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Timbers lays claim to Northwest supremacy
by Ridge Mahoney, November 8th, 2013 2:09AM

TAGS:  mls, portland timbers, seattle sounders


[MLS PLAYOFFS: Portland-Seattle] The balance of power in the Northwest has shifted to the south.

Seattle may be the Cascadia Cup king in attendance and resources, but Portland has taken over on the field. By beating the Sounders, 3-2, in the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal to win the series, 5-3, on aggregate, the Timbers brushed aside those rivals in the most convincing manner.

Portland’s main men, Will Johnson and Diego Valeri, scored first-half goals to drop the Sounders deeper into the hole created by a 2-1 decision in the first leg, and Futty Danso’s headed goal shortly after halftime seemingly eradicated any faint notions Seattle could somehow make a game of it.

But the 3-0 advantage proved too much for the Timbers could handle. Sounders right back DeAndre Yedlin chased down a long Brad Evans throw-in that skipped through the goalmouth to smash home a shot at the back post, and two minutes later Yedlin swung over a cross from the right wing that Eddie Johnson drove into the net with a powerful header.

Seattle came very close to cutting the deficit to 5-4 in the final minute, but Clint Dempsey sliced a shot a yard wide and another boisterous, sellout crowd at Jeld-Wen Field cast off its anxiety to resume the celebrations that had commenced early in the second half with the Timbers up, 5-1, on aggregate.

Portland plays the first leg of the Western Conference finals Sunday at Real Salt Lake, which dethroned two-time champion Los Angeles with a 2-0 victory (2-1 on aggregate) in extra time Thursday night.

The dual playoff defeats left Seattle with a 1-7-1 record in its last nine games and heightened speculation that head coach Sigi Schmid, who has led the Sounders into the playoffs in each of the club’s five MLS seasons but never into MLS Cup, could be replaced.

While Will Johnson and Valeri and their Timber teammates started quickly, Seattle faltered. Eddie Johnson and Dempsey ran ground against the tough Timbers defense, and not until the insertion of Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales after halftime did the Sounders generate much attacking impetus. But the Sounders couldn’t contain a confident group of Portland attackers and dropped too far behind.

Schmid decided not to start Martins and Rosales, both of whom had been hobbled by injuries in recent weeks. He instead buttressed his midfield by deploying Shalrie Joseph and Adam Moffat alongside Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso, but that quartet couldn’t find a foothold and the back line labored through an error-prone evening.

Defender Djimi Traore’s careless handball granted Portland a chance to take the lead in the 29th minute, and Johnson’s confidently taken penalty kick punctuated a typically heroic performance. Valeri got up off the deck after a nasty tackle by Marc Burch to glide through the Sounders defense and punch home a Rodney Wallace feed to double Portland’s lead just before halftime.

The Sounders, rather than regrouping for the second half, fell further behind less than two minutes after kickoff when they fell asleep on a throw-in. Will Johnson’s throw went up the left wing to Wallace, who hit a curling cross that Danso headed downwards underneath keeper Michael Gspurning’s clumsy lunge.

Timbers coach Caleb Porter took Valeri and Ryan Johnson out of the game, and those changes plus the three-goal lead drained Portland of some energy. Schmid’s offensive substitutions took hold briefly, but after Yedlin’s goal and assist the Timbers regained enough of their rhythm to reach the finish line on top.

Portland’s victory gave higher-seeded teams a 3-1 series record in the conference semifinals. Supporters’ Shield winner New York, which lost to Houston, 4-3, on aggregate, was the only team to falter. The higher-seeded play-in teams, Houston and Seattle, also won their knockout games.

Valeri Goal:

Nov. 7 in Portland, Ore.
Portland 3, Seattle 2. Goals: W.Johnson (pen.) 29, Valeri (Wallace) 44, Danso (Wallace, W.Johnson) 47; Yedlin 74, E.Johnson (Yedlin) 76.
Portland – Ricketts; Jewsbury, Kah, Danso, Harrington, W.Johnson, Wallace, Chara, Valeri (Alhassan, 61), Nagbe (Zemanski, 82), R.Johnson (Urruti, 69).
Seattle – Gspurning; Yedlin, Hurtado, Traore, Burch, Alonso (Rose, 84), Evans, Moffat (Rosales, 58), Joseph (Martins, 49), Dempsey, E. Johnson.
Yellow Cards: Portland -- Kah 26, Chara 53; Seattle -- Burch 40, Dempsey 49.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda.
Att.: 20,674.

  1. Mark Hardt
    commented on: November 8, 2013 at 10:38 a.m.
    Caleb Porter turned University of Akron into a National Power and an MLS mill. UA players are all over the MLS now. His winning ways continue in a fun environment.
  1. John Soares
    commented on: November 8, 2013 at 12:28 p.m.
    I have great respect for Schmid, but don't understand why on an elimination game. Already one goal down you start with two multimillion dollar DP players on the bench. Seems it would make more sense to start them, even at less than 100% and sub them if it didn't work out!?
  1. Miguel Dedo
    commented on: November 8, 2013 at 12:59 p.m.
    It was obvious that Seattle did not come out ready to play. When they took the field they still had their pajamas on.
  1. Doug Broadie
    commented on: November 8, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
    I like Sigi, but I do not like how he sets up his defense as he always seems to overload the strong side of an attack and leave the backside unprotected. He's done this for years and this year it bit him in the behind as Portland scored most of their goals from weak side with quick transitions.
  1. Andrea Hana
    commented on: November 8, 2013 at 1:55 p.m.
    I'm a Sounders fan, but I have to say: Great Job, Portland! Now go kick some RSL butt! I'll be rootin' for 'ya! :)

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