Sounders lament woeful first half vs. Timbers: "We played into their hands"

PORTLAND – There are first-half meltdowns, and then there’s what happened to the Seattle Sounders in their afternoon derby with the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday.

The Sounders endured what can only be described as a full-on defensive implosion in the opening 45 minutes of Sunday’s contest, leaking three goals in the game’s first half-hour before Timbers defender Steven Taylor tacked on another just before the halftime whistle.

The result was a massive four-goal deficit that would prove insurmountable, as second-half goals from Andreas Ivanschitz and Jordan Morris were rendered a moot point in a 4-2 defeat.

“We played like crap the first half,” Sounders captain Brad Evans said after the game. “We played directly into their hands, losing balls in the middle of the park, forcing the ball at the top of the box. And that’s their bread and butter: Win that ball and all of the sudden they have a 4-v-2 or a 5-v-3.

“That’s what they live and die by and they made us pay for that.”

The Timbers were all over Seattle’s back line virtually from the opening kickoff, as Portland snatched a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute off a corner-kick header from defender Vytas Andriuskevicius. Portland would add two more from Fanendo Adi and Lucas Melano before Taylor capped off the one-sided half with a finish of a Diego Valeri free-kick delivery.

“Give credit where credit is due,” Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Portland scored a timely goal on a set piece and that set us reeling backward a little bit. They had some pick plays on set pieces that they obviously worked on in training and we weren’t ready for. That won’t happen again.”

The Sounders’ defending would settle down in the second half, aided in part by the season debut of Panamanian center back Roman Torres, who came off the bench to make his first appearance of 2016 after tearing his ACL last September.

“He was good,” Schmetzer said of Torres. “He’s a big body. He battled with Adi, who was very effective for them. Now we have someone who can help counter that. Roman coming into the group certainly makes us stronger defensively.

“We considered [starting Torres]. But we’ve gone undefeated [the last four games] while Brad and Chad [Marshall] were in there. So it was tough to pull one of them for his first start. But we did consider it.”

Sunday’s defeat leaves the Sounders (9-13-4) four points behind Portland for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot as they head into a two-week break from MLS play, before returning to action with a road matchup against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sept. 10.