Ahead of the Seattle Sounders’ match on the road against the Portland Timbers, there was no shortage of talking points. Chief among them was how the Timbers would cope with a rested Sounders side, having just returned from a Concacaf Champions League loss in Mexico City on Thursday. The answer was, pretty well, for about a half.
No less important from the Sounders’ point of view was how would the fare against their rivals who would be keen to put a stop to their fast start to the season. The answer was: pretty well, eventually.
Those two answers added up to a 2-1 victory for the Sounders, as they were able to overcome a rough start to the game, to return to the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings early in the 2021 MLS season.
It was anything but comprehensive however, and there were some clinched backsides late when the Sounders conceded a goal in stoppage time. However, the Sounders were able to see the last minutes of the game out.
Here are five things we liked:
Yeimar has a big day
Whatever the reason for Yeimar starting the season on the bench, a performance like this will make it difficult for him to return there absent injury. In short, the Colombian was fantastic throughout this match. Yeimar is an expert in using his anticipation to break up the Timbers’ attacking movements, and clear any crosses that came his way. He also provided excellent cover for his teammates when the Timbers threatened in and around the box. It should be noted that Schmetzer was more circumspect about Yeimar’s performance, noting that he was partially at fault for the foul that set up Portland’s goal.
Whether that is Schmetzer merely tempering expectations is unclear, but overall this was the type of performance that Sounders fans got used to seeing last year, and hope will continue for the rest of this one.
The saying is that “goals change games,” but the corollary to that might be that “penalty kick misses kill momentum.” The Timbers found that out the hard way, and in unique fashion to boot. After Diego Valeri’s (admittedly poor) first penalty was saved by Frei, VAR flagged referee Chris Penso about a potential infringement. Whether it was Stefan Frei coming off his line or Nouhou entering the penalty area early, Penso ordered the kick to be taken again.
With a chance to redeem himself, Valeri managed to put the ball past Frei. Unfortunately for him, the ball hit the post and came back to the Argentenian, who slotted the rebound in the back of the net. Of course, there is a pesky rule that prevents to shooter from being the first to touch the ball after the penalty shot, so the goal was waived off and the Sounders escaped going down 1-0 in the most unlikely of ways.
Montero a “Portland Killer”
It was said for much of preseason that Fredy Montero would be an important addition to the Sounders, given that the two-forward formation would require quality depth, especially when Raul Ruidiaz leaves for international duty. And there is something to be said for having a veteran known for sticking it to your rival. Montero is nothing if not that, now having scored five goals against the Timbers for the Sounders.
A mere seven minutes after entering the game, Montero got on the end of a Joao Paulo free kick to beat Timbers keeper Hunter Sulte, the 19-year-old having come on to replace Jeff Attinella who sustained a non-contact injury. Postgame, Schmetzer remarked on the number of forwards the team has been fortunate to have to step up with big games against Portland, and Montero is surely near the top of that list.
It’s a bit of a cliche about grinding out results when you don’t play well, but this game would likely qualify. Schmetzer put it succinctly in his halftime interview: There was one team that looked like they played midweek in Mexico at altitude and it wasn’t the Timbers.
The Sounders did not do much right in the first half aside from keeping the Timbers off the scoreboard, and even moving into the second half not much went right. With the exception of a couple of bad misses by Ruidiaz, the offense didn’t do much to trouble the Timbers in the second half until the penalty shout in the 63’.
Ruidiaz was able to do what Valeri couldn’t, and when Montero grabbed his second goal of the year, the Sounders were mostly able to control the game until the final minutes. This may not be the type of game that the Sounders will hold up as a masterpiece, but the three points against the Timbers will feel good all the same.
Sounders continue to pass tests
Looking at the schedule, this seemed to be a daunting stretch to start the year for the Sounders. And with 10 points in their first four games, the Sounders have to be thrilled with the quality of opponents they’re getting results against. Minnesota United’s collapse may be unexpected, but so too is seeing the Galaxy, whom the Sounders dispatched with relative ease, nipping at their heels.
Things don’t get much easier, with a midweek trip to San Jose to take on a resurgent and unpredictable Earthquakes team, followed by a visit from LAFC. Two more results would cement the Sounders as early Supporters’ Shield favorites, which is a great place to be.