By Tenzin Choephel (Photography from Nick Danielson)
SEATTLE, WA – It wasn’t the prettiest of games for the boys in green and gold, but they found a way to pick up a road point in a 1 – 1 draw against their rivals the Seattle Sounders.
Despite missing four key starters, the Timbers came out firing on all cylinders in the first half. 56 seconds into the match, Sebastian Blanco found space just outside the 18 yard box and fired a shot that forced a Stefan Frei save. The Timbers would take three corner kicks in a matter of five minutes and the high pressure they put on the Sounder back line had them reeling.
Despite the pressure, the Timbers couldn’t find the goal to put them over the top and it would come to bite them in the 18th minute. Cristian Roldan would score a scrappy goal from a Nicolas Lodeiro corner kick putting the Sounders up in front of their home crowd at CenturyLink Field.
A goal down, the Timbers continued to push forward and their best open play opportunity would come in the 36th minute. A deflected Valeri shot outside the box was corralled by Darren Mattocks who would find Blanco in the box. The Argentine would not be able to convert from eight yards out blasting it over the goal.
The Timbers would finally break through in the dying minutes of the first half. Valeri found a streaking Mattocks with a beautifully placed chip causing Frei to come off his line – taking the Jamaican international down in the box for a penalty. Valeri converted with a well-placed shot to the left swinging the momentum back in the Timbers favor.
The game would become challenging for the Timbers in the second half as the Sounders started to take control. The Timbers back line, which has struggled this year, would rise to the occasion and contain most chances and deny service into the box. When needed, Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella made crucial saves including two shots from Jordan Morris when he broke through the back line. Attinella would also make a tip save from an errant Larrys Mabiala header in the 90th minute. The Sounders, who have become accustomed to scoring late goals this year, lost momentum after a stoppage time red card to defender Nouhou Tolo for violent conduct. A crucial road point for the Timbers moves them into second place in the Western Conference.
Depth Steps Up
With Fanendo Adi, Jake Gleeson, David Guzman and Liam Ridgewell out for the match, it was their replacements, particularly Roy Miller and Jeff Attinella, who would step up. Miller was effective in cutting of passes and holding the back line together in the second half. Signed as a backup , he has been an important piece this year with the injuries to the Ridgewell. Attinella has now put together a string of good games and is a big reason why the Timbers have gone undefeated in the last three. Mattocks, starting for Adi, might not have scored, but did draw the penalty kick and was a nuisance to the Sounders back line with his runs. After the match, Mattocks said the game plan from the beginning was for him to attack Roman Torres and Chad Marshall with his pace.
Valeri Scores Again
It may have been from the spot, but Diego Valeri has scored a goal in six straight games. Valeri is starting to make some noise in the MVP discussion for the year as he’s currently tied for second in the league with 16 goals and has also dished out a team leading 9 assists. A threat as a goal scorer and playmaker, Valeri’s form has catapulted the Timbers in last month as they make their run in the Western Conference standings.
The Timbers have a few games in hand, but currently sit in second place with 41 points in a tight Western Conference. Historically, CenturyLink Field hasn’t been a kind place for the Timbers but a 1 point result on the road puts them in a good spot for both Cascadia Cup and playoff purposes. They’ll need to continue to get results with three of next four matches on the road. With the current form his team is displaying, coach Caleb Porter should be happy about where they are at with six games remaining in the regular season.