The Portland Timbers are now on a four game winning streak after taking down the Seattle Sounders 1-0 in the 100th match between the two sides. The Timbers left it late, but Sebastian Blanco came through with the late goal to secure all three points over their rivals.
With both sides bringing a defense-first attitude to the pitch, the 100th iteration of the Timbers-Sounders rivalry started slowly. As the Timbers worked the ball around the pitch, probing for a weakness in the packed-in Sounders formation, Seattle looked for a quick break down the pitch but neither side were able to create a chance.
Ten minutes into the match, the cracks began to show for both sides. First, the Timbers found an extended run of possession that saw them send a series of crosses and moves into the Sounders box, only for the final touch to elude them. Then, the Sounders had their turn, capitalizing on a blown corner kick from the Timbers and pinning the home side back; but failing to create much of their own.
Late in the first half, the Timbers came close to the first major chance of the afternoon after Cristhian Paredes wove his way through a mass of Sounders defenders before finding Diego Valeri out wide on the right. Valeri took his touch forward before flashing a low ball across the face of goal, only for his cross to roll just out of reach of the Timbers crashing the net.
Befitting the balanced nature of the match, the Sounders also managed a chance before the half wound down. After working the ball down the pitch in the 44th minute, the Sounders found left back Nouhou Tolo on the outside of the box and the young Camaroonian hit a low shot that skipped through the box and took a slight deflection on its way, ending up wide of the post.
As the half wound down, what had largely been a placid match-up between the players on the pitch was kicked up a notch by a pair of card-worthy fouls from Sounders midfield Jordy Delem and Timbers center back Liam Ridgewell. In the 34th minute, Delem went in hard on Diego Valeri, sliding into the Maestro’s legs from behind in what Steve Zakuani — an authority on such matters — would call a “potential leg breaker”. Despite the violent nature of the foul, Delem was let go with a yellow card. Ten minutes later, Ridgewell took an obvious run at Delem, taking him down from behind in an only marginally less egregious manner and earning a yellow card of his own.
After the half, the Sounders came out of the locker room looking like the more dangerous side, capitalizing on the forays forward of Tolo and right back Kelvin Leerdam to create chances. In just the 48th minute, it was a shot from Tolo inside the Timbers box that yielded the first shot on goal of the match, but the attempt was put within easy range of Jeff Attinella and the Timbers keeper made the save.
The chance served as a wake-up call for the Timbers and soon the home side were back in it and even managed a shot of their own in the 59th minute. Carrying the ball across the top of the Sounders box, Diego Valeri found the feet of Fanendo Adi and cut hard toward goal where he was rewarded with a well-placed return pass that put him in on goal. Taking a touch, Valeri found space for a shot only for a last second slide from Gustav Svensson to block the ball away as it came off his foot.
The Timbers came close again in the 68th minute as they worked the ball around the Sounders box, looking for an opening. A long switch found Zarek Valentin deep in the Sounders end and, with the away side’s defense rotating to him, Valentin dropped a simple pass to Andy Polo at the top of the box. With space around him, Polo stepped up and hit a curling ball on goal that looked likely to sneak inside the far post until Sounders keeper Stefan Frei laid out to get a touch to the ball and force it wide.
With the pressure still on, the Timbers came close again in the 85th minute. After Alvas Powell was taken down deep in the Sounders end, Diego Valeri stepped up and hit a curling free kick into the box that dropped over the Sounders defense and into the path of Larrys Mabiala. Mabiala dove forward and put a head on the ball, but could not steer it on goal and his attempt went wide.
As their momentum built, however, the Timbers would not be denied. In the 86th minute, substitute Samuel Armenteros received the ball in the midfield and spun on his man, bodying the Sounders player out of the way, before playing a weighted through ball into the Seattle box for Sebastian Blanco. Breaking through the Sounders back line, Blanco was in on goal with the ball at his feet. As Frei closed him down, Blanco hit a beautifully chipped shot over the slide of the Sounders keeper that skipped once off the turf before crossing the goal line to give the Timbers a 1-0 lead.
There was one more moment of drama to come, however, as a reckless tackle from Sebastian Blanco on Delem was awarded a yellow card bordering on red. A nervy moment of review from referee Robert Sibiga resulted in the yellow being upheld.
With the win, the Timbers move into fourth place in the Western conference, ahead of the Vancouver Whitecaps on the goal differential tiebreaker. The Timbers are at home again next Saturday when they will take on expansion side Los Angeles FC.