SEATTLE – Sometimes a win can count for more than three points.
The Seattle Sounders' 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Sunday may well prove to be one of those.
Not only did the Sounders move back into playoff position -- pulling even on points with FC Dallas, but holding the total-wins tiebreaker -- but they also beat their biggest rivals and did so playing some quality soccer, against a team that takes great pride in doing that themselves. The win also puts the Sounders at the top of the Cascadia Cup standings, two points clear of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
"It's definitely an emotional boost for our team coming off that loss to Houston," Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said. "It was a tough one. We definitely didn't play the way we wanted to play, especially defensively.
"I thought tonight, defensively we were lights out, sacrificing for each other, challenging for every single ball. That made a difference. It came from the top down."
It wasn't just the final scoreline that looked good for the Sounders, but a lot of the periphery numbers were encouraging as well. The Sounders out-possessed one of the league's best possession teams 52-48, attempted 33 more passes and completed them at an 83 percent rate. They also out-shot the Timbers 15-10.
That it came in front of the largest standalone crowd to witness an MLS match since the league's inaugural season – 67,385 – only made it more special.
"We knew what we had to do for the fans," Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said after earning his seventh shutout of the season. "68,000 came to see us win and we wanted to win so badly. We gave everything we had. It's a night that I will remember in 20 years."
Just how big of a win it proves to be is something that will be decided in the coming weeks. Is this just another high in a roller-coaster season or a new plateau?
"We're a good team," Evans said. "We can win at home. But if we want to be a great team we have to do that [stuff] away from home. That's what championship teams do, they gut out wins away from home. That's the next step for this team."