Portland Timbers happy with gritty showing against Seattle Sounders, but officiating questions still linger

SEATTLE – Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter had no problem with the way his team played against the Seattle Sounders despite their 1-0 loss Sunday night at CenturyLink Field.

The Timbers flew out to a blistering first half, had their fair share of the run of play throughout the 90 minutes and, outside of the set piece for Seattle’s only goal, were able to shut down the Sounders’ imposing front line duo of Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson.

What Porter had a problem with was the officiating.

“To be fair, I thought the officiating was very lopsided, extremely lopsided, for whatever reason,” Porter said. “They have guys who commit three, four fouls, the same one, no card, and we commit one and it’s a card. Watch the tape, you explain it because I can’t understand it. We’re talking the same exact foul, same exact foul, we’re doing a foul, they’re doing a foul, and we get a card and they don’t get a card. Explain it. I don’t get it. It makes no sense to me.”

Porter made it clear that he didn’t feel it affected the game’s outcome. He placed that blame on his team’s inability to finish a number of opportunities and mark Johnson on the 60th-minute set piece that led to his headed goal.

But Porter was clearly displeased; central defender Pa Modou Kah’s yellow in the 59th minute will result in a suspension for accumulation in Portland’s game Saturday against Western Conference frontrunner Real Salt Lake. Porter said the jostling between forward Darlington Nagbe and Seattle’s midfield enforcer Osvaldo Alonso should have been monitored more closely. Alonso committed five fouls on the night but was not booked. Portland were called for 16 fouls to Seattle’s 10.

“[Alonso] commits five fouls on Nagbe, no card,” Porter said. “We commit one and get a card. How does Alonso not get a card when he fouls a guy five times? Alonso is a tremendous player, and listen, if you can foul a guy like Nagbe five times and not get a card, what are you going to do? You’re going to keep fouling him. He’s smart.”

Despite that, Porter was pleased with his team’s don’t-back-down mentality against Dempsey and Johnson. He said the physical play of Kah and his center back counterpart Andrew Jean-Baptiste, along with the collective defensive organization throughout the lineup, prevented Dempsey and Johnson from finding much flow.

“We’re a hard team,” Porter said. “We’re a tough team. We’re not going to back down, and we’ve said that all year. I think you say our mentality was very good and we were tough and in it."

Timbers defender Michael Harrington said there wasn’t much of the game he would change outside of the fateful set piece.

“I thought we were fantastic,” Harrington said. “They really didn’t have much at all. It’s one of the most talented, if not the most talented front lines in the league, and I don’t think they really had much at all.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.