The Portland Timbers did what their head coach Giovanni Savarese wanted them to do today: Win.
“We needed a win today and we found the win we needed,” Savarese said, following the Timbers' 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in Leg 1 of their Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal.
To do so, Portland had to come-from-behind, which they struggled to do in the regular season, when they posted a 1-7-4 record after allowing the first goal. They avoided one scare in the opening minutes, Seattle wanted a penalty after Jeff Attinella collided with Seattle’s Cristian Roldan, but "Play on!" was the call following a Video Review.
Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz left no doubt in the 10th minute as Seattle took the lead on a crucial away goal. Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer explained it “always helps to put that [away goal] in your pocket for later,” but is profoundly aware that Seattle needs to get the upper hand in the second leg if they wish to advance to the Western Conference Championship.
SeatGeek has great deals for future MLS matchesGET TICKETS Official Ticketing Partner of Major League Soccer
“We understand we have to win the game on Thursday,” Schmetzer said. “Those are the facts.”
Going down 1-0 to their bitter rival was a “wake-up call” for Portland, Savarese said after his team “started a bit sluggish.” It took just 7 minutes for Portland’s Jeremy Ebobisse to find the equalizer after taking a right-on-the-money through ball from Diego Valeri and slotting it past Seattle’s Stefan Frei. Ten minutes later, Sebastian Blanco doubled it.
“From that point on,” Savarese said, “I thought that we took the entire first half.”
After losing not just the lead, but two players to injury in Chad Marshall (right knee) and Roldan (groin), Schmetzer wanted Seattle keep more possession of the ball to try to counter the energy he knew Portland was going to bring in the second half.
Official update from the Sounders: Cristian Roldan suffered a groin injury, Chad Marshall a knee injury. Both still being evaluated— Matt Pentz (@mattpentz) November 4, 2018
“You can almost say we were more in control in the second half,” Schmetzer said, adding his team had more chances in the second half, during which Seattle out-shot, out-possessed, and out-passed Portland resulting in an open, end-to-end stanza that Savarese admitted was far more open than he would have preferred.
“It’s always a difficult game against Seattle,” Savarese said. “We won. That’s the important thing.”