PORTLAND, Ore. – The first installment of the Portland Timbers-Seattle Sounders matchup of 2014 certainly didn’t lack for the series' typical action and drama.
A Clint Dempsey hat trick and a goal by former Timbers forward Kenny Cooper highlighted an unlikely Sounders comeback from a 4-2 deficit late in the second half as the Cascadia rivals played to a 4-4 draw Saturday afternoon at a raucous and rain-soaked Providence Park.
The Timbers (0-2-3) are still winless on the season after the late defensive collapse, while the Sounders (2-2-1) avoided an embarrassing loss to their rivals after being bounced from the postseason by Portland last year.
The frantic rally – which included two Sounders goals after the 84th minute -- overshadowed an unlikely brace by Timbers defensive midfielder Diego Chara, who scored his first goals since 2012, and the first goals of the season by Argentines Diego Valeri and Maximiliano Urruti.
Chara’s second and Urruti’s first of the season – coming within a two-minute span early in the second half to give their flat-lining offense double the goals scored by Timbers players through the first four games – broke a 2-2 tie at halftime and seemed to put the Timbers on the path to their first win of the season before the Sounders’ late heroics.
With high-paced back-and-forth action from the opening whistle, the teams combined for 41 shots. Neither team wasted any time in getting things started in their first meeting since Portland won both legs of last year’s Western Conference semifinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Sounders opened the scoring in the third minute when a corner kick to the far corner was served in by Jalil Anibaba and slammed into the roof netting by an unmarked Cooper.
Portland answered six minutes later when Chara stripped Gonzalo Pineda, sliced through the defense down middle of the field and slotted past Seattle goalkeeper Sefan Frei on a right-footed shot from the top of the area.
The Timbers took the lead in the 14th minute on Valeri’s goal. The attacking midfielder took a cross from Michael Harrington in the right corner of the six with his back to the goal and Anibaba on his hip, spun and chipped perfectly with his left foot off the crossbar and over the line.
Seattle’s answer came in the 24th minute thanks to Dempsey. A poor clearance by Timbers defender Norberto Paparatto set up Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso at midfield, who played ahead to Obafemi Martins and then on to a streaking Dempsey, who beat Timbers goalkeeper Andrew Weber as he charged off his line.
Chara struck again early in the second half when he found open space in midfield and took several touches before uncorking a right-footed blast from 25 yards out that beat Frei to the top corner.
Just a minute later, Urruti offered up a golazo of his own when he stripped Annibaba on the left wing and left fly a drive that curled just inside the far post and outside the reach of a diving Frei.
But after the Timbers’ opening foray of the second half, Seattle began pressing.
It paid off in the 86th minute when a cross played into the area received a slight flick by Martins to Dempsey for an easy, open-net goal. Then with Seattle still controlling the action a minute later, Timbers second-half substitute Ben Zemanski tripped DeAndre Yedlin in the area and was whistled for a penalty. Dempsey calmly converted the spot kick to complete the hat trick and comeback.
Both teams had good looks at a potential game winner, with Dempsey, Yedlin nearly converting for the Sounders and Alvas Powell blasting just over the crossbar in stoppage time for the Timbers.
The Timbers next play host to Chivas USA on April 12, while Seattle play at FC Dallas the same day.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Clint Dempsey||Still concerned? He has four goals in his past two MLS games, and now a place in Cascadia history.|
|2||Diego Chara||Lesson learned. Can't give this guy space at the top of the box especially not twice.|
|3||Darlington Nagbe||Made Yedlin look pedestrian in the first half, and the late injury might have cost Timbers that PK.|