Tukwila, Wash. - It was a good news/bad news night for the Sounders FC in the first match of the Cascadia Summit at Starfire Stadium.
With the archrival Portland Timbers in town for the opening match, the Sounders dominated play for most of the 90 minutes of the preseason meeting. However, Portland got a goal in the 21st minute and a second in stoppage time to come away with the 2-0 victory.
“I think everybody had moments during the game,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “The point is that it was just moments - it was like a patchwork quilt. It needs to be more constant and more consistent and that is something that we are looking to attain.”
Seattle got out to a strong start and controlled possession for most of the opening minutes, passing the ball all over the pitch with ease. Still they were unable to convert those into goal-scoring opportunities.
Portland, meanwhile, had one chance and they put it away for a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute.
Kenny Cooper got to the ball in the middle of the box and shot a low ball right at Kasey Keller. The Seattle goalkeeper got his hands to the ball, but the rebound fell right to the feet of Jorge Perlaza for the one-touch goal.
“They turned the corner and cut back, a guy got a free shot, you make the save and the guy was right there to tap it in,” Keller said. “There were three or four actions there where we just didn’t get it away the way we wanted to get things cleared.”
The second half saw a renewed focus for the Sounders and they pressured the Portland back line and goalkeeper Troy Perkins throughout the half, peppering the box with 11 second-half shots and 18 for the game. But chance after chance missed the mark.
In the 52nd minute, Osvaldo Alonso stepped into a shot from 24 yards out, but missed just over the crossbar.
Three minutes later, it was Alvaro Fernandez missing on a point-blank shot in front of an open corner of the net. Steve Zakuani played a ball in from the left side, overtaking the Portland defense on one of his many blazing runs. It got through to the far post for Fernandez, but he lifted his shot high over the crossbar and Portland dodged the bullet.
The pressure continued late in the match and while Seattle pushed forward, the Timbers tried to catch them on the counter repeatedly. Finally they were able to capitalize in the 93rd minute when Sal Zizzo played Cooper into the box and the former FC Dallas striker knocked it past Keller for the 2-0 lead.
“We were pushing numbers forward and were trying to play him offside, but a proven goalscorer in this league in Kenny Cooper just smashed a ball past me,” Keller said.
Added Zakuani, “They scored two goals from the very few chances they hand, so credit to them. It was a very physical game on a very tight pitch. Apart from the final third where we need to get better finishing, I think we dominated the second half.”
The Sounders still have two more matches before the regular season opener March 15 against the LA Galaxy. Still they were hoping to get the best of their rivals to the south, particularly with 3,100 in attendance and thousands more watching online.
If there is one thing the Sounders have gained in their previous two seasons in MLS, though, it is perspective in the preseason.
“We want to win, but we go home tonight without dropping any points. We aren’t out of any playoff races or anything like that, so nobody’s going to panic,” Zakuani said. “We can address what we did wrong and have just over a week to work on it.”
That sentiment was echoed by Keller.
“We are frustrated to lose to the rivals, but I’m sure the fans would much rather lose this one than lose when it matters,” he said.
The Sounders will face the Vancouver Whitecaps in the final match of the Cascadia Summit on Sunday at 3 pm at Starfire. Follow the match with the live blog at http://sndrs.com/csc3.
Sounders FC - None.
Timbers - Jorge Perlaza 21; Kenny Cooper (Sal Zizzo) 93+.
Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 5; Jhon Kennedy Hurt ado (caution) 54.
Timbers - Jack Jewsbury (caution) 69.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Alvaro Fernandez (Erik Friberg, 69), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans (Pat Noonan, 85), Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero (Mike Fucito, 81), Blaise Nkufo (O‘Brian White, 80).
Timbers - Troy Perkins, Steve Purdy, Kevin Goldthwaite, Eric Brunner, Rodney Wallace, Sal Zizzo, Jack Jewsbury, Peter Lowry (Adam Moffat, 81), Jeremy Hall, Jorge Perlaza (Brian Umony, 75), Kenny Cooper.