In what will likely go down as one of the most-memorable matches in the contentious rivalry between Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers FC, the visiting Timbers took advantage of a short-handed Sounders team in added time, delivering their hosts a 3-1 loss, marking the first time Seattle has lost in US Open Cup play at Starfire Stadium.
Despite the history, however, this match will likely be remembered more for the Sounders finishing with seven men, thanks to three red cards and an injury to Obafemi Martins that came moments after Sounders coach Sigi Schmid had used his final substitution. With Seattle already playing with nine men, but only trailing 2-1, Michael Azira was shown a red card for an apparent elbow in the 112th minute, and during the post-red card argument between the referee and the Seattle players, Clint Dempsey was sent off for ripping up the referee’s notebook. The Timbers would add a third goal in the final minutes to put the game away.
VIDEO: Clint Dempsey sent off
The first half gave no indication of the thrills that were in store for the 4,022 in attendance for the Fourth Round derby. None of the three officially tallied shots were on goal, with Aaron Kovar’s long shot from the left side was the lone pulse-quickening moment when it bulged the side netting from the wrong side.
Seattle made a change of jersey in the locker room, switching from their “Pitch Black” to mostly white tops, potentially to help better distinguish from the dark green of Portland as the Starfire lighting failed to keep pace with the fading sunlight.
Fortunately, the game also made a change, and fairly quickly after the resumption of play.
Rodney Wallace’s cross from the left flank looped over the Seattle defense and headed toward the far post. Just before Leo Gonzalez could get his head to the ball for a clearance attempt, Diego Valeri extended right foot high enough to poke it past keeper Troy Perkins, who was making his 2015 competitive debut.
Photo: Seattle Sounders FC
Falling behind seemed to inspire Seattle into action, as they immediately sprung into life on the offensive end and began putting together the sincere offensive threats their possession advantage in the first half failed to deliver.
But Adam Kwarasey was ready.
Obafemi Martins charged into the area and curled a hard shot toward the far post, which was sent away by a diving effort from the Portland keeper in the 51st minute. Moments later, a cross found Kovar directly in front of goal, mere feet from his target, but, again, Kwarasey parried the threat away to safety.
The game seemed to reach a potential tipping point when Brad Evans fouled Jorge Villafana. Referee Daniel Radford, who’d already given Evans a yellow for a careless foul in the 38th minute, sent the captain off for the play, dropping Seattle to ten men.
Despite the personnel advantage, though, Portland was unable regain control of the momentum as the Sounders offered no indication they were short-handed and continued to press for the equalizer. That equalizer finally came through a corner that escaped the swiping effort of Kwarasey as ended its arc in the path of Martins, who slotted the ball cleanly past the goal line in the 79th minute.
Then the man they call “Oba!” effected yet another sea change.
Moments after Tyrone Mears replaced Gonzalez in the 84th minute as Schmid’s third and final substitution, Martins went to the ground near midfield and required attention from the medical staff. At one point, Martins attempted to stand with assistance but quickly sat back down on the turf, which brought the stretcher onto the field to get the player off and play restarted.
Without their catalyst and goalscorer, the nine-man Sounders squad found themselves being pushed back by an ambitious Portland attack and struggled to carry the 1-1 scoreline through the extended injury time beyond regulation.
While the two teams prepared for the extra soccer, it became clear that Martins was not returning to action, leaving the hosts two men down for the final thirty minutes.
Or, as it would turn out, at least two men down.
Portland started the first overtime period much the way they ended regulation, using their superior numbers to create chances, but it was ultimately another set piece that broke the deadlock. A ball delivered from a corner was cleared out of the area to where George Fochive had time and space to return it goalward. Before it could get to the goal line, Fochive’s effort was deflected, finding Wallace, who tidied up and ran to the Portland bench to celebrate in the 110th minute.
After swapping ends for the final 15 minutes, Portland continued to control play, with undermanned Seattle managing the the odd push into Timbers territory. On one such venture, Michael Azira charged into a challenge, sending Gaston Fernandez to the turf. Radford produced a red card for the play, dropping Seattle to just eight players.
That is, until Clint Dempsey snatched what appeared to be the referee’s notebook from his hand, flung it to the ground, walked immediately over to the object, picked it up, tore it into pieces and threw it into the air. For his actions, Dempsey was given consecutive yellow cards and had to be restrained by teammates as he attempted to go after Radford.
Down to six outfield players, Seattle was left with no real chance to avoid the loss, nor to stop Maximiliano Urruti’s final blow in the 116th minute on a low shot from the edge of the area that got inside the post just a bit more quickly than Perkins was able to get to the ground to stop it.
For the Sounders, it was the end of a number of streaks. In the team’s franchise history, dating back to their USL days, they had never lost at Starfire Sports Complex. Their 19-game unbeaten streak would end (18-0-1). Since joining Major League Soccer, the Sounders had never lost a home game of any kind in Open Cup play (15-0-1, 1-0 in PKs). Also, this marked the first time, since joining MLS that Seattle had been defeated by another MLS team, an unbeaten streak of 16 games (14-0-2) also snapped. And between the two rivals, this was the first time the Timbers had defeated the Sounders in US Open Cup play in a decade. The last time Portland beat Seattle in the tournament was in 2005 when they were both members of the United Soccer Leagues and the Timbers beat them in the Rose City, 2-0.
The result means there will be a new champion of the US Open Cup. Portland will take their next step in a bid to win the hardware in two weeks when Round 5 is set to begin. Their opponent will be determined on June 18 when the US Soccer Federation conducts the draw.
FULL MATCH REPLAY: PORTLAND TIMBERS AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Seattle Sounders FC
48' · Diego Valeri (Rodney Wallace)  100' · Rodney Wallace