TUKWILA, Wash. – Round one of this week’s two-part Cascadia Cup battle between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers lived up to the hype – even if Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid would've preferred a less dramatic affair.
The Sounders prevailed 3-1, but the game was much closer than the final score would indicate. Seattle needed extra time to dispatch of their Northwest rivals and had to overcome an incredible game-tying goal in the last minute of stoppage time from Portland forward Darlington Nagbe. It was the second time in a row the Sounders have needed more the 90 minutes to win at home in the Open Cup, after the San Jose Earthquakes took them to penalties in the fifth round.
“Obviously [giving up the tying goal] is disappointing,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “We could have won it in regulation. I told the guys 'So we’ve got to do it the hard way, we will do it the hard way.' That's just the way it turned out tonight.”
Some of the drama can be attributed to the fact that both of the fierce rivals played an upbeat, high-intensity style, which has become par for the course in Cascadia Cup matches. But the size and make-up of the field at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila – where the sides had never met before in the MLS era – also seemed to contribute to the high-speed affair.
“When you play at Starfire, it’s such a small field,” Seattle defender Zach Scott told reporters prior to the game. “It’s an intense and a fast game. Probably a little faster than at CenturyLink or even when you play down in Portland just because the field is so small and bouncy.”
Scott's prognosis proved to be spot on, and the increased tempo made for a wildly entertaining match-up for the crowd of 4,233 fans in attendance. The Seattle faithful, and even a small contingent of Portland supporters, made for an electric atmosphere throughout, despite the exponentially smaller seating capacity than the Sounders’ usual home at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle also benefited from a red card nine minutes into extra time after midfielder Diego Chara was sent packing by referee Chris Penso for an overly zealous tackle, but the Sounders still looked to be reeling from the late equalizer.
"I didn't think we handled it really well right after the red card,” Schmid said. “Prior to the second overtime we talked about making sure we stepped up to people, keep people in the back, and not get beat off the dribble.”
Whatever Schmid told his team prior to the second half of extra time seemed to work. Kenny Cooper and Marco Pappa each scored goals in the period, putting Seattle ahead for good and showing there is still joy to be had from doing the hard way.