Here are three takeaways from another intense and heart-pounding match, one that closed out Heineken Rivalry Week.
It was a badly-needed and cathartic result for Giovanni Saverese's group on multiple fronts. For one, they exacted some revenge for the 6-2 thrashing they endured from the Sounders at Providence Park two weeks ago. They also spoiled the party on a festive and historic day in Seattle. The NWSL's OL Reign and Portland Thorns faced off first, marking the first-ever MLS-NWSL doubleheader hosted at Lumen Field (the Reign emerged from that contest as 2-1 victors, fueled by a brace from US women's national team superstar Megan Rapinoe).
The Sounders definitely had their chances, hitting the crossbar three separate times and narrowly missing multiple other chances at an equalizer that could have changed the complexion of the match. But that shouldn't take anything away from the mettle the Timbers showed while earning this result in unfriendly confines.
The Timbers had recorded just one win in seven games entering Sunday. Perhaps this can spark them forward in the Western Conference playoff race, where they narrowly hold onto sixth place.
"Now, we need to get better," Savarese said. "Even though it was a great performance and a very good game, being able to beat Seattle here, our rival, it was very important. But we have to continue to grow, we have to continue to get better, we have to continue to work on some details.
"We can be a much better team. We need to continue to work. It was a very good step forward today, I think."
It's been almost a year to the day since Sebastian Blanco went down with a torn ACL on the very same field in Seattle, keeping the Timbers' star midfielder unable to start a game until just a few weeks ago. It was both appropriate and poetic that the 32-year-old Argentine was the author of Portland's breakthrough goal just before the hour mark.
It was a huge strike and underscored how Blanco at peak form can significantly elevate the Timbers' attack. Savarese will hope it opens the floodgates as Portland continue to integrate him back into the fold.
The jubilation will be tempered, however, by news that standout midfielder Eryk Williamson suffered a serious non-contact knee injury (ACL) shortly after the match kicked off, which caused him to be stretchered off the field. Savarese said final tests still need to be done, but that early indications are worrisome. It's a devastating blow for one of the league's breakout stars, who had just broken into the US men's national team fold.
"It’s likely he won’t play for a while," Savarese said of Williamson. "At the moment it’s a sad situation, second time it happens here, remember Seba as well. So it’s very unfortunate for a player that was doing so well, was growing, his future was very, very promising, what he was doing day by day, game by game. So it’s definitely the lowest point of the day. "
MLS is known as a league where home-field advantage often reigns supreme, but when it comes to the Sounders-Timbers rivalry, the trend has flipped in bizarre fashion. While Seattle have enjoyed plenty of success at Providence Park lately, they've struggled against their regional rivals at Lumen Field.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer admitted the trend "is starting to eat at me a bit," and midfielders Kelyn Rowe and Cristian Roldan both said it needs to be remedied. Schmetzer also noted his team shouldn't dwell on this result, however disappointed they may be to not secure all three points.
"It's really unfortunate that Portland has had their best results here as of late," Roldan said. "But we'll correct things and we'll move on."
Portland's first goal stood out as especially preventable, as a wayward back-pass from Yeimar Gomez Andrade was picked off by Mora, allowing the Timbers forward to round goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland before finding Blanco for an easy finish. Giving up an unstoppable golazo is one thing, but Schmetzer said Seattle can't afford concessions like that.
"When you give your opponent goals, the league is too hard, there's too much parity, you can't give things away," Schmetzer said. "So the learning curve there for Yeimar and for Cleveland is just you always have to be aware that you have to play fast, take no risks.
"You have to give credit a little bit to Portland. They took a chance, they made us pay."