SEATTLE – The first legs of playoff series have never been kind to the Seattle Sounders in the past.
That certainly didn't change on Saturday evening, after the Sounders dropped a 2-1 result to the Portland Timbers in the home leg of their Western Conference semifinal to take their record in series-opening games to 0-4-2, but it was far from the disaster that some of those first legs have been. In fact, the Sounders did their best to put a positive spin on an otherwise frustrating result.
The reason for optimism was Osvaldo Alonso’s 90th-minute goal. Instead of a needing a miracle – like they did after 3-0 losses in each of the past two seasons to Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy, respectively – the Sounders’ task is far more straightforward.
“I know right now it’s not nice, but it doesn’t change how we approach the game in Portland,” Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. “We still go out trying to win. That’s all we have to do. We just need to win by one goal to get it to overtime.”
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Until Alonso’s goal, though, the situation looked far more dire. Ryan Johnson’s first-half header and Darlington Nagbe’s second-half strike had given the Timbers what looked to be a massive advantage heading into Thursday’s second leg at JELD-WEN Field.
But with the game heading into stoppage time, the Sounders gave themselves at least a glimmer of hope. Brad Evans lobbed a deep throw into the penalty area that Shalrie Joseph headed back and right to the feet of Alonso, who pounded it into the net for his first goal of 2013.
“We know that the goal that we got is something that is really important for us,” Sounders midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “We have to stay positive. We didn’t play a bad game.
“The energy and the willingness to put effort in the team was there. We had a couple of offensive chances that we missed, but I think scoring the late goal was really good for our team.”
Now the Sounders must attempt to do something they haven’t done since 2011: win in Portland.
“It’s halftime of the game,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We feel very confident we can go to Portland and win. Just as Portland came here and won, we feel very confident we can go there and win.”