It was a paddlin’ folks. A pretty demoralizing and painful one.
In a season that has been defined by blowout losses, the Portland Timbers suffered their latest and likely worst one on Sunday night, at home, at the hands of their hated rivals the Seattle Sounders. Fredy Montero and Raul Ruidiaz both tallied a brace, and Jimmy Medranda and Nico Benezet would each add one themselves for the visitors. An inspiring Sebastian Blanco comeback goal and a momentary George Fovhive equalizer would prove to be a small amelioration for Timbers fans, as Seattle overpowered them by a scoreline of 6-2.
Before the game, the atmosphere was that of a proper rivalry match. The air was crackling with energy, the dueling supporters’ sections were going back and forth with chants, and for the first time since March 2020 the Timbers Army unfurled a beautiful Tifo, inspired by one of their chants.
Also during pregame, former Timbers player Rodney Wallace was honored as he announced his retirement after signing a one day contract to retire as a Portland Timbers player. It was a stirring moment, and helped add to the atmosphere for the night.
As could be expected from a Cascadia rivalry game against Seattle, it got off to an electric start. Portland came out flying and pressing, earning most of their early chances via forcing turnovers. Their best early chance came in the ninth minute, when Blanco dummied a ball through for Diego Chara, who cut a low cross in the box for his brother Yimmi. The younger Chara couldn’t control the pass however, and Seattle ‘keeper Stefan Cleveland collected the ball and made the save (get used to that sentence because it’s going to come up a lot).
Despite Portland’s best efforts, they would be the ones to concede first. After Aljaz Ivacic made a great diving save to deny a Raul Ruidiaz header in the 13th minute, Portland couldn’t collect or clear the ball. Seattle recycled, and sent in another cross that Ivacic couldn’t hang on to. Portland’s old nemesis Fredy Monetro was there on the doorstep, and he stabbed it home to make it 1-0 in favor of that team from up north.
After the goal, despite the growing sense of anxiety that has become so familiar to Timbers fans in 2021, the Timbers themselves stayed determined to grab the equalizer. And you would be forgiven to think that they were going to. The minutes after the goal were marked by Portland finding chance after chance in front of Seattle’s goal. First Sebastian Blanco, making his first start of 2021, had a low shot from a tight angle saved by Cleveland. Then, Cleveland made a save on a Felipe Mora chip attempt after Mora was sprung clean in behind. And not just a minute later, Cleveland again saved a Mora header off a free kick. Portland tried and tried and tried, but they couldn’t blow the door down.
But someone who could, unfortunately, was Fredy Montero. Off a counter in the 29th minute, Montero found himself outside the box on the far side of the field. He dribbled in past Claudio Bravo, and then uncorked a stunning shot from distance that beat Ivacic and settled into the top corner of the net. Portland’s nemesis had struck again, and it was suddenly a worryingly 2-0 scoreline, favoring the Sounders.
Things felt bleak at that moment. But, just as Seattle has Portland enemy Fredy Montero, Portland has Seattle enemy Sebastian Blanco. In the 32nd minute, Mora collected the ball and played in a streaking Blanco past the Seattle backline. Blanco fired off a low shot that deflected off a defender, and flew past Cleveland into the back of the net.
Blanco was back, and he was back scoring against Seattle. He cut the deficit to one — appropriately while Timbers great Rodney Wallace was in the middle of an interview on the broadcast.
In the stadium, the goal woke everyone up and Providence Park started rocking again. Portland tried to capitalize on the intensity and continued to search for the equalizer. However it would not come to pass, and the wild three goal first half ended 2-1 Seattle.
The second half, by all logic, was well within its rights to start off slower and tamer than the first. Maybe the teams would just start to ease back into things after that fast paced first half.
Well, the exact opposite happened. The second half opened at the same level of intensity, and then started ratcheting up several levels. Attacking the North End and the Timbers Army, Portland kept up their pressure to search for an equalizer, forcing a few more saves from Cleveland.
Seven minutes into the second half, Portland would finally find their second goal. Off a corner kick, the ball was cleared as far as Claudio Bravo. He tried a shot from distance, which was saved and fell to George Fochive in the box. Fochive volleyed the ball into the turf, and it flew past the diving arms of Cleveland into the goal, and sending the Timbers Army into pandemonium.
With the game now level, Portland looked primed to push for a go-ahead goal. The game however, had ... other plans.
In the 55th minute, Larrys Mabiala fouled Raul Ruidiaz right at the top of the Timbers box. Ruidiaz stepped up to the free kick, and absolutely slammed it home, restoring Seattle’s two goal advantage.
After that, Portland started to wither. Blanco, the catalyst for most of Portland’s best attacking chances, was subbed out in the 62nd minute. After that, the Timbers’ offense ground to a halt. They did not look likely to score for most of the rest of the match.
They did however, look inclined to make more inexplicable defensive errors and give Seattle chances to run away with it. And they were much obliged to take advantage.
In the 72nd minute, Portland yet again gave up a free kick in a dangerous area in front of their goal. Nico Lodeiro stepped up and rifled the ball right at Ivacic, who did well to save. He however spilled the rebound right to the feet of Ruidiaz, who tallied his second of the match and made it 4-2.
It felt like a back breaker, and it reflected in the way Portland responded on the field. When the Timbers should have been pushing and fighting, it was Seattle who was exploiting the spaces and scoring.
They would increase their margin yet again in the 77th minute, off yet another screamer. Straight off of a corner kick, Seattle found Jimmy Medranda unmarked at the far post. He uncorked a one time shot that sailed past Ivacic, pinged off the underside of the crossbar and into the net. It was 5-2, I was getting tired of tweeting Seattle goals, and everyone’s heads went down.
By that point, the game was well and truly done. Portland put in some effort to try to drag maybe a consolation goal back, but at that point they, like everyone else in the stadium, knew that they had no chance back.
To add final insult to injury, Seattle debutante Nico Benezet found himself in behind unmarked one-on-one with Ivacic right at the end of the game. He slotted home right between the Timbers’ keeper’s legs, to make the final margin 6-2, appropriately, with the final kick of the night.
It was the most goals Portland had given up at home in the MLS era, and was reflective of a dispiriting and lifeless final 40 minutes from a Timbers side that desperately needed a positive result at home to give them some momentum.
To make matters worse, Portland now heads on the road for an entire month. They have five straight away matches, beginning with a bout at Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night. The road has not been kind to the Timbers, and so the prospects of them turning this season around appear to be bleak.
This season has been a trying one, and many Timbers fans were looking to tonight to be a moment where Portland showed they still have the capacity to put down a marker in the fight for the playoffs. Instead, it was a night of capitulation and defeat. And it left many of us to wonder that with a lifeless and wildly inconsistent team that is consistently getting blown out by multiple goals in 2021, if this season has begun to truly teeter on the edge.