By SOPHIA PLUG, OREGON SPORTS NEWS
Even though the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers have been rivals since 1975 in the NASL, they have only been in the MLS since 2011. Since that first game that changed everything, Seattle has gone 56-45-15 against Portland in all of these games.
As MLS has grown and gotten more prominent over the past ten years, new battles have sprung up all over the league. But Sounders vs. Timbers is just different. Both sides have been around for a long time, so there are a lot of famous moments and heroes and baddies that people will never forget.
Before playing Seattle Sounders FC in the Cascadia Cup battle at Providence Park on Saturday night, the Portland Timbers had a rough start to their 2023 MLS season. In their first seven games, they only earned five points and had to deal with a long list of injuries and absences.
The Timbers badly needed a win to get their season back on track, and they couldn’t have gotten one more convincingly. When the dust cleared, the Timbers had won 4-1, thanks to an all-out attack in the second half. In 19 minutes, they scored four goals without any response from the other team from their area.
Ral Ruidaz gave Seattle a 1-0 lead with the game’s first goal in the 71st minute. In reply, Timbers forward Dairon Asprilla scored one of the best goals of the 2023 season with a bicycle kick finish that energized the home crowd and started the second-half attack.
Five minutes later, Focaga’s goal was the winner. This was the Timbers’ first win since the season’s first weekend.
Niezgoda added a tap-in to finish the wild turn and give the Timbers their fourth straight win over a rival team from the same area. Since both teams joined the MLS in 2011, when Portland joined for the first time, this is the longest win streak of this kind in the history of the rivalry.
Just before the end of the game, Juan Mosquera scored his second goal of the season. This was the second three-goal win in that stretch.
In the 58th minute, the Sounders’ Raul Ruidiaz scored his second goal of the season. Up to that point, the Sounders had made most of the chances.
But Seattle swallowed up three goals in 10 minutes and four in 19 minutes. This was the first time this season that they had conceded more than one goal in a game.
In the 71st minute, Asprilla made a great play that changed the whole night.
After a few moves around the edge of the penalty area, Santiago Moreno threw a diagonal ball toward the left half of the area.
Asprilla turned and jumped backward with his back to the goal. He crossed his right leg over his body and fired a fierce shot that gave Seattle goalie Stefan Frei little chance.
Five minutes later, Fogaca made it 2-0 when he took a pass in stride, split Yeimar and Jackson Ragen at center back, and then finished easily on the break past Frei.
And it was 3-1 when, in the 80th minute, Niezgoda scored a rebound from close range after Frei made a mistake.
At a news conference after the game, Timbers head coach Gio Savarese said, “I think the energy we got after Asprilla’s amazing goal was the moment that took the team to a different level.” “Then, at the end, we were very, very strong. Very good. I would say it was one of the best endings we’ve had.”
Asprilla said, “I’m always ready for a bicycle.” When I see the ball, it looks like a good chance for me to try. If you have a dream, you always try to make it come true.”
It’s the fourth straight regular-season win for the Timbers against their opponents in the Pacific Northwest, and it keeps them in an assertive streak.
It’s a bit surprising for a rivalry that has always been one of the most fierce in the league, but Savarese says it shows how much the derby games mean to his players. Form can sometimes go out the window, as it did on Matchday 8. Seattle was now in first place in the Western Conference.
Savarese said, “There are different ways, but it’s on a different level to be able to carry out the plan we have and put in the right amount of energy.” “Because in this game, you have to play much harder. But if you ask me why we’ve done well in the last few games against them, I’d say it’s because we know how important these games are and give them everything we’ve got.”
Building Up Drive
Given how their season started, Portland’s emotional win couldn’t have been at a better time as they try to get back above the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line in the Western Conference.
The Timbers know how much a win over a rival can change a team’s luck, so they went on a four-game winning streak right after beating the Sounders at Providence Park in August 2022. Even though midfielder Eryk Williamson is out for the year with an ACL injury and DP winger Yimmi Chara is still out with a knee injury, a similar chain reaction could happen in 2023.
“There’s a chance,” Savarese said. “I hope that our season turns out just like the game against Seattle that we played here at home last year. But only if we win our next few games will we know if we can turn the season around and be more competitive, get more points, and move up the table.
To do this, Portland will have to beat FC Cincinnati, a strong team from the Eastern Conference, on Matchday 9. This season, Pat Noonan’s team has done well, but on Saturday, they were shocked by a 5-1 loss at new team St. Louis City SC.
“A special night,” said Savarese. “Really happy for the guys. Now we can have fun tonight, but we have to go back to work tomorrow. There are more games to play, and they are all very hard.”
While the win was important, the Timbers will be looking to keep that form, and they’ll surely need it.