To say the Timbers welcome the Seattle Sounders to the House of Pane for today's Cascadia Cup derby (1 p.m. on ESPN and 750 AM/101.1 FM) might be a bit of a stretch.
With Portland floundering midway through its first MLS season, the Timbers aren't exactly rolling into their most important match of the season. Momentum? None for Portland, which is mired in a six-match winless slide and sits second-to-last out west.
Can the Timbers turn things around against their biggest rivals on a postcard-perfect afternoon in the Rose City? Will the MLS' showcase feud live up to its nationally-televised hype? How will the next chapter of this legendary rivalry read?
So many questions, only one answer: Click past the jump as I deftly describe all the action, on and off the pitch.
Pregame—The stadium is sparsely filled save a few choice sections. Guess which ones? Timbers Army is bursting at the seams, and the 500+ Sounders' supporters who flew south are also here in full force (with a couple of Portland's finest holding fort at the edges of their east-end sections).
Seattle (8-4-8, 32 points)—Kasey Keller in goal. Fredy Montero and Roger Levesque up front. Alvaro Fernandez, Erik Friberg, Osvaldo Alonso and Mauro Rosales at midfield. Tyson Wahl, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke and James Riley on defense.
Portland (5-8-3, 18 points)—Troy Perkins in goal. Jorge Perlaza and Kalif Alhassan at forward. Darlington Nagbe, Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chará, and James Marcelin at midfield. Rodney Wallace, Futty Danso, Eric Brunner and Steve Purdy on defense. That's a new one. Interesting to see Kalif and Jorge up front—definitely an attempt to stretch out the Seattle defense. Also, a surprise that Wallace is starting after reports came out he'd been ruled out. Maybe that's why coach John Spencer called Wallace "Lazarus" yesterday?
Seattle's supporters have a new take on a familiar Timbers Army chant of "Onward Rose City!": "Oooh, oooh, oooh, Fuck off Rose City!" I see what you did there, Seattle.
Timbers sporting green tops and white shorts and Seattle's wearing hideous all-highlighter-yellow kits. Yikes. Pyrotechnics for the first time since the opener, I believe.
Timbers Army's tifo looked great. THE KING OF CLUBS, it read.
And way we go ...
1st minute—High-paced action from the start. Both teams showing plenty of adrenaline and feeding off this electric crowd. This definitely has a big-time feel. We're in for a great 90 minutes.
3rd—Wallace doesn't look like anything's hampering his movement and Alhassan is looking confident in his early touches. A nice steal and Alhassan gets an early free kick after getting run over. Played in by Purdy but it's over Perlaza's head.
5th—Seattle showing some good, quick passing and they'll earn a free kick from 25 yards out. Levesque draws it, much to the chagrin of TA.
6th—Montero quickly delivers and Perkins is forced to dive for a save. Ensuing corner is headed weakly over top of the crossbar. Goal kick coming.
7th—Levesque nearly adds to his Portland-nemesis legend with a header in the box, but nothing comes of it. Sounders the aggressor here early.
9th—Long ball for Perlaza forces Seattle to clear and give Portland a throw-in in Seattle's half. After a steal, Nagbe nabs it back and is fouled to earn a free kick from 45ish yards out. Jewsbury swings it in and Purdy gets a head on it, but not enough to keep it on-goal.
11th—Seattle knocking it around the backline. Showing patience or indecision? With Portland being as shaky as they've been early this year, I might be a bit more aggressive. But I'm no Sigi. Timbers show some confident passing after a takeaway and Chará earns a Portland corner. Nothing doing.
13th—Wallace lobs one in from distance, but it's over the goal. Timbers looking as confident as we've seen them this summer with their possession and movement, though they're essentially playing the same long-ball game.
16th—Alhassan with a run down the east side into the box. Looks promising, but he slips and it's cleared.
19th—Seattle attacks but Timbers' D holds firm at the top of the box. Nagbe with a low rolling shot from distance. Keller easily scoops it up.
21st—Technical difficulties here. Bandwith appears to be overloaded a bit in the press box. Not conducive to live-blogging. Nope.
25th—Back-and-forth action here as the pace has slowed a bit. Both teams calming down, but not the fans. Sounders taking their time with possession in their own half.
27th—Montero with a world-class pass and Rosales busts one from the right side, but it's high and wide. Dangerous opportunity, but over the bar.
28th—Rosales with another shot. He's looking like he plans on being in the right place at the right time all afternoon.
29th—Rosales gets behind Futty and Perkins is forced off his line to slide and grab it. Futty favoring that shoulder after getting up.
