Posted November 03, 2013

Three thoughts on the Timbers’ 2-1 away win at Seattle

MLS Playoffs, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders
Ryan Johnson (left) scored the opening goal for Portland in the 15th minute. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Ryan Johnson (left) scored the opening goal for Portland in the 15th minute. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

Three thoughts on Portland’s 2-1 win at Seattle in the first leg of the MLS quarterfinals:

1) This was exactly what Portland wanted. If you had any questions about Portland’s readiness for its first MLS playoff game, the Timbers answered them early with a razor-sharp goal by Ryan Johnson to put Seattle under pressure from the start. The Timbers may not have as much overall talent as Seattle, but Portland’s chemistry is infinitely better right now. Evidence to that fact was provided in the understanding Caleb Porter’s players showed throughout the game, including on the exchange between Kalif Alhassan and Darlington Nagbe that led to Nagbe’s back-breaker goal in the second half. What’s more, Portland’s centerback pairing of Futty Danso and Pa-Modou Kah was much steadier than their Seattle counterparts, and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts continued to be in good form. While Seattle’s late goal from Osvaldo Alonso will make things more interesting in the second leg, Porter couldn’t have asked for much more from this road game that didn’t feel like a road game for his team.

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2) Seattle’s slide continues. There’s something that doesn’t feel right about this Sounders team, which has underperformed mightily in recent weeks, winning just once in its last nine games. Centerbacks Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Djimi Traoré were a step slow on both Portland goals, and while goal-scorer Alonso was terrific all over the field on Saturday, the rest of the midfield just wasn’t good enough as a unit. Say what you want about Seattle’ change to a diamond midfield, but Sigi Schmid has yet to figure out a way to use Clint Dempsey’s talents to their full potential since he arrived. Combine that with subpar games by Eddie Johnson and Lamar Neagle, and Seattle found itself struggling to create many chances. It almost felt like the boisterous home crowd willed the Sounders to their late lifeline goal, but it’s going to be awfully hard to win down in Portland on Thursday.

3) Thus ends a night of NFL lines. There were two MLS playoff games in two NFL stadiums on Saturday night, one in Seattle and one in New England. Both were marred by the presence of football lines. In my opinion they didn’t ruin the games, but they did feel like a gut punch to soccer fans after seeing all the gains made by American soccer and MLS in recent years. For those of us who watched MLS in the 1990s, it was a return to the bad old days when we thought we had advanced beyond them in the years of MLS 2.0. If anything, it’s a reminder that there are still a lot of gains to be made in the years ahead. MLS can do better than this.

5 comments
positivewins
positivewins

Dempsey's an interesting situation.  He needs a partner or two to play off of and to provide the service he needs to be successful.  He may be killing his career by playing for such a terrible MLS team and I'm concerned that his form will be off for the World Cup because of it.  Klinsman can't be happy with Sigi Schmid and Seattle.

jasjefwilder
jasjefwilder

Not only are the lines awful, but that big Seahawk helmet at midfield was also awful. And, by the way, games on turf are usually terrible. No tackling, little touch on passes, big bounces all over the place. 

I know the soccer media slobbers all over themselves about the atmosphere in Cascadia, but when are they going to notice the fact that they all play on turf? Let's make a concerted effort to get rid of that stuff. Salt Lake, New York, and Toronto have all done the right thing, let's hope Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle will too. NE went from grass to turf, barf.



WriterCarl
WriterCarl

The lines definitely put a damper on a night I'd been looking forward to: one of the few evenings of the year when there's a TV doubleheader, and a pair of matches that really mean something at that. For me, it wasn't just the lines themselves either; I just can't get used to Turf. I'm usually surprised how fluidly Seattle plays on their Turf, but last night that certainly wasn't the case. I don't know why the issue of Turf in MLS isn't discussed more nowadays. It seems to be more or less accepted now, partly, I think, because of Seattle's status as the beacon team on the attendance and business sides.

brittspencer
brittspencer

Perhaps the lines do not affect the players as much, but for a TV viewer, it was unwatchable...

80kdot
80kdot

oh man the lines were awful