TUCSON, Ariz. – Sounders FC knew they would be a bit short-handed heading into their first preseason game of the 2013 season. Already without four players away on international duty and another who did not make the trip to Arizona due to injury, Seattle was dealt a series of further blows on Monday and Tuesday when several more players came down with an illness and the bus carrying the team from their training headquarters in Casa Grande, Arizona, to Tucson for their match against the Timbers ran into some heavy traffic.
Through it all, though, the Sounders held their own against a Portland Timbers side that featured most of their projected starting lineup, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and forward Ryan Johnson the lone possible exceptions. However, their effort wasn’t enough to come out with a result and they fell 1-0 on a second-half goal by Portland trialist Mikael Silvestre.
“Considering all the obstacles we went through today, I was pleased,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “In the first half I thought we did all right. We didn’t give up much. Second half, I had to play with more of the trialists and younger guys than I was planning on. We still almost equalized at the end, so from that standpoint I was very happy.”
The Sounders starting lineup was thrown aside on Tuesday morning when several players became ill overnight. That meant more playing time for some players who weren’t necessarily expecting it and also caused some adjustments for Schmid.
The teams exchanged lengthy bouts of possession in the early part of the first half, though the Timbers managed more shots, forcing goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann into one of his handful of saves in his half of action.
Highlights for the Sounders in the first half included Sammy Ochoa fighting for possession then pushing up the right side, but he had nobody to play to and lost possession. Later, there was a dazzling run up the right side by David Estrada that saw him elude Will Johnson and Michael Harrington to get to the endline for a cross, but nobody was there on the other end and Portland got the clearance.
Later, Mauro Rosales played a free kick into the box for Zach Scott, but it was punched away by Portland goalkeeper Milos Kocic to thwart the attack.
At the half, Seattle went with a nearly wholesale substitution leaving just Supplemental Draft choice Lebogang Moloto among the match’s starters on the field for the Sounders. The resulting lineup featured a few players playing out of position, including an outside midfield combo of Jennings Rex - a Supplemental Draft pick who normally plays as a forward - on the right and Marc Burch – a reugular starter at left back last year for Seattle - on the left.
Portland quickly tested the new group as Bright Dike was played in behind the defense in the 50th minute, but Josh Ford closed in on him and made a foot save to keep the Timbers forward off the board. Moments later the two players would collide in the box chasing a ball from the right side, forcing Dike out of the game with an injury.
Off a 61st minute corner kick, Ford blocked an initial shot, then DeAndre Yedlin cleared a rebounded effort off the line before Silvestre put away the goal, knocking the ball toward the post to put the Sounders down 1-0.
They still puhsed for an equalizer though, and appeared to get it in the 88th minute, but the goal was waved off for a handball. In the final seconds of the match, Rex got his head to a ball from the left side, but replacement Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson made the stop and the match ended 1-0.
“I was pleased with our desire and our spirit. At the end of the game being down one-nothing we were banging on the door trying to make it one-one,” Schmid said. “I’m pleased with our character, I’m pleased with our attitude and with our approach and how we played.”
The Sounders return to Seattle on Tuesday and will resume training on Friday at Starfire.
Sounders FC – None.
Timbers – Mikael Silvestre 61.
Sounders FC – Servando Carrasco (caution) 8; Lebogang Moloto (caution) 17.
Timbers – Will Johnson (caution) 38; Bright Dike (caution) 39.