Matchday: MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal Preview | Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders - Nov. 7, 2013
PORTLAND TIMBERS v SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS - SECOND LEG
Thu., Nov. 7, JELD-WEN Field (8 p.m. PT; NBC SN; TSN2; UDN)
The Cascadia Cup rivalry between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC will reach fever pitch in the deciding match of their Western Conference Semifinal Series on Thursday evening at JELD-WEN Field. The Timbers took a 2-1 win in the first leg -- their first-ever win in Seattle since coming into MLS. In the process, the top-seeded Timbers became the first team in five years to win their inaugural playoff match. For Sounders FC to advance to the Western Conference Championship for a second consecutive year, they will have to be the first team to win in Portland since March -- and the first to score there against the Timbers since August.
The last team to win in their debut in the MLS Cup Playoffs was Real Salt Lake, in 2008. "We're one step away," Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said. "We obviously have to have a good performance next game at home. But they have to come on our home field and get a piece of us in order to get through, and I like our chances."
The Timbers win in the first leg was the club's first ever in a match at CenturyLink Field -- and when the Timbers took the first-half lead, it was the first time they had ever led in Seattle in an MLS match.
"For us to stop that team on the road with the talent they have, given the freedom they're given to float around, they didn't get a goal from the run of play," said Porter. "I think that's a real positive that we defended well against them."
Ryan Johnson had last started a game for the Timbers on Aug. 30, coming off the substitutes' bench for four of the final eight regular season games. But inserted into the starting lineup in the first leg, he scored his first career goal in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
"We felt his strength in the air, his physicality, ability to hold the ball up, his athleticism, his pace and power was a good matchup against [Sounders defenders Jhon Kennedy] Hurtado and [Djimi] Traore," said Porter.
Jack Jewsbury recorded his second career MLS Cup Playoffs assist, his first since Oct. 30, 2004, when he recorded a goal and an assist for Kansas City in a 3-0 win against San Jose.
"This team is very confident right now. We're very comfortable in the way we're playing," Jewsbury said. "We can morph into different teams depending how the game is going. If it's direct, we can fight with you. If it settles down, we can possess and go that way. It was a great start for us."
Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts recorded four saves against Sounders FC to earn his fifth career win in the MLS Cup Playoffs (in eight games). The Timbers have not allowed a goal at home since Aug. 21, now 450 minutes without conceding at home.
- "They've been very tight, very organized. We haven't given up many goals; I think we've had six clean sheets. In the playoffs, you have to defend well and we're defending well and we're fine in goals also," said Porter.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
Sounders FC are winless in six first legs all-time, in their five playoff appearances, with an 0-4-2 mark. Sounders FC have never overturned a first-leg deficit in an MLS Cup Playoffs series.
"The goal at the end of the game was very important for us, it gives us an opportunity to go down there and win," said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. "I think when you look at possession and where the ball was on the field and who created more chances -- whether it's corner kicks or things like that -- we showed that we can carry the game, too. We just have to go down there and carry the game to them and score."
Clint Dempsey matched his regular-season high with six shots in the first leg, also hitting the crossbar in the second half. "I think that's what we expect from Clint, creating chances," Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. "Sometimes they go in and sometimes they hit the bar. Sometimes the 'keeper makes a really good save. But eventually when you hit the ball on target enough, the ball is going to go in. No matter how bad it is, it's going to go in eventually."
With DeAndre Yedlin out with an ankle injury after the Knockout Round victory, Zach Scott started at right back. But Scott too was injured in the second half, with Brad Evans shifting back to right back. "We'll see how [Yedlin] feels in the next few days. We feel confident he'll be there," said Schmid.
After playing with Dempsey as an attacking midfielder behind the front two, there was a change for the final half-hour with the addition of Mauro Rosales.
"Mauro did well for us. He came in, we felt we needed to add something if we could and we knew that we could also get him on some set pieces. At first we brought him in centrally, he's just not very comfortable centrally. So we shifted back into a 4-4-2 with him and [Lamar] Neagle on the flanks, so he could attack on the flank a little more. For us right now it's just better to stay in the diamond."
- With Michael Gspurning suspended after being sent off in the Knockout Round win, Marcus Hahnemann came back in between the posts and made three saves. Hahnemann had started two of the final three games of the regular season.
REFEREE: Hilario Grajeda; AR1 (bench): Paul Scott; AR2 (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Dave Gantar
SUSPENDED: SEA: Lamar Neagle (caution accumulation; through Nov. 7)
WARNINGS (suspended next yellow card): POR: Rodney Wallace, Ben Zemanski ... SEA: Eddie Johnson
LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD: POR 2 wins, 7 GF ... SEA 3 wins, 11 GF ... Ties 3
2013 HEAD-TO-HEAD: POR 1 win, 2 GF; SEA 1 win, 2 GF; 1 tie
AT JELD-WEN FIELD: 10/13: POR 1, SEA 0 (Alhassan 45)
MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: POR 1 win, 2 GF; SEA 0 wins, 1 GF; 0 ties