Seattle Sounders FC edged out the Portland Timbers 3-1 in the first of a Cascadia derby double-header at Starfire Soccer Stadium.
This result knocked the Timbers out of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, though they put up an almighty fight with Darlington Nagbe netting a last-ditch leveller after Osvaldo Alonso’s opener, and manager Caleb Porter will now look to gain revenge in this weekend’s Major League Soccer match.
The Sounders boast a proud Open Cup record and have never lost at this ground, and – after Diego Chara’s extra-time sending off – goals from Kenny Cooper and Marco Pappa saw the league-leaders progress to the semi-finals.
With one eye on Sunday’s face-off, the Rave Green were still without primary front pair Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins – the former otherwise engaged with David Letterman. There was a recall for DeAndre Yedlin however, amid rumours about his future on his 21st birthday.
World Cup tribute
The United States star received a tremendous roar of approval on touching the ball for the first time, and the game’s maiden chance came from down his wing.
Brad Evans’ long throw into the visitors’ area was flicked on by Cam Weaver, but from almost on the goal-line Lamar Neagle could only toe the ball into the arms of Donovan Ricketts. The Portland stopper’s opposite number Stefan Frei then had to be equally alert at the other end to turn over Gaston Fernandez’s volley.
It was Ricketts, however, who was next tested, and forced to exert all of his goalkeeping ability to keep the Sounders from taking the lead. Weaver played a timid cross towards the centre of the box, but a deflection off the boot of Danny O’Rourke required the Jamaican to turn on his heels and acrobatically scoop the ball from between his posts.
Frei was continuing to match the 37-year-old stride-for-stride though, and again repelled a Fernandez drive.
While the glorious sunshine and diminutive stadia gave the match a more light-hearted feel than other derbies, it wasn’t lacking in goal-mouth action. Next up was another effort from Weaver, who turned Evans’ cross onto the near post.
The chances began to dry up though and at half-time the score-line was still unblemished.
A couple of early sighters in the second period from Fanendo Adi and Fernandez did little to hide the Timbers’ vulnerability at the back, with Ricketts again called into action to make a flying stop from Evans’ rising strike.
The wide-play at either end had caused problems throughout the evening, and Seattle’s forays down the right flank finally paid off in the 69th minute. The Rave Green captain back-heeled to Neagle, and his delightful delivery was acrobatically converted by the ever-energetic Alonso at the far post.
Pappa flashed a low drive off target, as Portland accessed their substitutes’ bench and the game reverted to its earlier frantic pace.
Fernandez must have thought he’d levelled the scores, but he didn’t account for some ludicrous goalkeeping from Frei to keep Porter’s side at bay. Adi’s finish from 15 yards was straight at the Swiss stopper, and – though he fumbled the original effort – the former Toronto FC man somehow flung himself across the rebound’s goal-bound flight-path.
Frei then repeated his heroics in stoppage time, reacting superbly to a close-range prod from his Argentine nemesis.
But incredibly, when all hope seemed lost, Nagbe played a one-two with ex-Sounder Steve Zakuani and lashed into the far corner with the final kick of the match to silence the 4,000 home supporters.
Extra-time was an outcome that neither team wanted with their crunch clash in the league just four days away, but the Timbers were just relieved to still be in with a shout of advancing.
The majority of the noise was now coming from those who had travelled from the Rose City, but Neagle fizzed a 97th-minute effort just over the cross-bar with both sides struggling to come to terms with the extended period’s trials.
Any Portland glee at retrieving the tie was soon forgotten, however, as Chara furiously dived in on Pappa and brought a straight red card from the pocket of the unforgiving Chris Penso.
The Guatemalan very nearly exacted immediate punishment with a curling free kick, but – having needed a stunning result against Sporting Kansas City to reach this stage – the Oregonians had no thoughts of withdrawing into their shell. Adi and Fernandez maintained their menacing offensive stance, and Frei was again worked.
Yet under dying floodlights and with a penalty shoot-out coming into view, Cooper rose above Ricketts to nod in off the post and put Seattle right back in the driving seat against his former club.
With the Timbers bravely attempting another assault, Pappa put them out of their misery with a momentous thump at the end of a tricky run. The 26-year-old celebrated with a Martins-esque back-flip as the Sounders’ victory was secured.
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