SEATTLE – Over the course of a season, a team is bound to go through highs and lows.
To do so in a week can be difficult. But to do so in one game can be heartbreaking.
The latter two were the case for the Sounders FC.
After battling back from a 2-0 deficit to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals with a 3-2 series win over Tigres on Tuesday and announcing the signing of Obafemi Martins on Friday, the Sounders were on top of the world.
That euphoria continued with Eddie Johnson’s first goal of the season in the 13th minute of Saturday’s derby match with the Portland Timbers and reached new heights when Martins made his debut, coming on in the 70th minute.
Then, all of a sudden, the balloon popped and the Sounders came back to sea level when Rodney Wallace nodded in a 90th minute equalizer and Seattle had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Portland as the Timbers left CenturyLink Field with a point like thieves in the night.
“Obviously we’re disappointed because we had the game 1-0. We’ve got to manage the game through to the end of the game,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “As a whole, we could have walked away tonight winning 1-0, even though it wasn’t a good performance.”
Things got off to a slow start in the match for the Sounders.
Portland midfielder Diego Valeri tested Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning with a shot from the top of the box, forcing Gspurning to dive to his left for the save in the opening minute
Portland had another chance in the ninth minute, but Darlington Nagbe was just a step behind a ball from Ryan Johnson, cutting the pass across the box from the left side.
In the 13th minute, Steve Zakuani picked off an errant pass in the midfield, then raced up the left side uncontested before cutting a left-footed cross to Eddie Johnson at the far post for the tap-in goal and the Sounders went up 1-0 with their first goal of the MLS season.
“It was one of those goals where we have the relationship and understand how each other play,” Johnson said. “I know when he gets the ball I have to find the seams inside the box and get free.”
Johnson would have another opportunity in the 20th minute, scissoring around Diego Chara and curling a shot for the far post that Donovan Ricketts dove to his left to swat away.
Portland would hold a 7-3 shot advantage in the first half, but Valeri’s shot in the first minute was the only one they managed to put on frame. That play continued in the second half for Portland, who took six second-half shots, and put just Wallace’s goal on target.
The Sounders weren’t able to generate much more on the offensive side, getting just one shot on goal in the second half, an easy grab in the 47th minute for Ricketts on a 30-yard free kick by Mario Martinez.
In the 70th minute, Martins subbed into the match for his first appearance for the Sounders FC amidst a roar from the 40,150 in attendance.
“We wanted to give him the opportunity, he wanted the opportunity, as well, because his mind, his spirit, his soul is here and he wants us to succeed and be successful,” Schmid said. “He hasn’t trained with the team, he doesn’t know the team, per se. He’ll get better, and the things that he can do—his quickness and things like that—will show through.”
In the 80th minute, he showed a glimpse of the explosive play that made him a star in Europe when he darted up the left side to get a ball from Zakuani, then sliced a ball across the goal mouth for Johnson, but he was a step behind and the ball rolled away.
Seattle held their 1-0 lead until the final minute when Andrew Jean-Baptiste found Wallace clean in the box and the Costa Rican defender headed it inside the near post to make it 1-1 in the 90th minute.
“The goal was just solid, there was nothing else I could do,” Gspurning said. “It was unlucky that it was in the last minute.”
The Sounders will look to bounce back in their first road game of the season next week against the San Jose Earthquakes, but will do so without Martinez, Martins or Johnson, who will be away for international duty with Honduras, Nigeria and the US, respectively.
Sounders FC – Eddie Johnson (Steve Zakuani) 13.
Timbers FC – Rodney Wallace (Andrew Jean-Baptiste) 90.
Sounders FC – Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 43; Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 73; Eddie Johnson (caution) 83.
Timbers FC – Andrew Jean-Baptiste (caution) 16; Will Johnson (caution) 50.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Marc Burch, Mario Martinez (Obafemi Martins 70), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Steve Zakuani (Alex Caskey 81), Eddie Johnson, Sammy Ochoa (Mauro Rosales 61)
Timbers FC – Donovan Ricketts, Ben Zemanski, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Mikael Silvestre, Michael Harrington, Diego Chara, Jack Jewsbury (Frederic Piquionne 70), Will Johnson, Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe (Rodney Wallace 80), Ryan Johnson (Jose Valencia 92+).