Holding a 2-1 lead coming into tonight's second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals, the Portland Timbers took the game to their hated rivals, the Seattle Sounders, finishing with a thrilling 3-2 scoreline on the night and an aggregate score of 5-3.
The scoring started early as the Timbers put Seattle under heavy pressure from the opening whistle. With Will Johnson and Diego Chara controlling the midfield while Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe tormented the Seattle defense, the opening goal from the Timbers seemed inevitable. It finally came in the 29' as Jack Jewsbury brought the ball into the box, only to have it knocked into the air and deflected off the arm of the ever unlucky Djimi Traore. After a wave of the flag from the linesman and an incredulous look from Jewsbury, referee Hilario Grajeda pointed to the spot.
With the pressure on to put the chance away in front of the Timbers Army, both Johnson and Futty Danso grabbed balls and went to the spot. After a brief discussion it was the Timbers' captain who stepped to the penalty spot. Placing the ball and staring down Michael Gspurning, Will Johnson stepped up and sent the Sounders' keeper the wrong way, putting the ball to the right and into the back of the net as Gspuring dove to the left.
From there the first half was all Portland as the Timbers continued to pour on the pressure. In the 44' it paid off as Rodney Wallace sent in Diego Valeri toward the touch line. For a moment it looked like the ball would get away from the Argentine playmaker after a heavy first touch, but with a lunging strike he somehow got a foot to it, sending his low shot past Gspurning and into the corner of the net to increase the scoreline to 2-0.
The second half looked like it would be more of the same as the Timbers continued to control play. It was only ninety seconds into the half that the Timbers would score their third goal of the match. A foul out on the left flank saw the Sounders protesting the call. Meanwhile, Johnson had his head up and saw Wallace on the touchline, unmarked. Johnson played a quick restart, knocking the ball to Wallace who turned and immediately sent a cross in to Futty Danso who, streaking through the heart of a static Seattle defense, headed home what would ultimately be the game winning goal.
From there the Timbers looked like they would cruise to victory, but two key substitutions from the Sounders put theresult into question. The introduction of Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales gave the Sounders the boost in the attack that they needed to contest the match, particularly as the Timbers took off Valeri and Nagbe.
Midway through the second half, Seattle seemed to come alive, pulling back two goals in quick succession. The first came in the 74' as Brad Evans slung a long cross into the Timbers box. Eddie Johnson was able to get a glancing header to the ball, sending it across the face of the Timbers' goal where it bounced to DeAndre Yedlin who buried it in the net, giving the Sounders their second goal off a long throw in as many games. The second Sounders' goal came only two minutes later in the 76'. This time it was Yedlin who delivered the ball, sending a curling cross into the Timbers' box that Eddie Johnson rose up to head home.
Thankfully for the Timbers they were able to halt the slide there as the game devolved into a series of fouls and long balls that neither team could capitalize on. After some tense hold-up play form the Timbers, Grajeda finally blew the whistle, ending the game.
The Timbers will travel to Sandy Utah to take on Real Salt Lake this Sunday in the first leg of the Conference Finals.