Tie with Sounders keeps Cascadia Cup just out of Timbers' reach


by: NHUNG LAM - Rodney Wallace of the Portland Timbers makes a move against Seattle.With inconsistent home performances and inability to win on the road, any hope the Portland Timbers had of making the MLS playoffs fell by the wayside long ago.

But the Timbers came into Saturday’s home match against the Seattle Sounders with hopes of having something — the fan-created Cascadia Cup — to show for their sophomore campaign. The Sounders, second in the Western Conference, needed a win to clinch their imminent postseason berth.

Neither side got what it was looking for at Jeld-Wen Field.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw, with Seattle taking the lead on Fredy Montero's 57th-minute goal and Portland equalizing in the 78th minute when defender Rodney Wallace finished midfielder Jack Jewsbury's corner kick.

“We’ll accept coming away with a tie,” Timbers interim coach Gavin Wilkinson said. “We salvaged a point today.”

The Sounders (13-6-9, 48 points) are still looking to clinch a spot in the playoffs, and they trail West leader San Jose by five points.

by: NHUNG LAM - Forward Danny Mwanga of the Portland Timbers tries to get position against a Seattle Sounders defender during Saturday's 1-1 draw at Jeld-Wen Field.The Timbers (7-14-7, 28 points) will have to try to win the Cascadia Cup — a competition between Portland, Seattle and the Vancouver Whitecaps — on the road.

Portland holds a commanding advantage in the cup standings with a head-to-head record of 2-0-2 (8 points). Seattle (1-1-2, 5 points) still is within striking distance. The Whitecaps (0-2-2, 4 points) are out of the race.

The Timbers have two more Cascadia Cup matches — at Seattle on Oct. 7 and at Vancouver on Oct. 21.

“We kept the Cascadia Cup very much alive and benefiting us, I hope,” Wilkinson said. “We’ll go on the road. We have great fan support on the road, and we still get to bring it (the Cascadia Cup) back to Portland, hopefully.”

Saturday's first half was fast-paced and evenly matched. Both clubs created opportunities, but neither could put the ball in the back of the net. The Timbers finished the half with seven shots, one of them on target. Seattle shot eight times, with none on goal.

The only shot on frame in the first half came in the 39th minute. Timbers midfielder Franck Songo’o dribbled into the box unmarked and from 14 yards fired a right-footed shot to the right post. Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was there to make a diving save, though.

In the 52nd minute, Sounders defender Andy Rose took the ball on the left side and sent a cross into the 18-yard box. Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts left his line to try to punch the ball.

Ricketts was able to knock the ball out of bounds, but in the process the 6-4, 210-pound Jamaican collided with Sounders striker Eddie Johnson. Ricketts stayed on the pitch for more than three minutes as medical staff attended to him.

“We both went for the ball, I was there first, and he got in to the back of me,” Ricketts said.

Finally, Ricketts rose and tried to resume playing. In the 55th minute, though, he had to leave the game, holding his left shoulder as he went into the locker room.

by: NHUNG LAM - Joe Bendik, who replaced an injured Donovan Ricketts in goal in the second half for Portland, dives to stop the ball.His replacement: Joe Bendik, a 6-3, 205-pound 23-year-old who had played in one MLS match (April 28 as a substitute in the 67th minute against the Montreal Impact).

The Sounders wasted no time taking advantage of Bendik.

As play resumed, Gspurning launched a goal kick. The ball bounced past Timbers defender David Horst and found Montero, who was being closely marked by defender Hanyer Mosquera. Montero took the ball down to the ground just outside the box, turned, and with almost no room between himself and Mosquera, fired.

Bendik dove, but he had no chance of making the save. The ball found the top right corner, and Seattle was up 1-0.

“The ball took a bounce, we tried to win it," Bendik said. "Montero slipped in between Dave and 'Mosqo,' and by the time I saw it, it was 12 yards out and just a little too high to react to it.”

After the goal, the Timbers increased the speed of the match, desperately trying to square the score.

The increased pace earned the Timbers a corner kick in the 78th minute. Jewsbury sent a ball into the box from the left side. The Sounders were able to defend the service, but after Seattle knocked the ball out of bounds, the Timbers got a second corner kick from the right side.

Jewsbury again took the corner. He placed his second attempt just outside the 6-yard box.by: NHUNG LAM - The Portland Timbers' Franck Songo'o works against Seattle.

“Sal (Zizzo) had been taking the corners previously in the game,” Jewsbury said. “He got a knock earlier and told me, ‘I’m not sure I can whip them in anymore.’ We got one to the left side first, and then they hit it out and I got another one, and I put the corner over the front guy.”

Wallace got to the Jewsbury corner kick first. Wallace leaped and sent a header toward the goal. The ball bounced off Sounders defender Leonardo Gonzalez and spun in, to the bottom left corner. Benefiting from a friendly home scorekeeper, Gonzalez was not charged with an own goal. And, with Wallace’s first goal of the season, Portland tied the match 1-1.

“It was a set play that we’ve been practicing, and it went the right way for us,” Wallace said.

The Timbers nearly scored off another corner in stoppage time. Jewsbury delivered a quality service into the box. The ball got lost in traffic. Timbers striker Bright Dike was able to send a shot at the goal, but the ball bounced off the right post.

Before Portland can try to secure the Cascadia Cup, the Timbers will play two road matches next week, against San Jose on Wednesday and Real Salt Lake on Saturday. The Timbers are the only MLS club without a road victory this season (0-10-3).

As important as winning the Cascadia Cup is to the Timbers, Wilkinson said that Portland needs to finally earn three points on the road to get the gorilla off its back.

“Everyone knows how important it is, and the longer the season goes, the more important it becomes,” he said. “We’re going to San Jose and Salt Lake, two very difficult opponents. It’s important that we stick together as a group.

"We have a tough challenge ahead of us, and one that we need to accept and one we do need to relish. It’s the one thing that’s hanging over us right now, and we need to find a way to resolve that.”by: NHUNG LAM - Diego Chara, Portland Timbers midfielder, looks across the field for options as the home team battles the Seattle Sounders to a 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon at Jeld-Wen Field.