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Jingle Bells, Portland smells

The Sounders broke their Southern slump, beating the Timbers 2-1 on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Last Updated
5 min read
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Sounders made the trip down I-5 to face off with the Portland Timbers, and for the first time since Aug. 15, 2021, they come home winners. Thanks to goals from Cristian Roldan and Raúl Ruidíaz, the Sounders beat the Timbers on their turf 2-1.

Things were action-packed from the start, with Seattle getting down the field and into dangerous positions a couple times in the first 10 minutes. It was the Timbers who got on the board first, though, as Jonathan Rodriguez was able to make a run between the centerbacks Jonathan Bell and Jackson Ragen without being picked up. He chested a ball from fullback Eric Miller down into the path of striker Felipe Mora, whose shot beat Stefan Frei to open the scoring in the 15th minute.

That lead only lasted a few minutes thanks to Cristian Roldan. In the 19th minute Roldan picked up a pass from Albert Rusnák, took a couple of touches and ripped a shot from 20 yards out that took a deflection off of Kamal Miller to take it just out of the reach of goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau. Both sides continued to push into the attack, but neither found a breakthrough during the remainder of the half.

The Sounders clearly saw an opportunity at hand and came out of halftime strong, first with a dangerous attack that saw Obed Vargas send in a nice cross that would have set Jordan Morris up at the back post if not for a good touch from a defender to put it out for a corner in the 48th minute. Two minutes later it was Vargas again setting the table, this time with a short pass at the top of the box to set up a first-time left-footer from Ruidíaz that left Crepeau flapping as Seattle jumped out to a 2-1 lead.

Neither side really came close to adding another goal to the tally, but through a combination of predictable tension in a Portland-Seattle clash and the decisions of referee Allen Chapman the match still had some life to it. There were big tackles and small dust-ups. Whatever Brian Schmetzer and his staff did to prepare for this game, the Sounders clearly brought the appropriate rivalry energy to this game.

The Sounders will be back in action with an opportunity to keep their momentum going when they travel to face Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night at 6:30 pm PDT.

Key moments

3 - Nouhou evades a defender down the sideline and sends in a dangerous ball for Raúl Ruidíaz, but it’s blocked and sent out for a corner.

6 - Ruidíaz gets a dangerous shot from the top of the box, but it’s a simple save from Crepeau from finding the top corner.

15 - Goal, Timbers. Felipe Mora finishes from close range as Jonathan Rodriguez chests the ball down for him after ghosting between the CBs. 1-0 Portland

19 - GOAL! Cristian Roldan lets a shot rip from distance that takes a deflection, putting it just too far to Crepeau’s right for him to stop it! 1-1

29 - Cristian Roldan hits a dangerous cross from the end line that almost finds Jordan Morris on the far post but a defender is able to get a touch on it.

32 - Ruidíaz lines up a dangerous look off of a corner, but his shot through traffic takes a couple deflections to send it out for a corner.

45+1 - Nouhou makes a risky tackle in the penalty box, but comes up with the ball turning a dangerous attack into a corner.

48 - Following some smart passing to progress the ball up the field, Obed Vargas sends a cross to the back post that is just too far ahead of Morris.

50 - GOAL! Ruidíaz from the top of the box! Seattle work the ball around in the final third and Vargas lays the ball off to Ruidíaz who fires it home. 2-1 Seattle

85 - Portland gets a dangerous look from Santiago Moreno at the top of the box, but Frei has the far post covered as the shot runs just wide.

90+2 - Cristian Roldan puts in a big slide tackle on Dairon Asprilla at midfield that slows an attack enough to take the edge off, but takes a knock in the process.

Quick thoughts

He cant keep getting away with this: The Sounders have a repeatability problem. Scoring goals in soccer is hard, it’s a complicated task, but successful teams find a way of scoring repeatable goals without becoming predictable. The Sounders are predictable in their approach play, and have struggled to score what could be called repeatable goals. Perhaps a symptom of that is the fact that Raúl Ruidíaz still has not scored an open play goal from inside the penalty area. The odd thing is that he seems to repeatedly score unrepeatable goals, his latest coming on a first-time left-footed shot from the top of the area to beat Crepeau and give Seattle a lead. Seattle need to find a way of creating repeatable goal-scoring chances, because even if he keeps doing it, a team can’t live on Ruidíaz golazos alone.

Putting the bench to use: On a hot afternoon in Portland, Schmetzer used all five substitutions to see out a huge road win and break the six-game winless run against the Timbers. With a congested schedule it’s fair to wonder why substitutes didn’t come in earlier, with the first changes for the Sounders happening in the 76th minute when Cody Baker and Danny Musovski entered the game for João Paulo and Ruidíaz, but it still seems notable who the staff turned to with three points on the line. Four of the five subs were former Sounders academy players who have spent significant time with Tacoma Defiance, as Paul Rothrock (81st minute), Danny Leyva and Dylan Teves (90th minute) all came in to help close the game out. This was a Sounders win, through and through.

Exhale: Let’s get some things out of the way really quickly: with 13 points through 12 games played, the Sounders still sit three points outside the playoff spots in 10th place; a single result doesn’t equal a turnaround; there are still more than a few concerns about the team’s attack, and the goal they gave up came from the kind of defensive lapse that has plagued them all season. With all of that said, you can let go of the breath you were holding. We’ve written and talked a fair amount on this site ahead of this game about how these matches have provided a spark to the winning side in recent years, serving as the catalyst to help turn a season around. This win puts the Sounders on a three-game unbeaten run in league play, and makes them unbeaten in four in all competitions. There are still things to figure out, but the squad is putting together something resembling a run of form with Pedro de la Vega hopefully returning to the field soon. We’re not necessarily out of the storm yet, but it does look like there’s a break in the clouds.

Notable quote

Man of the match

Cristian Roldan – Roldan has struggled early in the season to reach the level we’ve come accustomed to from him, but that was not an issue today. Playing Portland brought the best out of him. Deployed in a double-pivot with JP, he not only had the tying goal, but led the team with 85 touches, had eight passes into the final third, was 2/3 on successful dribbles, was active in defense and had nine recoveries.