. — There were more than a few things for the Seattle Sounders to feel good about in their 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers in the US Open Cup on Wednesday. Chief among them was a lineup missing 10 players to international duty which in many ways outplayed one that featured all three of its Designated Players. The Sounders outshot the Timbers 24-13, including 14-7 from inside the penalty area. They were also a missed penalty away from at least forcing overtime.
But in the end, it was just another frustrating loss, the team’s fourth straight in all competitions.
The Sounders will have 17 days to think about that and hopefully devise a way to snap their streak when they return to CenturyLink Field for the first time since May 15.
- The Timbers came out hot and looked like they might completely overwhelm the Sounders. When Brian Fernandez scored in 6th minute — working himself free for a classy left-footed finish from about 19 yards out — it looked like a blowout could be in the offing.
- Instead of falling apart, though, the Sounders settled in. By the 30th minute, the Sounders had completely taken control. From the 24th-26th minutes, the Sounders fired off six shots. That included one on a Nouhou breakaway and another close-range attempt from Victor Rodriguez, both of which forced Steve Clark into a tough saves.
- The Sounders finally broke through in the 44th minute when Rodriguez’s free kick deflected off the defensive wall and into the net.
- The Timbers came out of the halftime break flying, though, and went back ahead on a beautifully executed counterattack. Jeremy Ebobisse got free on the wing, drawing out Saad Abdul-Salaam. His cross found Fernandez streaking into the box and goal-side on Jonathan Campbell.
- The Sounders got a massive break in the 79th minute when they were awarded a somewhat dubious penalty after Will Bruin’s cross hit the arm of Larrys Mabiala. Rodriguez’s attempt was hit with confidence, but it struck the cross bar and stayed out.
- Rather than be dispirited, the Sounders continued to press for the equalizer and had several more good looks. The best was from Henry Wingo, who hit a left-footed half-volley about as well as he possibly could, only to see Clark get just enough of his hand to it to keep it out. Defiance midfielder Shandon Hopeau nearly beat Clark at the near post as well, but couldn’t quite get enough on his shot to put it past the diving goalkeeper.
Better, but not good enough: When the lineups were unveiled, it was clear that the Sounders were going to have their hands full. In addition to their 10 missing internationals, they were without injured centerback Kim Kee-hee and chose to give Stefan Frei the night off. Although it was an all First-Team lineup, eight of them had made at least one appearance for the Defiance this year. The Timbers, meanwhile, fielded a lineup that was virtually first choice, with two or three exceptions. The Sounders held their own, and were arguably the better team for large stretches, but also played from behind for nearly 80 minutes.
Danny Leyva’s first start: By his own admission, the last few months have “gone a lot faster than I expected”, but Leyva never looked overwhelmed despite being matched against two of the best attacking midfielders in the league. He displayed some tidy passing, completing 36 of 41 passes, and mostly kept his game simple, rarely finding himself drawn out of position. Brian Schmetzer noted that the 16-year-old “could probably shift gears a little faster” but did nothing to dissuade anyone excited about his potential.
Henry Wingo emerges?: Perhaps the most encouraging performance was from Wingo off the bench. In 32 minutes, Wingo caused left back Zarek Valentin all sorts of trouble and was a constant threat. He ended up with a team-high four key passes and managed to squeeze off two shots. It’s not clear if the Sounders still see Wingo as a potential right back, but for now he seems at least capable of providing energy off the bench and might even be in line for a start.
They care: As frustrating as the loss was, it would be disingenuous to argue the Sounders didn’t put their best foot forward. Given the absences, this was about as good of a lineup as they could have fielded, with the biggest exception being goalkeeper. Beyond the lineup, the team played hard and the Schmetzer actually seemed genuinely emotional during his postgame presser. The result wasn’t there and the performance wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
Tacoma turns out: Wherever you fall on the Starfire vs. Cheney debate, it can be said that the South Sound showed up, setting a Sounders Open Cup record for a non-final. The sellout crowd of 6,280 was loud and engaged, and once the Sounders showed they weren’t just going to be run over there was some genuine energy throughout the stands. Led by ECS, the section behind the goal would have looked right at home in just about any stadium around the league.
Did you see that?!?
Wingo hit this about as well as he could.
One stat to tell the tale
22 — The Sounders starting lineup comprised just 22 percent of their total team payroll and their entire roster was just 29 percent. The Timbers, on the other hand, fielded a lineup that comprised 66 percent of their payroll and their roster was 82 percent.
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