SEATTLE The Seattle Sounders showed why they have joined the MLS contender conversation on Sunday, fighting off the Portland Timbers 1-0 at CenturyLink Field.
Forward Eddie Johnson scored in the 60th minute as Seattle improved to 11-8-4 (37 points) and jumped into a tie for fifth place in the Western Conference with FC Dallas, which has played two more games than Seattle. The top five finishers make the playoffs.
Portland coach Caleb Porter blasted the officiating after Sunday's game.
"I thought the officiating was very lopsided, extremely lopsided, for whatever reason," Porter said, referring mostly to fouls and a yellow card on Portland central defender Pa Modou Ka that will take him out of Saturday's game with Real Salt Lake.
"They have guys who commit three, four fouls, the same one, no card, and we commit one and it's a card," Porter said. "Watch the tape. You explain it, because I can't understand it. We're talking the same exact foul, same exact foul, we're doing a foul, they're doing a foul, and we get a card and they don't get a card. Explain it. I don't get it. It makes no sense to me."
Porter applauded his players for being "tough team. We're not going to back down."
Said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid: "It was a hard-fought game. It was an exciting game, for sure, for the fans. I thought it was a little more physical than it needed to be. That took a little a bit away from the quality of the game, but obviously we are pleased with being able to get a clean sheet. We are pleased the one goal was enough to give us the three points, because that was the most important thing.
The Timbers are tied for third in the MLS West with 39 points, but Portland (9-4-12) has played two more matches than Seattle.
The Timbers share the No. 3 spot with Colorado (10-7-9).
Real Salt Lake (13-8-6) leads with 45 points, and the Los Angeles Galaxy are second (12-9-4, 40).
Johnson's 61st career MLS goal came from about the top of the six-yard box, off a free kick by Mauro Rosales. He is tied for 22nd on the league's all-time list.
Portland's best chance to equalize came in the 88th minute, but goalie Michael Gspurning tipped away Darlington Nagbe's hard shot. The Timbers also had a couple of good looks on headers in stoppage time.
The Timbers controlled play for much of the first half.
"We had good possession during the whole game and had some chances first half," Nagbe said. "If we just would have put one away and got a goal in the first half, I feel like we would have come out in the second half and got more control of the ball and controlled the game, but when they got that first goal, it changed the game a little bit.
A franchise-record crowd of 67,385 saw the Sounders take the Cascadia Cup lead at 2-1-1 (seven points). Vancouver is 1-1-2 (five points), and Portland is 0-1-3 (three points) in the three-way Northwest fan-initiated competition. Portland plays at Vancouver on Oct. 6, Seattle plays host to Vancouver on Oct. 9, and Seattle visits Portland on Oct. 13. Seattle can clinch the trophy with a win over Vancouver. Portland needs to b eat Vancouver to stay alive.
The Sounders have won four of their past five games, and Sunday's match featured the home debut of U.S. national team standout Clint Dempsey.