With late flurry, Seattle tops Portland 3-1 in extra time to reach USOC semifinals

TUKWILA, Wash. - Sounders FC likes to play derby matches and it also likes to play at Starfire Stadium.  So much so, in fact, that they decided to play extra time for the second time in three Open Cup matches this season. A late scoring explosion meant a 3-1 Seattle win over the Portland Timbers in the quarterfinals, putting Sounders FC in the semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons.

It wasn’t how the Sounders drew it up, allowing the equalizing goal three minutes in to second-half stoppage time to force extra time, but Head Coach Sigi Schmid said playing an extra 30 minutes didn’t bother Seattle.

“It meant we had to work extra,” Schmid smiled after the victory.  “If we needed to do it the hard way, we’d do it the hard way.”

The late scoring belied a great defensive performance from both sides in regulation.   Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei registered eight saves over the 120 minutes of play and Portland’s Donovan Ricketts had six remarkable stops, as well.

A dazzling goal by Osvaldo Alonso opened up scoring in the 69th minute.  After working a good combination up the right side, Brad Evans played the ball back to Lamar Neagle on the right side of the box and Neagle crossed it for Alonso at the far post.  There, he leapt, extended his leg and got just enough of his heel on the ball to deflect it in for the 1-0 lead.

That stayed until the waning moments of regulation when a give-and-go between Steve Zakuani and Darlington Nagbe ended with Nagbe blasting a shot inside the far post from close range to equalize in stoppage time.

That moment could have turned the tides in favor of Portland, but Seattle remained steadfast and kept pressure on the Timbers.

“The attitude and response from the team - I didn’t see any heads put down,” said Seattle forward Kenny Cooper.  “When we got together Sigi instilled a lot of confidence in us.  No one ever put their head down.  That can be demoralizing at the end of the game.  Guys came out and just kept battling away.”

Midway through the first overtime, Portland midfielder Diego Chara was red-carded for a hard tackle in the midfield, leaving the Timbers down to 10 men for the final 21 minutes of the match.

Despite a hard resolve from the Timbers after the ejection, Seattle was able to break down the defense and finally got the go-ahead goal from Cooper in the 110th minute.

Gonzalo Pineda crossed a ball through the air from the left side and Cooper got his head to it in the middle of the box, hitting it off the far post and in for his fourth goal of the Open Cup, leading all scorers for the Sounders.

“It was a great ball by Pineda.  He just put it right on my head,” Cooper said.  “He has so much quality on the ball and that’s what he’s capable of doing.”

Marco Pappa added another goal in the 115th minute and Seattle finished with a 3-1 win, advancing to face the Chicago Fire in the semifinals on August 13 at Starfire.

First, though, Seattle will face the Timbers again at CenturyLink Field on Sunday in regular season play.  With the stadium opened to full capacity and a national television audience, Wednesday’s match serves as a precursor to the Cascadia Cup clash.

“Hopefully it gives us momentum going into the weekend,” Cooper said.  “They obviously have a lot of quality and you have to give them credit fighting back the way that they did.  Hopefully we carry some confidence into the weekend.”

Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 7 pm PT.  Tickets are still available at SoundersFC.com or by calling 1-877-MLS-GOAL

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