U.S. Open Cup: Portland Timbers hail "mature" performance in wild win at Seattle Sounders

The Portland Timbers always knew Tuesday’s US Open Cup fourth-round contest at the Seattle Sounders was going to be a wild affair.  

After all, Timbers-Sounders matches are always played a bit on edge. And when the two sides meet in an elimination game – especially one being played at the cramped, raucous quarters of the Sounders’ Starfire Sports Complex – the intensity only ratchets up another level.

But that? A 3-1 extratime win for Portland on enemy turf that featured three Sounders ejections and ended with Seattle – who lost forward Obafemi Martins to injury shortly after using their third and final sub – only fielding seven players? No one, not even the most hardened Cascadia Cup veteran, could’ve expected that.

“No, I can honestly say that was pretty wild,” 34-year-old Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury said when asked if he had experienced anything like that in his career. “Even at the end, I guess it was 11 vs. seven with six field players, it was pretty wild to look around and not really see too many white jerseys. It was interesting to say the least.”

Indeed, Tuesday’s contest will live on for years as one of the crazier matches in Timbers v. Sounders history. The only MLS teams to face off against a league counterpart in the fourth round, Portland and Seattle played a frantic, if ultimately scoreless, first half. Things took off in the second stanza, however, with Diego Valeri giving the Timbers a 48th minute lead and Seattle’s Brad Evans earning a second yellow in the 69th before Martins equalized 10 minutes later.

Seattle went down to nine late in regulation, when Martins was stretchered off due to injury shortly after Sigi Schmid had used his final sub. Rodney Wallace scored the winner in the first period of extra time, and things deteriorated shortly thereafter, with Seattle’s Michael Azira and Clint Dempsey getting shown straight reds in quick succession to force the defending USOC champs to finish the game with seven men.

Through it all, the Timbers – who had their third scored by forward Maximiliano Urruti – kept their cool, handing the four-time Open Cup champion Sounders their first loss at Starfire since joining MLS.

“We knew this was going to be an intense game – obviously this is a derby, bitter rivals, Cup game – we knew it was going to be a challenge for us,” Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said in his postgame comments. “History said we wouldn’t win this game because they had never lost on this field in the Open Cup and they have won the Open Cup four times. I was proud of our group’s mentality. They looked like they were up for it … they were mature, they kept their heads.

“I was proud of that. Sometimes in this type of game you can lose your head; I thought we kept our composure really well.”

In addition to avenging their 2014 Open Cup quarterfinal loss at Seattle, the Timbers extended their winning streak to four games across all competitions with Tuesday’s result. They now turn their attention back to league play, and Saturday’s home match against Houston (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live). On the docket only a week after the Dynamo match? Another date with the Sounders, a nationally televised encounter on June 28 at Portland’s Providence Park (7 pm ET, Fox Sports 1).

“It feels good,” Jewsbury said. “We have been on a good run in the league, but we had to switch gears a little bit to the Open Cup. We knew it was going to be a tough game, especially against Seattle. It was one we were excited about, but we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, so to get out of here, in what was kind of a weird and wild game, and to move on, was the goal and we achieved that, and it feels good.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. 

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