MLS Focus: Seattle's 'monster' win ties league record and shakes up playoff race

The last time Cascadia Cup rivals Seattle and Portland met on June 30, the Timbers were on a roll and the Sounders were fading, their 3-2 loss at CenturyLink Field dropping their record to 3-9-2, 11 points off the pace for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Sounders' fortunes have changed just a bit since then. They've gone 8-0-2, tying an MLS record in the post-shootout era with their seventh straight win on Sunday night, a 1-0 victory over the Timbers in Portland.

What made the win even sweeter from a Seattle perspective was the win moved the Sounders into fifth place ahead of the LA Galaxy, marking the first time all season they have been in the top six in the Western Conference, and archrival Portland dropped below the red line with its fourth loss in a row.

The win at Providence Park encapsulated the Sounders' season. They have struggled for goals, ranking second to last in goals scored in MLS (32 in 25 games), but held tight on defense, which is tied with the New York Red Bulls for having allowed the fewest goals in the league (26).

On Sunday, the Timbers had a huge edge in shots in the first half -- 14-2 -- but created few concrete chances.

"They had lots of shots," said Sounders keeper Stefan Frei, who leads MLS with a 0.96 goals-against average, "but not too many made it through."

Seattle held on until the last 20 minutes when it started to create openings. The winner came in the 76th minute on a own goal by Timbers defender Julio Cascante. The young Costa Rican was a big part of Portland's mid-season success, but he inadvertently back-heeled Seattle center back Kim Kee-hee's pass into the area intended for Raul Ruidiaz into his goal. Kim with the key pass was not in the script.

“It showed the determination, the fight, the ability to win games in different fashions,” said Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer. “I thought there were monster performances in that locker room. It’s what we talk about, we try to collect points and it doesn’t matter how we do it.”

All is not lost for the Timbers, though. They have have played the fewest games in the Western Conference and have one game in hand on Seattle and three games in hand on the Galaxy, both one point ahead of them. But they haven't scored in their last 235 minutes, their longest dry spell of the season.

"It's a shame," Portland coach Giovanni Savarese said, "because these are the games you need to win, but soccer is not about deserving, you have to get the job done. And today we didn't get the job done because at the end of the day we allowed them to find a goal in the moment we were probably doing our best, and that's something you need to grow from."

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