By Tim Booth
SEATTLE — If the Seattle Sounders are left chasing points to try to avoid playing an extra playoff game or earn home-field advantage, settling for two draws in an unfulfilling rivalry week could be the cause.
“We feel like the team that lost points today,” Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan said.
Roldan scored his sixth goal of the season on a wild scramble to give Seattle an early advantage, and Diego Valeri scored on a penalty kick just before halftime to help the Portland Timbers escape with a 1-1 draw Sunday night.
The 99th meeting between the Sounders and Timbers featured the top two teams in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference standings with two months remaining in the regular season. Seattle had the better of the chances and extended its unbeaten streak to 11, but for the second time in the past week was forced to accept a 1-1 draw.
The Sounders tied Vancouver 1-1 Wednesday despite playing the majority of the second half with a one-man advantage.
In both matches Seattle had opportunities to get three points for the victory and take firm control of the top spot in the West. Instead, the Sounders (42 points) continue to hold just a one-point lead over the Timbers (41 points) for first place.
“You’re playing your two archrivals, you have chances in Vancouver to put that game away and you have chances to put Portland away and you don’t do it. Disappointed,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Roldan scored in the 18th minute to ignite the crowd of 51,796. But Portland dominated the latter portions of the first half, leading to Darren Mattocks drawing a penalty during first-half stoppage time. Valeri beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei for his 16th goal this season and has scored in six straight games.
“We came here for three points. You saw that in the first half,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. “We didn’t come here to sit back. (We) came here to attack, came to win the game. That’s what makes it even more pleasing. I was really pleased with the first half especially.”
Seattle had the better of the chances in the second half and only because of Portland goalkeeper Jeff Attinella the score stayed even. Jordan Morris was stuffed on a pair of breakaway attempts inside the first 15 minutes of the second half as Attinella kept the Timbers in the game. A left-footed shot from Morris in the 47th minute didn’t have enough power to get past Attinella and a right-footed attempt by Morris nine minutes later was smothered. Both represented the clearest scoring chances for Seattle after Roldan’s goal.
“He got in behind, but I just tried to stand him up and read what he was doing,” Attinella said. “Fortunately, I got a hand to both of them.”
It was a banner day for Roldan who was named Sunday to the U.S. squad for upcoming World Cup qualifying, just the second national team selection for the 22-year-old. His goal was the result of some fortunate deflections and eventually the ball sneaked past Attinella.
But Portland controlled the latter stages of the first half even while missing injured striker Fanendo Adi. Mattocks earned the penalty when he tumbled over Frei while also appearing to be shoved by defender Kelvin Leerdam.
“I had a good feeling because the team was playing after the goal really well. I kept think that I’m not worried,” Porter said. “We kept getting chances, kept threatening. I knew the goal would come”.