The Portland Timbers won for the first time at CenturyLink Field today, beating the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in the first leg of the Western Conference Semi-finals. The Timbers' win came in their first ever playoff appearance with goals scored by Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe.
The first half started off with some nervous moments for the Timbers as the Sounders put them under high pressure from the starting whistle. Play in Seattle's half was a rarity as the Sounders controlled almost 60% of the possession through the first 45'. Despite the Sounders' advantage in possesion and their seven shots taken, Seattle could not make the most of their advantage.
In the 15' the Timbers broke the deadlock, pouring down the field on the break while Seattle pushed players forward to put the pressure on Portland. With the midfielders tucked into the center of the pitch, Jack Jewsbury went on a long run down the right wing, taking the ball all the way to the end line. Under pressure from Adam Moffat, Jewsbury hesitated before sending in a low cross to the near post that skimmed perfectly off the head of Ryan Johnson and past Marcus Hahnemann to open the scoring at 1-0.
The second half started off with more pressure from the Sounders as they once again controlled the bulk of possession but were unable to turn it to their advantage.
In the 67', however, the Timbers extended their lead when Kalif Alhassan received the ball at midfield on the right sideline. Kalif took several quick touches on the ball before playing a sharp pass to Darlington Nagbe in the box. Knocking the ball around a lunging Djimi Traore, Nagbe was in one on one with Hahnemann. There was no hesitation from Nagbe who clotted the ball home coolly to make the score 2-0.
From there the Sounders turned up the pressure, finally pulling a goal back in second half stoppage time. In the 91', the Sounders found themselves with a throw-in on the right side of the pitch that Brad Evans launched into the box. The throw dropped in to the keeper's box and was flicked on by second half sub Shalrie Joseph into the path of Oswaldo Alonso. Alonso, who has been the Sounders' most consistent performer over the last three years, put a left footed volley to the ball, thumping it home past a diving Donovan Ricketts.
The Timbers will play the Sounders again on Thursday, this time at Jeld-Wen Field, as they close out the playoff series.