Though stats leaned Portland Timbers direction, team disappointed with loss

Timbers would have traded statistical advantage for different scoreline

PORTLAND, Ore. – Though the Portland Timbers maintained 56 percent possession and outshot the Seattle Sounders 13-10 in a half of soccer, they would have gladly traded it for a different scoreline.

Despite that statistical advantage, Sunday afternoon's Cascadia clash saw the Sounders jump out to a 2-0 first-half lead en route to a decisive 4-2 victory over the Timbers at Providence Park.

“Seattle deserved to win, but I know it was a lot closer a game than the score indicated,” Portland head coach Caleb Porter said in his postgame comments. “I know it’s easy to say that, but at the end of the day the only thing that matters is the score. We didn’t do well enough.”

Looking only at the match statistics, and Portland did do quite well.

They not only outshot and outpossessed Seattle in the first half but also for the game. The scoreline told a much different story, however, one that might not have even been as close if not for two late goals by second-half substitute Fanendo Adi.

“It’s hard to believe that at halftime we were down 2-0 with the way we played,” Porter said. “I thought we came out well. … It seemed like every chance they got today was in the back of the net, and somehow we couldn’t find the frame, so it was a bit of a strange game.”

Seattle’s first goal came on a well-developed build-up that included 14 passes, ending in an Obafemi Martins tap-in on a Brad Evans cross. The second goal came on a counter attack following a Portland corner kick, with Martins feeding Clint Dempsey for his fifth goal of the season against the Timbers.

Both goals, Porter said, could have easily been prevented.

“It’s just them finding moments that good players like them seem to score on,” said center back Liam Ridgewell of Dempsey and Martins, who he is familiar with from their days playing in the English Premier League. “ So we’ve got to try to cut that out of their game in the future.”

Seattle took advantage of two more opportunities in the second half, with Martins completing a brace and substitute Chad Barrett also scoring. It made Adi’s brace, his first home goals since signing a Designated Player contract earlier this summer, a non-factor.

“I take it personally,” Ridgewell said. “Everyone can tell how disappointed everyone is, and we’ve got to try to put that right.”

The result left the Timbers gutted in their locker room over the missed opportunity to move above the red line in the Western Conference for the first time this season. With nine games remaining, the Timbers remain mired in sixth place, two points behind the fifth and final playoff spot that is occupied by the Vancouver Whitecaps, who the Timbers face on the road Saturday.

“I’ve given 25 team talks and for me I felt like this was the easiest one I’ve had to give because there’s so much motivation, a rivalry game, we’re two points off the red line, an opportunity to go above the red line against a rival, we’re at home,” Porter said. “And again, I thought we were up for it. I like we played well in the first half, but we’re down 2-0 because of mistakes.
 
"You play well enough to win, the stats tell a story in a soccer game. But ultimately moral victories aren’t what we are looking for at this stage."

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.