Timbers blank Sounders
Yimmi Chara scored in his third consecutive game and the Portland Timbers put in one of their better defensive shifts of the season on Wednesday to record a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders at Providence Park.
The result pulls Portland even with its rival on 21 points atop the Western Conference of Major League Soccer.
The Timbers are 6-4-3. The Sounders are 6-3-3, have played one fewer game and have a plus-15 goal differential to Portland's plus-2. There is a lot of soccer to be played over the next six weeks, and the West is extremely competitive, but second in the table has to feel good after beating Seattle for the second time this season.
On the first truly rainy night of the season, Seattle was the side on the front foot for long stretches. After escaping a series of quality chances that the visitors did not convert in the first half, Portland's defending denied the Sounders any true high-quality chances in the second half.
"I think we played a total game, and that's the key here," Timbers goalkeeper Steve Clark said. "We've been this good for parts of games, but tonight we put it all together. You do that for 96 minutes, you have a very good shot of coming out with three points."
Yimmi Chara's third goal in as many matches gave Portland the 13th-minute lead. Jeremy Ebobisse made a smart play when he dropped into midfield to collect a second ball. After a couple of touches, Ebobisse's pass found Chara making a run from deep in midfield in stride as Chara beat the defense into the the penalty area.
The younger Chara brother is working back to full fitness after an injury in the MLS's Back Tournament, and in recent matches has provided a offensive boost for a Portland team without Sebastian Blanco.
"We've seen now more of what he's capable of doing," coach Giovanni Savarese said about Yimmi Chara, adding that he expects Chara's performance to continue to improve as he adjusts to MLS and the Timbers and regains full fitness.
"We know he still has more to show, and once he starts getting a little bit fitter, then we'll see a bit more things from him."
The Timbers win came in the team's third match over eight days, a period that included several indoor practices because of wildfire smoke and two round trips to San Jose. This is the first time in seven regular-season matches between Portland and Seattle won by the home side.
Clark said both the players and the coaching staff deserve credit for navigating a difficult stretch.
The Sounders finished with a 19-9 advantage in shots (6-2 on goal) and earned 13 corner kicks. But Seattle was most dangerous early in the game. Its best chances of the second half were a Yeimar Gomez header from a corner that spun wide and a Jordan Morris close-range header in the 81st minute that he sent over the bar while he was challenged by Pablo Bonilla.
Seattle outshot Portland 11-6 in the first half and earned seven corner kicks. Half of the Sounders' eight first-half chances were quality looks and striker Raul Ruidiaz might have had three goals himself if not missed shots. The best of those chances was his chip over Clark in the 21st minute that somehow spun wide of the goal.
The missed chances certainly frustrated the visitors, who came to Portland on an offensive roll as the highest scoring team in the league. Sure, Ruidiaz missed some chances he usually converts. But, unlike in some situations this season, the Timbers effort was high in difficult defensive moments.
The Sounders attacked up the left wing throughout the first half, with Morris and others testing rookie right back Bonilla, a 20-year-old from Venezuela who was signed to T2 and promoted to the Timbers when Jorge Moreira's loan expired.
Bonilla settled into the match and had support from Ebobisse in front of him, Diego Chara in midfield, and fellow defenders Julio Cascante, Dario Zuparic and Jorge Villafana as well as Clark, who was credited with a season-high six saves.
"Pablo has stepped in and done really well," Clark said. "The way he's fit into our team has been good. I think we have good options at right back with Chris (Duvall) and Pablo, and credit to him for stepping into the MLS. It's a difficult league to come into and he's done well."
It was the first time Portland has blanked an opponent since March 8, a 1-0 win at home over expansion side Nashville SC. That was a similar match in that the Timbers made an early goal stand up for an important win. This is the first time in 10 games that Seattle did not score.
"The important part of this match was to make sure that we controlled where we wanted the ball to be played," Savarese said. "In the first half, they were able to find some spaces … We also were a little more open, pressed a little bit higher and created opportunities as well.
"In the second half, we just didn't allow them to be able to be dangerous."
One thing Portland struggled with was possession. Partly because the Timbers seemed anxious to generate chances on the counter attack, but also because of some sloppy passing and rushed decisions from the home side, the Sounders had 70% of possession after halftime and 61.9% for the match.
"We could have kept a little bit more (of) the ball in the second half," Savarese said. "But nevertheless, the performance was outstanding for a group that made sure we controlled the match in the way we did."
The Timbers remain at Providence Park, but will be the designated visiting team at 7 p.m. Sunday against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Because of travel restrictions between Canada and the United States the Whitecaps are using Providence Park as their home for the remainder of the season.
• Centerback Larrys Mabiala played about 10 minutes in his first action since injuring his thigh in Portland's Sept. 6 win at Seattle, entering the match in the 86th minute.
• When Alex Roldan entered the match as a second-half substitute, he joined brother Cristian on the field for Seattle. With Diego and Yimmi Chara on the field for Portland, it was the first time in MLS history (6,043 matches) that two pairs of brothers have played against each other.
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