[MLS PLAYOFFS: Seattle-Portland]After winning its playoff opener to snap a seven-game winless streak, Seattle is in a mess once again.
It faces a playoff showdown at the stadium of its bitterest rival trailing, 2-1. Only a last-minute goal byOsvaldo Alonso prevented the Sounders from being blanked by archrival Portland in its home leg of their Western Conference semifinal series Saturday.
An early goal by Ryan Johnson stunned and silenced most of the CenturyLink Field crowd, and Seattle’s chances looked bleak when Darlington Nagbesmashed home a shot midway through the second half. Alonso’s goal gives the Sounders more hope for the second leg at Jeld-Wen Field on Thursday, but they can’t afford to be as wasteful with their scoring opportunities.
Seattle wound up with a 20-10 edge in shots, but only five of its attempts hit the target. It piled up 11 corner kicks to just one for Portland, which took a 1-0 lead with a controlled counterattack that caught the Sounders overloaded to one side. Portland set out to attack Seattle’s diamond midfield formation through the flanks and the tactic paid off in the 15th minute.
Diego Chara played a ball wide right to a completely unmarked Jack Jewsbury, who waited patiently before drilling a ball to the near post that Johnson steered past keeper Marcus Hahnemann with a glancing header.
Seattle pushed back in search of a tying goal without success. A flying Donovan Ricketts save thwarted a Clint Dempsey free kick five minutes later, and in the 29th minute another Dempsey curler scraped the top of the crossbar. Shortly before halftime, Eddie Johnson got a good look at goal from close range but headed well wide.
Timbers head coach Caleb Porter decided to start playmaker Diego Valeri, slowed by an adductor injury, and after an ineffective hour Kalif Alhassanreplaced Valeri. Three minutes after entry, Alhassan took a shot that was saved, and after another three minutes he’d set up the winning goal.
From the right flank, again, Portland capitalized. As Jewsbury overlapped, Alhassan veered into the channel to serve a ball that Nagbe, cutting left to right across goal, cushioned with his left foot and drilled low with his right. The more than 1,000 members of the Timbers Army who made the trip north celebrated lustily, yet the home team wasn’t done.
Dempsey got free again with a few minutes left and headed aMauro Rosales cross down onto the turf, past Ricketts -- and off the crossbar. Seattle finally got a goal in the last minute from a set play, but a rather unconventional one: from a throw-in near the corner flag, Brad Evans flung the ball near-post; Shalrie Joseph’s header looped the ball toward the penalty spot, where Alonso volleyed it left-footed hard and low past Ricketts.
In the last minute, a Dempsey header went straight to Ricketts and the final whistle condemned the Sounders to their sixth straight failure to win the first leg of a playoff series. Lamar Neagle, cautioned Wednesday during the 2-0 play-in defeat of Colorado, received a yellow card in this game as well and is suspended for the second leg.
Nov. 2 in Seattle
Seattle 1 Portland 2. Goals: Alonso (Shalrie Joseph, Brad Evans) 90; R.Johnson (Jewsbury, Chara) 15, Nagbe (Alhassan) 67.
Seattle --Hahnemann, Scott (Rosales 63), Hurtado, Traore, Gonzalez (Burch 84), Alonso, Evans, Moffat (Joseph 77), Dempsey, Neagle, E.Johnson.
Portland --Ricketts, Jewsbury, Danso, Kah, Harrington, Chara, Valeri (Alhassan 61), W.Johnson, Nagbe (Zemanski 73), R.Johnson (Valencia 83), Wallace.
Yellow Cards:Seattle -- Neagle 47; Portland -- Wallace 47, Zemanski 84.