Fernandez says hello
SEATTLE — Brian Fernandez introduced himself to Sounders fans with two quality goals, and the Portland Timbers frustrated Seattle for long stretches of a Sunday MLS contest that ended with animosity fitting for the league's best rivalry.
Fernandez put Portland ahead in the first half and silenced most of the CenturyLink Fieldcrowd of 50,072 only 75 seconds after a Timbers mistake allowed Raul Ruidiaz to tie the match.
"I think I scored two great goals today, probably two of the best goals that I've scored so far with the Timbers," said Fernandez, who also scored both goals in Portland's 2-1 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup win over the Sounders.
Handing a host its first home loss of 2019 for the third time in two weeks, the Timbers are 8-8-4 (28 points) and remain ninth in the Western Conference, two points back of Real Salt Lake and Houston, who are tied on points for the last playoff spot and have played one more game than Portland.
The Sounders are 10-6-5 (35) and remain third in the conference.
The Timbers will play 11 of their remaining 14 regular-season games at home, with a 7:30p.m. Saturday visit from the Los Angeles Galaxy next.
To get Sunday's win, Portland had to work more than 10 minutes of second-half stoppage time. At the final whistle, emotions boiled over, with Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark getting into it with Sounders defender Roman Torres.
Clark, who had a busy and challenging night, downplayed the postgame interactions, which are likely to be reviewed by the league.
"It was nothing really. They were upset they lost," Clark said.
Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese called the postgame scene unfortunate.
He raved about the way his Timbers executed a game plan that has carried them to six road wins in league play, plus two in the Open Cup.
Again, the Timbers proved difficult to break down, though they did get fortunate that Ruidiaz missed a point-blank chance and Clark came up huge in the first 30 seconds as the Sounders' Peruvian forward broke in on goal.
Clark finished with seven saves, two punches and one cross collected.
"It was a really tough game," said Clark, who had collisions with each of his center backs. "I had a lot of involvement, so it was really difficult. I feel like I've been beat up a little bit. But I feel good. I feel like a winner."
Fernandez made the Timbers winners when he tucked a ball under Stefan Frei for the second goal, getting to the end of a Blanco cross in the 51st minute.
The goal stunned a Seattle crowd that was still celebrating Ruidiaz's finish into an open goal in the 50th minute. A long ball out of the back glanced off the top of Portland defender Julio Cascante's head, a deflection that allowed the Sounders to push the ball around the oncoming Clark and slot it home.
"That's the first time we've gotten caught between the back line and me," Clark said. "We'll check it out on tape. I think it's a ball that I can deal with."
Fernandez put Portland up in the 18th minute, beating defender Roman Torres to a rebound after Jorge Moreira's deft move into the box and drive off of the crossbar.
Seattle nearly answered immediately, but Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala did just enough to disrupt Ruidiaz, who was in tap-in range to meet a Jordan Morris cross but somehow sent the ball over the bar.
Seattle's first-half chances included six corner kicks and two dangerous free kicks. Torres was open several times to meet Nicolas Lodeiro but couldn't nod the ball on frame.
Ruidiaz had a chance to score inside the first 20 seconds after Lodeiro stole the ball from Cascante. A strong touch as Ruidiaz dribbled into the 18-yard box allowed Clark to come off his line and foil the chance.
In the 18th minute, the Timbers nearly took the lead as Cascante's strong header from a Diego Valeri corner kick forced Frei into a tough save. Jeremy Ebobisse was at the post but put the rebound wide.
• A stoppage time yellow card to Diego Chara means the Timbers midfielder will miss the game against the Galaxy.
• The Timbers kept the Sounders from clinching their sixth Cascadia Cup since the regional trophy was introduced in 2004 by supporters groups of the Timbers, Sounders and Vancouver Whitecaps. All three clubs were in the USL First Division at the time. Seattle and Vancouver have four points from three games. Portland has three points with two home games remaining.
Portland has claimed the Cascadia Cup four times, twice as an MLS club and in 2009 and 2010 when it was only contested by the Timbers and Whitecaps because the Sounders were in MLS.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)