Normalcy returned to the Cascadia derby — at the Sounders’ expense.
Seattle made the day-trip to Portland on Wednesday with an odd stat in its luggage. The club won the previous three matches at Providence Park. Adding to what Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer called “weird” is Portland winning the past three at CenturyLink Field.
The Timbers did their part in balancing the rivalry Wednesday, defeating the Sounders 1-0 at home on a rainy night.
Further souring the defeat for the Sounders is Portland (6-4-3) joining the club atop Major League Soccer’s Western Conference standings with 21 points each.
Wednesday was the third time in the span of a month the Cascadia rivals have played each other. The sides will face each other once more Oct. 24 at CenturyLink Field.
“This was absolutely a lost opportunity,” Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media members. “I just wanted to create some separation in a tight Western Conference. Now Portland is even on points. … Results (league wide) went our way tonight and we lost a massive, massive opportunity to put some room between us and the other guys in our conference.”
The Sounders (6-3-3) opened the match as the obvious aggressors. The club had five corner kicks and two near-chances at scoring from forward Jordan Morris in the opening 10 minutes.
The Sounders entered the break outshooting Portland 11-6 with three on-target. They possessed the ball 62% of the time and had seven corner kicks in the opening half.
But a badly placed header from Nouhou on defense of a long through pass dropped the ball at the foot of Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse. After a few dribbles, Ebobisse passed to Yimmi Chara, who broke past Sounders defender Kelvin Leerdam to score in the 13th minute. It was Chara’s third goal in as many games.
The Sounders continued to dominate possession and creativity in shot attempts in the second half, possessing the ball 66.2% in the game. Yet, the Rave Green couldn’t work Portland keeper Steve Clark out of position for the save, went wide with the attempts or smacked the shot into the side of the netting.
Clark finished with six saves for Portland. Forward Raul Ruidiaz and Morris were his biggest challengers, both finishing with four attempts.
Ruidiaz has seven goals in seven overall matches against Portland but none in the past two.
“We absolutely deserved a better result,” Schmetzer said. “The stats are well in our favor. I don’t know about the expected goals because some of the shots were from distance. Raul’s chance, where he tried to chip the goalkeeper, was from outside the box but Jordan’s left-footed chance was inside the box. Some headers on some set pieces, other half-chances, I thought we were OK. It’s just one of those frustrating nights where we couldn’t make that final pass or final action.”
Schmetzer made one change to the lineup that outscored opponents 10-1 in its past two victories. Defender Xavier Arreaga was replaced at center back by Shane O’Neill. Arreaga was available as a substitute.
Schmetzer praised Arreaga’s play in his past three starts. The Ecuadorean didn’t play in either previous matchups against Portland.
Sounders defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson was substituted in the match for Nouhou at halftime. Svensson missed the club’s past four matches due to travel to play for his Swedish national team and a mandatory 10-day quarantine per MLS safety protocols.
Midfielder Joevin Jones was substituted out of the game for Alex Roldan in the 53rd minute. Jones suffered a lower leg injury after tumbling into paneling along the perimeter of the field after a tackle. Schmetzer said he’ll undergo an MRI on Thursday.
Roldan entering the match to play alongside his older brother Cristian created MLS history. Chara’s brother Diego also plays for Portland, making it the first time two sets of brothers have played simultaneously in a league game.
Not that it brought any comfort to the Sounders.
“It was a hard game,” Svensson said during a video conference call. “We couldn’t really create something in the final third. It’s not always easy to score goals, even if you have chances.”