PORTLAND – Momentum has swung back and forth throughout the 88 all-time meetings between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, north then south then back again.
Seattle’s 5-1 victory back in the late ’70s set the tone for its historical edge in the series, and Roger Levesque underlined it against a still minor-league Portland club during a 2009 U.S. Open Cup win. Last season’s MLS playoff series, when the Timbers ran away with the Western Conference semifinal on aggregate, marked a southward swing.
And Sunday afternoon brought another pivot point.
Seattle jumped on its rivals throughout a dominant opening 45 minutes and stormed to a comprehensive 4-2 victory – its largest at Providence Park in the MLS era – while also halting a stuttering run of form.
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“We wanted to make this a statement game, that this was not last year,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “This is not déjà vu.
“This is a different group, a different team. There’s a different attitude and this team knows what they want.”
The intensity occasionally boiled over in the form of six combined yellow cards and even more high elbows and bear-hugging tackles.
But mostly, relentlessly, there was end-to-end attacking between a hungry Seattle team that could return to the top of the Supporter’s Shield standings with a win and a desperate Portland squad scrapping toward the final playoff spots.
Between the 10th and the 30th minutes, action flowed almost exclusively toward the Portland goal, and Obafemi Martins opened the scoring in the 18th minute following a give-and-go between Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin to break up the defense.
Just as the Timbers slowed the deluge, it poured forward again in the form of a 34th minute counterattack – a long clearance off a Portland corner was flicked forward by Marco Pappa’s boot, Martins led the charge up the right flank and Clint Dempsey was rewarded for his sprint from the other box with a centering feed to make it 2-0.
“(Clint) booked it there and I think we looked at that and said … what a run,” Evans said.
“I think that guys feed off that. When everybody puts in a little bit extra, the results tend to go your way.”
Seattle’s attacking pressure – and Portland’s hapless defense – was such that when Dempsey and Martins broke two-on-four-defenders in the final minute of the first half, the stadium still shifted forward in expectation.
Martins added another in the 76th minute, shortly after Chad Barrett made it 3-0 with his fourth goal in as many games and Fanendo Adi answered with one for Portland.
Martins spun between a pair of defenders on the wing and played a pass to Gonzalo Pineda before cutting around another. The return ball got stuck at the striker’s feet, but he lifted it between and through three additional Timbers on his way to the net for his remarkable second and Seattle’s remarkable fourth.
“Coming into the stadium, hearing their fans yell at you, hearing our fans yell for us — No matter what you say, you get the butterflies, you get that tingling feeling,” Evans said.
“Today we fed off that.”’
The sliver of Seattleites crammed into a corner of the park sung over Adi’s superfluous second goal in stoppage time and they kept on going through the final whistle.
They didn’t even stop as they exited the stadium to begin their caravan north, bringing the series momentum and a rejuvenated team up the highway with them.
Matt Pentz: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: mattpentz