31st—Levesque breaks down the east side but Portland defends it beautifully. Perkins comes off his line to challenge Levesque, who tries to cross. It finds Montero, who blasts one that's immediately knocked down and out by Futty. Good thing, too, because Perkins was scrambling back to the goal.
33rd—Timbers get a couple of shooting opportunities from Jewsbury and Alhassan, but they're split-seconds of control away from getting a good shot off.
35th—Nagbe working a nice-weave with Chará and Purdy earns a corner kick. Played in and headed by Brunner, but it's deflected out. Another corner.
36th—Jewsbury's corner sails into Keller's hands. He punts it out quickly, but Marcelin is there. Alhassan with some nifty dribbling. He's looking good on the attack up front. The lineup change is paying off thus far.
37th—Another corner by Jewsbury is headed by Purdy, but straight up in the air. Ball is eventually gathered by Alhassan, who skids a shot low and left.
39th—Fernandez breaks past Purdy and fires one, but Perkins stays big and gets in front of it. Corner kick yielded, but a great save by the Timbers' keeper. Ensuing corner headed wide right by Hurtado.
41st—Timbers with a bit of mo' here. Seattle struggling to get into Portland's half. A goal before half here would be huge for either team. The press box is swaying a bit. No shit.
43rd—Portland pressing Seattle in their own end and Perlaza picks up a foul in Seattle's box. Fernandez rolling around to stop things. Good bit of gamesmanship there, I think, as he gets up almost immediately after being taken out. Certainly slowed Portland's momentum a bit before half.
45th—One minute of added time. Jewsbury is leveled as he and Keller leap for the same long ball. Jumps right back up, though.
HALFTIME—We're scoreless, and that's a win for Portland. Pretty even possession and a couple of good chances for both teams, though Seattle's felt more serious.
Breaking news: Capt. Jack Jewsbury has been named to the MLS' Starting XI for the All-Star game. It's the 30-year-old's first All-Star selection and he's officially the first Portland MLS All-Star in history. He'll join David Beckham (LA Galaxy) and Brek Shea (FC Dallas) in the league's midfield against Manchester United on July 27. I figured Capt Jack might make the squad, but as a member of the Starting XI? Bit of a surprise. Here's the release. For the record, Seattle's Kasey Keller is also on the squad.
Some halftime stats: Seattle out-shot Portland 9-7 and they're tied with four fouls a piece. Two shots on goal for Seattle—one for Portland—but the Timbers lead the corner kick tally 4-2.
And we're back at it ... No subs for either side at the half. By the way, I may or may not have eaten two pieces of chocolate-covered bacon at the half. I regret nothing.
46th—TIMBERS GOALAlhassan SMOKES Wahl down the right side and plays a cross in the direction of Perlaza, and it's an own-goal by Seattle's Parke. This place just absolutely erupted. Anyone still in line for beers just kicked themselves, and so does Seattle. Portland leads 1-0 after a perfect start for Portland's second half. And speaking of smoke, I smell it.
48th—Sounders responding with a couple of chances up front after the Timbers score 45 seconds into the second half. Timbers riding out the storm as Alhassan looks like he's skating out there.
49th—A nice pass from Alhassan is just out of the reach of Nagbe, but it's a good idea. Timbers' confidence grows with Kalif's.
52nd—Timbers throw-in comes in and Timbers are taking their time.
53rd—Bad pass from Futty hands Seattle a throw-in. Timbers recover and after Hurtado goes down, Wallace crosses into Perlaza. He just misses depositing it, and the Sounders gather around their fallen teammate. Looks serious as the stretcher immediately comes out.
55th—Hurtado walks off under his own power but is still being tended to on the west sideline. Timbers are a man up, but Seattle is the aggressor as Marcelin fouls Montero at the top of the box. Dangerous free kick upcoming.
56th—Patrick Ianni in for Hurtado.
57th—SOUNDERS GOAL Montero blasts a free kick from just outside the box and beats Perkins to his right. A brilliant strike, and Montero rips off his ugly highlighter-yellow jersey to reveal ... an ugly highlighter-yellow undershirt. That'll earn him a yellow card. I doubt he minds. We're tied at 1 and Portland's lead lasted all of 11 minutes.
60th—Wallace fouls Rosales at midfield and after the whistle, Friberg runs into Jewsbury. Wallace doesn't like it and gets up in Friberg's grill. Wallace better be careful: His next yellow is an automatic one-game suspension.
62nd—Perkins with a brilliant stop after Friberg dribbles through the Timbers' backline after luring Brunner in. Close call there for Portland.
