Dempsey’s goal in 77th minute lifts Sounders to 1-0 win over Timbers

SEATTLE — When Clint Dempsey returned to Major League Soccer, his debut with Seattle came against Portland.

The only hat trick of Dempsey’s career outside of England came against Portland. And after scoring on Sunday night, Dempsey has scored in four straight matches against the Timbers.

It’s becoming a trend to see Dempsey in the spotlight against the Sounders’ biggest rival.

“Anytime you can score goals it always feels good but it’s a little more special when you score one against a rival and especially game-winning,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey again got the better of Portland, with a 77th-minute goal in the Sounders’ 1-0 victory.

Nearly 40 years to the day of the first meeting between the Timbers and Sounders, Dempsey made sure Seattle would come away with the victory in the 89th meeting between the sides.

Dempsey tapped in the rebound after Andy Rose’s initial shot was saved by goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey. It was the second time in the last year that Dempsey scored on Kwarasey after beating Ghana’s goalkeeper in the World Cup opener for the United States last June in Brazil.

Dempsey’s goal was his fourth this season.

The Sounders won for the third time in the last four matches against the Timbers, despite Portland having most of the chances in the second half and keeping Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei busy. Frei earned his fourth shutout of the season.

“Second half, I thought we created some clear chances that we didn’t put away. They kind of had a half chance,” Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe said. “I haven’t seen it yet, ball went over, and they finished their chance. Overall, they just finished their chances and we didn’t.”

Dempsey’s goal wasn’t pretty. A long throw-in from Dylan Remick into the Portland penalty area found Dempsey and he was able to flick a header to Rose open in the middle of the box.

Kwarasey stopped Rose’s left-footed shot with a diving save, but could not secure the ball and it wiggled free just enough for Dempsey to charge and guide it into the goal.

“They made it difficult for us to try and create chances and at times in the first half it seemed they didn’t really want to play forward,” Dempsey said. “They seemed content to play the ball in the back and take the steam out of the game. But I think we kept pushing and kept fighting and it seems in the second half teams can’t keep things as tight as they do in the first half and things eventually open up in the end.”

Portland’s Diego Valeri was available off the bench for the first time since suffering an ACL injury in the regular season finale last October, but did not play. Without Valeri and Will Johnson, the Timbers lacked the offensive creativity to break down the Sounders for most of the night.

Most of Portland’s chances came from distance, and put Frei to work. Maximiliano Urruti and Diego Chara both had shots from outside of the penalty box forcing Frei to make diving saves early in the second half. Nagbe ran free through the middle of the field on a quick counter attack in the 69th minute and his shot from 30 yards beat Frei but was wide of the goal.

Urruti found the back of the net moments later, but he was well offside and the goal was nullified.

In the 75th minute Fanendo Adi — in the game for less than a minute — nearly flicked a cross past Frei only to watch it dribble wide of the far post. Adi’s header in the 81st minute was tipped off the crossbar by Frei.

“We had four great chances in the second half,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. “Those four chances are better than any chance they had, but we leave empty-handed.”

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