By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
PORTLAND, Ore. — Every match in the Cascadia Cup rivalries are distinct, with far more passion, color and emotion than your typical Major League Soccer game.
Yet in too many ways, Seattle’s 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Sunday seemed far too familiar to suit coach Sigi Schmid. The Sounders fell behind early and once again failed to come all the way back as their winless streak stretched to a club-record seven games.
“We put ourselves in a hole,” Schmid said. “It’s tough. The last seven games we’ve played out of the hole every time. And when you’re constantly playing from behind, it makes it difficult.”
The result dropped Seattle to 7-5-4 in a season that had begun 7-1-1. The club has given up a combined eight goals over its past three losses. The Sounders also fell to 0-1-1 in Cascadia Cup play against the Timbers (4-6-4) and Vancouver Whitecaps.
That pile of negatives led Schmid to volunteer that the season has reached a crucial point for his club.
“I don’t feel good about this last series of games,” he said. “That team in the locker room has to decide which team is the Seattle Sounders: the Seattle Sounders that played the first seven-eight games of the season, or the Sounders that have played the last eight game of the season. They’re at the crossroads where they need to make the decision and decide which team they are.”
The Sounders bolted onto the pitch at Jeld-Wen Field well aware of their recent problem of giving up early goals — and promptly gave up two in the first half hour.
In the 16th minute, Timbers designated player Kris Boyd got past the Seattle defense and beat goalkeeper Andrew Weber from close range. In the 25th minute, David Horst beat the defense to a corner kick and headed the ball down past sprawling Sounders.
“The first goal … we missed our mark completely,” Weber said. “The guy has the whole goal to score, and he tucked it away. I wish I could have that one back. … (On the second goal) the guy wins a free header in the box. … I thought I was going to save it, and me and (Alex) Caskey collided. It’s unfortunate. We find ourselves coming out in the second half doing a lot better, having a lot of chances. It’s frustrating.”
The Sounders cut the lead in the 58th minute, when Eddie Johnson danced into space before sending in an unassisted goal from a corner of the penalty area.
That seemed to energize the Sounders and briefly took some steam out of the chanting, flag-waving, sellout crowd of 20,438.
But while Seattle had 60.1 percent of second-half possession, the equalizer never came.
“Our plan was to come in here and start from a goal up instead of two goals down,” Johnson said. “It seems like the last five games we always seem to dig ourselves a hole and try to dig ourselves out at the last minute. In this league you can’t do this. … Going down two goals, it’s difficult to get back, especially playing Portland here with their fans behind them.”
The game — which had been physical throughout — turned ugly in the final minutes, with pushing, shoving and players clustering while exchanging comments. In stoppage time, Seattle’s Fredy Montero and Portland’s Lovel Palmer received red cards for fighting.
“We shouldn’t be losing our composure toward the end of games like that,” Schmid said. “That’s something that we have to seriously talk about and make sure that we’re better at.”
The Sounders returned home after the game, and today they will fly down to the Bay Area for their U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal against the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Montero will be eligible for that game. However, he will serve his red-card suspension Saturday when the Sounders return to MLS play at New England.
Defender Jeff Parke’s status for either game was not immediately known. He left in the 42nd minute Sunday after complaining of dizziness, and no medical update was available after the game.