63rd—Marcelin is tripped up at midfield and Alonso picks up a yellow for arguing.
64th—Sal Zizzo enters for Nagbe. Can he provide a spark on the flank? Free kick by Jewsbury after the Marcelin foul sails in toward Futty, who nearly gets to it before Keller snags it. Shades of Futty's goal at Seattle. Everyone knew that was coming, but Seattle still had trouble marking the big Gambian.
65th—Montero flicks one in for Levesque, but Perkins is all over it.
66th—For the Sounders, Lamar Neagle (of Tacoma, Wash.) enters for Fernandez.
68th—Wallace earns two straight throw-ins deep in Seattle's side. The second is played back, and Futty plays a long ball into a diving Zizzo, but it's just out of his reach.
69th—TIMBERS GOAL Chará fights off the Sounders defense and plays a perfect long ball in space for Perlaza. He makes a long run and fires a shot from the right side that deflects off Wahl and off the crossbar into the net. 2-1 Timbers. Keller dives, but his momentum carries it just out of his reach. Timbers Army absolutely losing it.
74th—SOUNDERS GOAL Absolutely brilliant passing by Seattle. Montero with his second goal of the day. Timbers can't clear and too much time in the penalty area pays off for Seattle. Perkins is livid. Twice the Timbers have led, and twice Seattle has equalized. We're tied at 2.
75th—Cooper in for Perlaza.
77th—Wallace crosses to earn a corner kick. Jewsbury lines it up and sends it in, but it's knocked down.
78th—A yellow card for Rosales, who looks like he's trying to boot the ball into the porch at the MAC.
79th—Kalif is on-side deep in Seattle's end, but Cooper doesn't let it go and Kalif is offside.
80th—Rosales with another dangerous cross, but it's high and over the scrum up front. These last 10 minutes are sure to be interesting ...
81st—What'd I just say? Brunner gets a red card after going spikes-up at Montero after he got behind the defense. Penalty kick coming and that's Portland's first red card this year.
82nd—SOUNDERS GOAL Alonso deposits it low and right on the PK and it's 3-2 Seattle.
84th—Alhassan gets a volley from a tough angle and air-mails it, but it's a solid chance for Portland. Timbers are not out of this yet, but this will be a huge test of their composure.
86th—Montero with another cross but Perkins gets to it. Ensuing goal kick leads to a nice run by Zizzo, but he passes to Alhassan and Kalif mis-strikes one from the left side of the box.
87th—Perkins with a double save after a cross goes to an unmarked Montero and the Sounders forward heads it on-goal. Perkins gets just enough of a piece of it, then nabs the rebound just before it goes over the goal line. Should've been the nail in the coffin for Portland. Wow, what concentration by Perkins.
89th—Pat Noonan enters for Montero.
90th—Timbers attack a bit, but they look deflated. Chances are looking more slim here as four minutes of stoppage time are added.
STOPPAGE—Zizzo plays a long one into Cooper, but it's too long. Keller takes his time and punts one long. Purdy heads one back to himself and plays it forward. It's headed back and Timbers get a throw at midfield.
The chainsaw is buzzing and the Timbers get a tantalizing shot at equalizing on a long pass meant for Cooper but headed by Chará. He can't get a good strike on it, however, and it goes right to Keller.
A free kick coming for Portland from midfield and it goes straight to Keller. No Timbers ran across Keller's vision and he easily picks it off.
Timbers with a throw-in in front of their own bench and Wallace is called with a cleats-up foul. Free kick coming for Seattle, and that should do it.
FULL TIME—Seattle wins, 3-2. Timbers twice have the lead and twice let it slip away. A disappointing loss for Portland, and its winless streak goes to seven. Seattle's earned eight straight results. Tough loss for Portland. Headed down to the locker room. Back in a few with a recap and more thoughts.
Back from a very quiet Portland locker room, and the disappointment was palatable. The Timbers definitely felt like they let one slip away—twice—and missed out on a huge chance to steady their ship. Seattle out-shot Portland 14-11 and had seven shots on goal to Portland's three, but the real difference came down the stretch as Seattle scored twice in the final 16 minutes and the Timbers managed just shots in the final 21.
I'm uploading video John Spencer's post-match presser (which lasted all of five minutes) as I type. A wrenching loss, to say the least, for Portland, which must now try to put the pieces back together and figure out where to find points with 10 of its final 17 matches on the road.
Playoff chances? Yeah, they're not looking so good at the moment for a team that finally showed some life offensively but again fell victim to a less-than-stellar defensive effort down the stretch.
SPENCER'S FULL POST-MATCH PRESSER: