The pre match talk was of coaches. Coaches in trouble. Coaches at risk of unemployment. One coach would emerge as a relieved man.
The other was Sigi Schmid. After a very long delay, Schmid came out to face the traveling press pack and looked a drained and dare one suggest resigned man.
Schmid is an emotional human being and rarely hides how he really feels. He had the visage of someone who is dreading checking the Call ID every time his phone rings.
The Sounders boss sent out his strongest side dismissing all talk of saving some resources for the Open Cup tie on Tuesday. Only Pat Ianni dropped out from Wednesday, replaced by Jhon Hurtado who had been suspended for the Sporting Kansas game anyway.
The boss gambled all his chips and has now more hope than energy in reserve for Tuesday’s massive clash with the Quakes in San Francisco.
Ossie Alonso and Darlington Nagbe were close from the start. All the signs were that this would be the battle that will decide the match.
By half time, that theory had been surpassed by debates about the Sounders FC centre halves. Parke and Hurtado were so glaringly posted absent at Kris Boyd’s goal that even Steven Smith, supplier of the cross, admitted he initially wondered where the defenders were.
There were warning signs even before the opening goal. Timbers could have had an early lead even before when a Horst header hit the bar and Jewsbury slid the rebound agonisingly wide. Horst had never scored a goal for the Timbers but then again, he probably had rarely been so poorly marked.
It came as little surprise that other set piece chances came Portland’s way and Horst was set to be the beneficiary. He deserved it. He had an outstanding match at both ends of the field, on one occasion using his muscle mass to ward Johnson behind to win a goal kick.
Alhassan was being allowed to run at a defence clearly low on confidence as Burch and others backed off. The press box was shaking with the home crowd’s excitement at 2-0 and for a while, just a while, Sounders seemed in danger of collapse.
This was to be an unusual day. One centre half having a excellent match and scoring his first goal for the club. For his opposite number, the reverse. Jeff Parke’s day worsened when he left the field injured with migraine the most likely diagnosis.
But all the talk will be about Sounders centre half problems.
Whatever the talk in the Seattle locker room at half time, it worked. The side came out energised.
Eddie Johnson’s superb one man goal was thoroughly deserved but the spark failed to ignite. Seattle huffed and puffed a little for the rest of the match. But Portland Timbers have developed a spine. It’s a spine that bends but doesn’t break when under pressure.
Sounders frustration was exemplified by an off the ball shouting match between Burch and the linesman.
Their frustration culminated in a second red card, the second in stoppage time in consecutive games, this time for Montero.
There was so much argy-bargy that both linesmen had to wander on to bring the temperature down.
Lovel Palmer also saw red and perhaps that was the sole moment of irresponsibility for a team that showed considerable maturity in running the game down when out on their feet. Last year Portland Timbers would have lost this match.
Last April Sounders would have won it.
After the match Schmid wandered onto the pitch and stood on his own, away from the players. He seemed deep in thought as if he really wanted to be alone as one can be in front 20,438 people.
The man, usually so ebullient, didn’t march to his players, the fans or even the referee. He just stood there alone in his thoughts. His reserve players have been asked to perform more MLS minutes than he would have liked he confessed afterwards.
He looked more drained than any of them. He will need to find some of his old magic very quickly as the Open Cup Tie in San Jose looms.