Stories of the Year, No. 5: Sounders FC, Portland Timbers in memorable USOC clash

Editor's Note: is counting down the Top 10 Stories of the Year in December, recognizing the top storylines on and off the field in 2015. In the latest installment, we look back at Seattle's wild U.S. Open Cup match in June.

Ask any Sounders FC fan to pick out the oddest game they’ve ever witnessed, and you’ll probably get varying responses. But the most common answer you’re likely to drum up is the 2015 U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match against the Portland Timbers on June 16.

For one, the match marked the first time in Sounders history the team lost in U.S. Open Cup play at Starfire Stadium. It had been a fortress without equal in the competition’s history, and the Timbers brought a near full-strength side to challenge Seattle’s supremacy. Portland ultimately emerged 3-1 winners, but not before the teams slogged through one of the wildest contests in recent memory.

The match itself witnessed eight bookings and three Sounders ejections, starting with Brad Evans’ second yellow in the 69th minute. Seattle trailed 1-0 at the time after Diego Valeri’s opener in the 48th, but Seattle beat the odds to equalize on 10 men via Obafemi Martins in the 78th. The sold-out crowd of 4,022, almost all of whom were Sounders fans, launched into hysterics.

Neither team could hit the release valve in regulation, and the game dove into extra time with the caveat that Seattle was now on nine men. Martins went down with an injury just before regulation wrapped and Seattle had already expended its three subs.

There wasn’t much left for Seattle to do at that point but bubblewrap keeper Troy Perkins with a resolute back line and hope the resistance held. It did not. The Timbers hit the winner 10 minutes into the first extra time period, and Max Urruti got the cushion in the 116th minute.

In between those two goals, the game went nuclear. Clint Dempsey became infamous for ripping up the referee’s notebook following a contentious call, and the melee around it got both Dempsey and Micheal Azira sent off. Seattle finished the game with seven men on the field, and the referees got a police escort into the locker room.

That game kicked off the summer of Seattle’s discontent, as it won just one of its next 11. That mad night at Starfire was the genesis of all of it.