Can't flip the switch: Seattle Sounders concede they were outplayed by Portland Timbers in 3-2 loss

PORTLAND, Ore. — Once again, the Seattle Sounders couldn't get the result in the MLS Cup Playoffs when they most needed it.

The details may have changed, but for a third straight year the Sounders had their season ended earlier than desired after being buried under an avalanche of goals. This time, it was the Portland Timbers scoring three unanswered in the first 49 minutes before settling for a 3-2 win in the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal on Thursday.

“I thought tonight we got outplayed in the first half,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We didn’t play well. They closed us down, put pressure on us. I thought we lost the game in the midfield.”

From the opening whistle, the Sounders seemed to be on the back foot despite chasing a 2-1 aggregate-goal deficit.

Rodney Wallace got free for an open look at the back post in the 3rd minute, but sent his shot wide. Darlington Nagbe went just wide with an attempt from about 25 yards out about 10 minutes later. In the 19th minute, Wallace ended up with another good chance inside the penalty area off a poor clearance attempt, but Michael Gspurning was able to make the save.

The dam finally broke in the 29th minute when Djimi Traore was whistled for a handball and Will Johnson buried the penalty.

“The action goes so quick, I tried to avoid the ball with my hand,” Traore said. “That happens. I feel for sorry for the guys. We worked hard all season to get here. We had lots of confidence before the game to get a result. We worked hard during the week. The [handball] changed the game.”

Making matters even worse was a three-minute stretch sandwiched around halftime. Diego Valeri scored in the 44th minute off a feed from Wallace and then Mamadou Danso essentially put the series away with a header off a quickly taken free kick in the 47th minute.

The Sounders had switched into a 3-5-2 at halftime, which may have contributed to Danso being able to get free in front of the goal.

“At this point in the game, we were maybe disorganized and they used the chance,” Gspurning said.

Although the Sounders were able to at least make the match interesting on goals from DeAndre Yedlin and Eddie Johnson, it wasn’t enough to overcome another slow start.

“You can’t wait to play a team like Portland, who’s one of the best teams in the league, put yourself down three goals and then you wake up and you want to play,” Johnson said. “You have to play like that from minute 1 to minute 90. We tend to want to play when our backs are against the wall. It doesn’t work at this level.”