Sounders deliver statement win
The Sounders needed this. Not just the three points but the three goals and the clean sheet. They needed a statement win and the fact that it was against the Portland Timbers is just the icing on the cake.
The last time we saw the Rave Green they were run off the park at MLS is Back by LAFC and so they needed to remind the league of their quality. You can run around screaming that you deserve respect for being the defending champions all you want, but for people to care and take you seriously, you have to show it on the pitch and that’s exactly what Brian Schmetzer’s men did.
It wasn’t pretty or vintage by any stretch of the imagination but after a slow start, the Sounders finished with a bang. Nico Lodeiro looking something like his best self was a welcome sight to all Sounders fans and Joao Paulo’s performance underlined how important he will be to any MLS Cup aspirations the Sounders may harbor. Joao was excellent in possession and allowed Lodeiro to take up higher positions on the pitch without needing to come too deep to make plays.
The final 3-0 scoreline is a little harsh on the Timbers because for much of the game this could have gone either way. But in games like this, it’s not about how you do it, it’s just about getting it done and that’s what the Sounders did.
Ruidiaz comes up big against Portland, again
Raul Ruidiaz possesses the greatest attribute any goal scorer can hope to have: amnesia. Moments before he scored his first goal of the night with an absurd finish, he missed an easy chance from inside the six-yard box. For most players, that kind of miss will play on your mind as you beat yourself up in disbelief that you didn’t score.
Not for Ruidiaz. He has that rare ability to move on to the next play and convince himself that he’ll find the back of the net with his next chance. If he misses the next one, he simply repeats the process until he scores. Missed chances, even easy ones, don’t bother him in the slightest.
Since joining the Sounders, his numbers speak for themselves and aside from Josef Martinez, he is the most deadly player inside the 18-yard box in MLS. He’s scored seven of Seattle’s last 10 goals in this fixture and is already near the top of the all-time scorers list in this rivalry. He won’t score rockets from 35 yards like Fredy Montero, he won’t dance through an entire backline like Obafemi Martins or Clint Dempsey, but when it comes to ruthlessness and efficiency inside the box, the Sounders have never had a forward like him.
Chara still the Timbers' rock
The lone positive from a dismal night for the Timbers was the performance of Diego Chara. Until the Ruidiaz show began, he was the clear man of the match. Although the sentiment is largely changing, for some unknown reason Chara remains criminally underrated.
Up until Seattle’s opening goal, he was dominant in the midfield with his usual ball-winning, interceptions and acting as the connector between the backline and the danger men up top. He doesn’t speak much or do many interviews and that may be why he sometimes continues to fly under the radar, but even at 34 years of age, his influence on this Timbers team is at an all-time high.
This Timbers team will be OK, a bad final 20 minutes won’t define their season and when it’s all said and done they will be in the conversation for silverware at the season's end, in large part because they have Diego Chara running the show in midfield.
Former MLS star winger Steve Zakuani was a No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft and played for the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. He is currently a member of the Sounders broadcast team and has published a book "Rise Above" and a documentary "Unbreakable" surrounding his comeback from a serious injury which marked his playing days. He is also a coach at Bellevue High School and makes a difference in the lives of young athletes through his non-profit Kingdom Hope organization.