The age-old debate of rest vs. rhythm is in play this week as Sounders FC hosts the Portland Timbers on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
“When you’re playing games you get into a rhythm of playing and that’s a good thing,” Seattle Head Coach Sigi Schmid said after training on Wednesday. “I think our guys would have much rather played a game tonight than had a hard training.”
While Seattle was at home relaxing on Wednesday ahead of a day off on Thursday, the Timbers were engaged in combat with Real Salt Lake at JELD-WEN Field.
With both teams missing key players and Salt Lake playing down a man for the final 11 minutes, RSL rallied back with a stoppage-time equalizer to steal a 3-3 draw in what was an up-and-down match for both sides.
Portland got out to an early lead on a goal from Rodney Wallace, but Salt Lake would take a 2-1 lead before halftime on a tap-in by Nat Borchers and a Javier Morales penalty. Just before the halftime whistle, the Timbers were dealt a blow when midfielder Diego Chara was cautioned for a bad foul, giving him five yellow cards for the season and a suspension for accumulation for Sunday’s match in Seattle.
“He covers as much ground as anyone in the league,” Schmid said of Chara on Wednesday. “I don’t think there’s a blade of grass or (turf) that he doesn’t touch in a game. His ability to get up and down, get around the field is pretty impressive.”
The Timbers equalized in the 57th minute with a Diego Valeri penalty, then took a man-advantage when Yordany Alvarez was ejected for a hard tackle in the 79th minute. While Salt Lake bunkered in to play for a draw, Kalif Alhassan found open space in the box and pounced on a shot to take a 3-2 lead.
That set the stage for Cole Grossman to score his first MLS goal, knocking in a loose ball from 16 yards out to equalize in stoppage time.
“In the end, we’re disappointed, but we don’t have time to be too disappointed,” Timbers Head Coach Caleb Porter said. “We have a big game on Sunday. I told the guys there’s some things we need to address, but mostly we need to put it behind us quickly and get to work on Seattle. We can’t have a hangover in this tight of a window. Psychologically we need to move on quickly, get ready for Seattle.”
While Salt Lake was playing without Alvaro Saborio, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, the Timbers had several absences for injuries, as well. Will Johnson and Jack Jewsbury were both out of the lineup for Caleb Porter with injuries. Both Johnson (scapular contusion) and Jewsbury (left ankle) were listed as questionable on the pre-match notes.
The draw leaves Portland with 39 points at 9-3-12 and Salt Lake remains atop the West at 12-8-6. Seattle is just five points behind Portland and eight points behind Real Salt Lake. Sounders FC has two games in hand on the Timbers and four in hand on RSL.