SEATTLE – With their playoff lives hanging in the balance, the Seattle Sounders needed to bag three points by any means necessary in their rivalry week clash with the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
Concerns about the manner in which they achieved that objective could wait for later.
In the end, Seattle got the job done, holding on for a hard-fought 2-1 victory despite conceding a second-half goal to Jack Jewsbury and withstanding an onslaught of pressure from their Cascadia Cup foes that saw the Timbers outshoot the Sounders by a margin of 20-6.
“For sure, [Portland’s] play was probably better than ours at times,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid admitted after the game. “I’m not going to say that it was the other way around. But sometimes when you go through what we’ve been through, with injuries and all that, you’re looking for the three points. You’re looking for your team to work hard and battle.”
The Sounders got as ideal a start as they could have possibly hoped for on Sunday when forward Obafemi Martins poked a loose ball past Portland goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey to give his side the lead in just the sixth minute.
But from there, Portland would press the action and, if not for some timely goalkeeping from Stefan Frei, the Sounders may have found themselves in a 1-1 deadlock. Frei was big on Sunday, notably denying Portland’s Lucas Melano on a breakaway attempt that would have tied the score in the 30th minute.
“I still think Stefan is one of the best goalkeepers in the league,” Schmid said. “I think he’s shown that now. I don’t think he gets mentioned in the same breath as some of the [elite MLS goalkeepers] and I think that’s a shame. That save he made on Melano in the first half was obviously very critical.”
Seattle would reward Frei’s efforts in the 43rd minute, getting a second goal from a Brad Evans penalty kick that was given following a collision between Martins and Kwarasey in the Portland box, much to the chagrin of Timbers head coach Caleb Porter and his side.
That second goal would end up holding as the difference, as the Timbers managed to get Jewsbury’s 58th-minute tally but nothing more.
“I think as your back gets pushed further and further against the wall, at some point you’ve got to make a stand,” Evans said. “Everybody’s got to be collectively together and today was one of those days.”
The victory put Seattle back into the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Now, the Sounders must prepare for a stretch run in which every game is set to be similarly full of postseason implications, starting with a home matchup next Saturday against Toronto FC.