Hitting the crossbar and post is a skill used for fun at the end of soccer trainings or at All-Star games. In a match, it’s aggravating.
Clank after clank, the Sounders grew more and more irritated at being unable to aim their shots an inch lower or narrower to slip one into the goal. Instead, they were left with missed opportunities, losing to Portland 2-0 on Sunday night at Lumen Field.
Seattle hasn’t defeated its Cascadia rival at home since 2018. The Rave Green remains atop the MLS Western Conference but hasn’t won a match at home this season since July.
“It’s a game of inches at times and today was a big example of that,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “The ball can go six inches to the right and there’s two goals there. Frustrating. We’ve got to hit the back post as well. Those are easy tap-ins. But we were dangerous in front of goal. If you’re not clinical, it’ll bite you. Today it bit us.”
Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco put his side on the board in the 58th minute.
Sounders defender Yeimar Gomez Andrade sent a backward pass to keeper Stefan Cleveland but Timbers forward Felipe Mora was onside when he raced Cleveland to the ball at the top of the box. Mora won, working the ball on the end line until Blanco was in position in the box to knock in a shot past an off-balanced Cleveland.
Mora iced the game with a right-footed shot from distance in second-half stoppage time. He again pressured Cleveland and Yeimar, working both into costly mistakes to get a pretty score in the net.
“You can’t give things away,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Yeimar, instead of playing the ball back, maybe he just kicks it out of bounds. We’ve seen that all over the world, center backs kick the ball out to be safe. But I thought we were on top of (Portland) in those moments and I can see why Yeimar felt, ‘Oh, this is going to be OK.’
“Right before that spell, we had them pinned back. So, you have to give a little bit of credit to Portland. They took a chance and they made us pay.”
The Sounders had four attempts hit the post or crossbar, including one from Roldan in the 85th minute. Seattle had 12 corner kicks in the match but also couldn’t create a score from the set piece.
It was a stark difference from earlier this month when the Sounders embarrassed the Timbers with a 6-2 win at Providence Park.
Portland (8-10-3) pressured the Sounders in the box early. But the Rave Green was able to remain cool in the opening half, Yeimar then able to show why he was voted to his first MLS All-Star Game.
Portland’s best chance was from forward Dairon Asprilla in the 6th minute. The right-footed shot off an assist from Blanco hit the upper corner post.
Seattle (12-4-6) was uncharacteristically sloppy with its chances in the opening half. Wingback Brad Smith missed what looked to be an easy service to Raul Ruidiaz early and sent an attempt over goal off a cross from teammate Alex Roldan.
Play was stopped after Portland midfielder Eryk Williamson collapsed, untouched at center circle with an apparent knee injury. The U.S. national team standout was able rise and walk but then laid down on a stretcher and was carried off the field.
Cristhian Paredes replaced Williamson in the 12th minute.
“It doesn’t look good,” Portland coach Gio Savarese told the ESPN broadcast team during halftime. “He’s being assessed, but it doesn’t look good.”
Sunday’s derby was part of a doubleheader with OL Reign. Marketed as the “Pacific Northwest Experience,” it was a first for the clubs, the Reign originally set to host Portland Thorns FC on Sunday at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma.
One ticket provided access to both men’s and women’s matches and multiple, in-stadium concerts that were tributes to Seattle musical icon Jimi Hendrix.
A reported 27,248 people showed up for the opening match, which set an NWSL attendance record. Striker Megan Rapinoe had a brace in the Reign’s 2-1 win.
The crowd swelled to 45,737 for the nightcap. In part due to COVID-19 restrictions, it was the largest audience for a Sounders match since the club won the 2019 MLS Cup before more than 69,000 fans.
Seattle is off until it hosts Minnesota United FC on Sept. 11 at Lumen Field. Cristian Roldan (USMNT), Alex Roldan (El Salvador) and Ruidiaz (Peru) will participate in World Cup qualifying matches for their respective national teams beginning Sept. 2.
“These are the kind of games where you want to play on Wednesday because you get another game coming in as soon as possible,” Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe said of the layoff. “It’s going to be a long week or so. We’ve got to make sure we’re professional and come out the next game against Minnesota and make sure we take care of business.”
NOTE: Brazilian striker Leo Chu was introduced to the Sounders faithful before kickoff Sunday. The 21-year-old was given his No. 23 green jersey and is expected to join training once he clears MLS safety protocols for COVID-19.