PORTLAND — Twenty-one points out of 21.
The Seattle Sounders extended their club-record winning streak to seven matches on Sunday evening with a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. An own goal from Julio Cascante in the 76th minute proved to be the difference in what was a match statistically controlled by the home side.
Portland owned 55 percent possession and outshot the Sounders 22-6, but it didn’t matter. Seattle, as it has done over the past seven matches, continues to find ways to win games. And for the first time all season, the Sounders ended the weekend above the playoff line in fifth place with two matches in hand on both Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy in fourth and sixth, respectively.
“It showed the determination, the fight, the ability to win games in different fashions,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “I thought there were monster performances in that locker room. It’s what we talk about, we try to collect points and it doesn’t matter how we do it. Give Portland a lot of credit, they came out and they were on top of us, it was their home and it was a derby match, but at the end of the day we walked out of here with three points and a little bit of satisfaction for what they did to us a few weeks ago.”
Entering Sunday, the Sounders had not lost since June 30 when they fell, coincidentally, to the Timbers. Since then, they have gone 10 matches unbeaten, and 8-0-2 in that span, to position themselves not just for what would be a 10th consecutive postseason appearance, but in the running for what could be a favorable seed.
The Sounders celebrate their game-winning goal against the Timbers | Charis Wilson
It’s not just that the Sounders are winning, but how. The defense is as solid as it’s been all year. Raúl Ruidíaz is scoring and opening space for players underneath him. Nicolás Lodeiro has played at an MVP level the last two months. Things are clicking in all the right areas, and the team’s confidence is at a season-high.
“All 18 of them are monsters,” said Schmetzer. “Kim Kee-hee scoring that goal, he’s actually not trying to take credit for it, I’m just saying that, he’s actually a humble guy. There were a hundred plays that you could go back and watch the film from Stefan [Frei] making saves, Kelvin [Leerdam] on an injured ankle, everybody pitched in tonight.”
The win was also Seattle’s first in Portland since 2014, and the two teams could not have entered in more polar opposite forms. The Timbers, who had recently rattled off a 15-match unbeaten streak of their own, have now lost four consecutive matches and fell below the playoff line for the first time in four months. Any victory on the road in MLS is worth celebrating, but a win in Portland to boot is just one more reason to relish the three points before welcoming Sporting Kansas City to CenturyLink Field next Saturday (1 p.m. PT; JOEtv, UniMás, Univision Deportes, Twitter, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS).
“It’s a tough place to play,” said Frei. “They make it a very hostile environment, but we’re always up for it, I think we played well today. We don’t have to come out here and run the show, this is a difficult place to play so we have to stay compact, play smart, take our chances, force some errors and that’s what we did.”