By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
PORTLAND — Slump? What slump?
The Seattle Sounders went into Providence Park on Sunday and knocked off the Portland Timbers 4-2 before a singing, chanting, flag-waving sellout crowd of 20,814.
The win moved Seattle back to the top of Major League Soccer and the Cascadia Cup competition. It also gave the Sounders a 3-1 season advantage against their archrivals in MLS and U.S. Open Cup. And it left them with a 3-1-1 record over a now-completed stretch of five games in 15 days.
And in light of all that, coach Sigi Schmid wondered aloud about critics he believes have unfairly tried to liken the late slump of last season with anything going on this season.
“This isn’t last year,” Schmid said. “It’s a different group, it’s a different team, there’s a different attitude. This team knows what they want. Right now we’re still on top in the Supporters Shield, we’re still on top in the Western Conference, we’re in an Open Cup final, and we still are looking at playoffs ahead of us. Germans always say ‘We’re still dancing at three weddings.’”
Schmid spoke from the exact same spot where he had stood last November when the Timbers had knocked the Sounders out of the 2013 MLS playoffs. And Schmid made the point that he remembered that, too.
“Our team went out there with an attitude,” he said. “We wanted to make this statement that this was not last year, not deja vu. … I’m very pleased with our attitude and the result today.”
Seattle took the lead in the 18th minute on a goal by Obafemi Martins, doubled that before halftime with a goal by Clint Dempsey, and then got the first goal of the second half from Chad Barrett, pushing their lead to 3-0.
Portland got one back in the 73rd minute with the first of two goals from Fanendo Adi, but Martins answered three minutes later to pretty much settle the issue until the Ado added the last score in stoppage time.
“At the end of a road trip, playing away from home, in this rivalry game, you have to give a little bit extra,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “And everybody did today. And that’s feeding off emotions: coming into this stadium, hearing their fans yell at you and our fans yell for us, I don’t care what you say, you get the butterflies, you get the tingling feeling.”
Seattle’s top stars had their fingerprints all over this one. Martins had his ninth and 10th goals and his team-high eighth assist. Dempsey got his 10th goal, matching Martins for the team lead, and added his fifth assist. Barrett’s seventh goal of the season was also his third in three MLS games and his fourth goal in four games overall. Goalkeeper Stafan Frei faced 21 shots and saved four of the six that were on target. Assists came from Evans, DeAndre Yedlin and Gonzalo Pineda, who returned after missing the previous match with an ankle injury.
“Getting Pineda back is helpful to our team,” Schmid said. “I thought he played a good game. He probably played where some guys might not have played with his ankle injury, but he’s a competitor. … It was a lineup that we were pretty happy putting out on the field today.”
Seattle jumped to 14-7-3 in MLS and 2-1-2 in the Cascadia Cup competition with one match remaining: at home Oct. 10 against Vancouver, the only remaining challenger.
The Timbers were eliminated from Cup contention, and their 7-8-10 league record gives them work to do to climb into playoff position.
“I’ve now given 25 team talks and going into this game it felt like the easiest one I had to give because there is so much motivation,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. “Rivalry game, we are two points off the (playoffs) red line and the opportunity to go above the red line. We’re at home. I thought we were up for it.”
The Sounders return to league action at 1 p.m. Saturday when the Colorado Rapids visit CenturyLink Field.