Sounders FC wanted to make a statement with its match against the Portland Timbers on Sunday at Providence Park. Seattle had gone just 1-3-1 in their last five and vowed to not remind fans of a stretch last season that saw the Sounders go winless over the final seven regular season matches.
With a convincing 4-2 victory against a recently surging Portland side, the message was delivered emphatically.
“Our team went out there with an attitude. We wanted to make this a statement game. This was not last year. It’s not déjà vu,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I’m very pleased with our attitude and the result today.”
Seattle got two goals and one assist from Obafemi Martins, one goal and one assist from Clint Dempsey and a fourth goal from Chad Barrett. The club jumps to 14-7-3, two points clear of D.C. United in the race for the Supporters’ Shield and one point ahead of Vancouver in the Cascadia Cup standings.
The dazzling offensive performance started early for Seattle.
Seattle's first chance came in the 14th minute when Dempsey and Martins navigated through the Timbers defense and Dempsey curled a shot toward the far post from the top of the box. The shot bent around the outstretched hand of Donovan Ricketts, but caromed off the upright and rolled across the line, keeping the match scoreless.
That was just a precursor of things to come, as Sounders FC took the lead in the 18th minute when Martins scored his ninth goal of the season. Brad Evans burned past Liam Ridgewell up the right wing and laid a perfect cross for Martins crashing down the middle of the box for a first-time shot into the net.
That advantage doubled in the 34th minute with Martins and Dempsey again combining in the attack. After Seattle cleared a Portland corner kick, Martins was released up the middle of the field. He carried it to the right side and stalled to allow a second wave to join the attack. He rolled a ball into the box for Dempsey, who hustled past Michael Harrington on a 75-yard dead sprint and pushed his shot past Ricketts to put Sounders FC up 2-0.
“That’s just pure determination, heart and grit. That’s what we want from all of our players,” Evans said. “I think guys feed off that. When everybody puts in that little bit extra, the results tend to go your way.”
In the 70th minute, Seattle appeared to put the game away, powering into the box where Dempsey found Barrett, who blasted his shot past Ricketts for his seventh goal of the season. The red-hot forward now goals in three straight matches in league play and four straight overall.
Portland would pull one back on a goal from Fanendo Adi in the 73rd minute, but Martins responded with a tremendous goal to rocket back to a three-goal lead minutes later. After flicking a header to Dempsey and taking a quick return pass, he dribbled around two Timbers and played a short pass to Gonzalo Pineda, then took the ball back and darted through three more defenders to get alone in the box and blaze a shot home for a 4-1 lead.
Adi scored again in stoppage time, but by then the game had been decided and Seattle finished with a 4-2 victory.
Another dominating victory over the Timbers after a 2-0 win at CenturyLink Field last month sets the tone for Seattle entering the final two months of the season.
“We’ve been a bit down in terms of our energy and not getting the right results,” Dempsey said. “Getting a win like today lifts the spirits. Hopefully we can push on and go on a run.”
On a club that has had great road success over the course of its six seasons in MLS, the win on Sunday carries extra significance. Under the circumstances of the team’s current form, its struggles at Providence Park in recent years and its place in the standings, the commanding victory represented much more to the Sounders and left Schmid understandably pleased.
“This one is near the top,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”