Dempsey celebrates goal Portland 2017-06-25
USA Today Sports

Seattle Sounders put in gutsiest performance of the season to steal late road point against the Portland Timbers

PORTLAND — Deep in the heart of Providence Park, Brad Evans lay on the floor of the locker room, icing his back and hamstring, viewing the second half of the Seattle Sounders’ rivalry clash with the Portland Timbers on his phone. He watched it alone.

Evans could hear very little stadium noise. All he had was a live-stream with a 45-second delay of the action happening just feet from him.

The Sounders right back was ejected in the 44th minute for a foul on Darlington Nagbe that referee Ricardo Salazar whistled for a penalty and deemed to be denying a goalscoring opportunity. Fanendo Adi stepped up and buried the ensuing penalty kick to erase Joevin Jones’ 27th-minute opener, and Portland would strike again in the fourth minute of stoppage time to send the hosts into the locker room with a 2-1 lead.

Evans put his hand up after the game, an expression of guilt for his red card, but his teammates told him not to worry about it. They bailed him out.

“My mistake changed the game, but I thought the guys regrouped at halftime,” Evans said. “The message was clear from the players to each other, that this is a game that we can get a point out of or even snag three points. That carried onto the field…[The Timbers] did not look like they wanted it tonight.”

The Sounders still enjoyed 46 percent possession despite being shorthanded for more than half the match. They managed four shots on target and buried two of them while blocking seven Timbers chances on the defensive end.

Even before Clint Dempsey’s game-tying goal in the 94th minute, the second half on Sunday evening was one of the best halves the Sounders played all season. Down a man in triple-digit heat on the road at their biggest rivals, they gutted out a truly memorable point.

“I usually watch my team’s body language, and they never quit,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer. “Similar to what happened last time we came down here, nobody quits. This team will not quit. It’s too proud of a franchise to do that and they did that again on their own. I barely had to say words in [the locker room at halftime] because those guys in there were the determined ones to make sure they got something out of the game. I don’t have to coach them up a lot in situations like this.

“I thought our team played with determination and was also able to connect some passes and relieve some pressure because we knew we couldn’t defend for 45 minutes,” he continued. “There was always a chance for a point even as time ticked away past 90 [minutes]. The team was still working.”

Seattle flipped the script from its home draw last Wednesday against Orlando City SC, in which the Sounders allowed an equalizer on the final touch of the match. They lamented that result, but found solace in the commitment and determination they displayed in a crucial rivalry match on the road.

“After last week when I said it felt like a loss, this definitely feels like a win,” said Schmetzer. “[But] from 40-45 minutes, I wasn’t happy. That’s the learning curve. We’ve been up 1-0 the last three games. We need to find ways to close those games out.”

The Sounders have a midweek road match this coming week against the San Jose Earthquakes in the U.S. Open Cup before visiting the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday, July 4, in their next MLS regular-season game. Seattle will look to take that momentum and use it in the upcoming weeks.

For now, though, Seattle will savor its result in Portland, and Evans especially. Before he even saw Dempsey rise to hammer home Roman Torres’ pinpoint cross, Evans received a text from his wife that read, “Yeah!” and spoiled the result. He chuckled.

“I knew it had to be a goal,” Evans said.