Cards but no goals in Timbers-Sounders tussle
Stern Portland defense left Seattle with few chances
If they couldn’t beat their most despised rivals, Portland Timbers FC was happy to see that at least Seattle Sounders FC couldn’t score either at Kino Sports Park on Saturday night. The hard-fought soccer match between the two rivals ended in a nil-nil draw.
“We’re not going to win every game,” said coach Caleb Porter. “But if you are not going to win, you’d better not lose … if we can’t find the goal, at least get the clean sheet.”
1,712 fans showed up, many affiliated with either Portland of Seattle. The supporters groups for the two teams each camped out on opposite ends of the grandstands. Both groups would only interrupt their singing to jeer the referee or cheer when their team looked ready to make a shot. It’s a rivalry that dates back to the 1970s, and has become more intense since both teams entered Major League Soccer.
Before the match, the Portland fans unveiled a banner bearing “5-3.” It was a reminder of the last two times the two teams met. Portland knocked Seattle out of the playoffs last year by that aggregate score.
Through an unusual set up of three 30-minute periods rather than two 45-minute halves, neither team managed to score. Portland had the advantage in possession through most of the match, and their stalwart defense limited Seattle to only a handful of looks at the goal.
The first chance came from Seattle’s Lamar Neagle, who saw his shot stopped by a Portland defender in the 23rd minute. Portland’s first chance came a few minutes later. Darlington Nagbe’s shot went wide and didn’t end up being much of a test for US national team keeper Marcus Hahnemann.
Portland’s next strong chance came from new Argentine signing Gastón Fernández. The former striker for River Plate headed the ball towards the Seattle goal and right into the hands of Hahnemann in minute 43.
The number of shots on goal seemed to be dwarfed by the number of times the whistle was blown. Five yellow cards were issued (three for Portland), all for violent play. Every foul and every no-call, was greeted with jeers from either the Portland or Seattle sections of the crowd.
The last hockey-style pyramid began with some switches for both teams. Portland keeper Donovan Ricketts ended his night by figuratively handing off the gloves to Arizona native Andrew Weber. The change in Portland’s keeper didn’t do much for Seattle as only offered up one true test in his time between the pipes.
In minute 80, third-period Seattle substitute Aaron Kovar took the ball on the left and sent it to fellow sub David Estrada. Weber hopped off his line and on to the ball to keep Estrada from making a shot.
Portland had the last chance of the game when Hahnemann came way off his line to collect a ball. With Hahnemann out of position, Frederic Piquionne tried to tap it in but his attempt was stopped by Seattle’s Jalil Anibaba. The final whistle blew moments later.
The game leaves Portland still ahead on preseason matchups between the two sides (two wins and one tie since 2011). Seattle has yet to score against Portland in preseason.
Anibaba from Chicago
Newly minted Sounder Jalil Anibaba was humble as he described the play that kept his team from a last minute defeat.
“Piquionne was on a bit of a break away. Marcus came out,” Anibaba said. “The ball bounced over his head. I tried to follow the play and Piquionne played it to where I was. I just played it out of bounds.”
Anibaba has only been a Sounder for six weeks after being traded to the team from Chicago for long time Seattle defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni plus draft considerations.
He knows about the Seattle-Portland rivalry, but the fight for him right now is fighting for a spot on the team.
“It’s all about the competition,” he said. “It’s about getting every inch and fighting for it.”
Norberto Paparatto is one of a pair of newly arrived Argentine players for the squad. Argentina is home to one of the more storied rivalries in world soccer (River Plate v Boca Juniors). He knows about the importance of games like this.
“I was aware of the rivalry before hand,” Paparatto said through a translator. “It didn’t fail me when I was out there; it was a very physical style and nature. It definitely compares to the rivalries back home in Argentina. It’s something I was looking for and expected today.”
As important as the rivalry is, it is a preseason game and Caleb Porter was trying out players for the season. He was impressed by Paparatto and his fellow Argentine Gastón Fernández, but he also liked the back line.
“The fight we had in this game was very good,” said Porter. “I thought our defending was really good. The back four in the first two periods was really tight. The relationship between (Pah Modou) Kah and Paparatto already is coming together…the back fours were really organized.”
For the players, it was also nice to be playing in front of Portland supporters so far from home. The contingent of the Timbers Army was camped out on the north end of the grandstand, and included both locals and traveling fans.
“It’s always great when you play in front of fans at a venue like this when it’s not your home town,” second-year Timbers player Will Johnson said. “It’s cool that people come and travel to see us. There’s people from the northwest that have relocated down here to see the team.”
“We try to put on a show and compete for them,” he said. “It might be the one time in the year when they get to watch us play.”