PORTLAND, OR - JULY 10: Fredy Montero #17 and Erik Friberg #8 of the Seattle Sounders celebrate a goal against diving golakeeper Troy Perkins #1 and Eric Brunner #5 of the Portland Timbers on July 2, 2011 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
2 Total Updates since July 10, 2011
almost 2 years ago Update 0 comments
The North American Soccer Reporters (NASR) has named Fredy Montero MLS Player of the Week. Montero's brace helped to fire the Sounders past bitter rivals the Portland Timbers on Sunday. Montero has won the MLS Player of the Week award twice before, most recently in August of 2010.
In a game that needed a big performance to separate the sides, Montero came up huge for Seattle. Montero's driven free-kick from 27 yards out just shy of the hour mark leveled terms at 1-1 and a perfectly timed run put him in position to tap Mauro Rosales' cross to make it 2-2 in the 74th minute. Montero was a handful for the Timbers defense all day, creating several dangerous chances for teammates and just missing a few others of his own.
It's been a frustrating season at times for Montero; the 23-year-old Designated Player missed three games due to injury and was benched by coach Sigi Schmid just prior to the halfway point due to his poor goal-scoring form. He's enjoyed a resurgence of late however, with his performances since returning from his benching reminiscent of his second-half awakening in the 2010 season.
almost 2 years ago Update 0 comments
Things began in much the same manner as so many derbies before it; tentative, chippy and with much tension but little explosiveness, each side crafting a few chances but none clear cut and the first half whistle sending the teams to the locker room with the score just as it was at the start. But if the first 45 were a standoff the second 45 were a shootout. Portland got on the board first thanks to a Jeff Parke own goal that the Seattle defender was helpless to prevent and it was off to the races from there. When all was said and done the two sides had combined for five goals between them with the Sounders coming out on top, a huge win for a team that once again showed an ability to fight back and earn results under difficult circumstances.
Things didn't start too well for Seattle as the Timbers managed to take control of the run of play early on, not doing a great deal to threaten but preventing the Sounders from putting together much in the way of an attack. As the half progressed Seattle managed to open up the Portland back line and the Sounders had two excellent chances, the first coming when Roger Levesque was sprung on the counter but found himself unable to find the angle for a shot and the second coming after Erik Friberg found Alvaro Fernandez in space in the box, but Timbers keeper Troy Perkins was able to get down quickly to cut off the angle and keep things level. Despite things being even at the half there was a definite feeling that momentum favored the Sounders, but that didn't last for long; just after the first half kick-off Kalif Alhassan blew by Tyson Wahl down the right flank and put a cross into a dangerous area, Jeff Parke helpless to get out of the way as it glanced off his back and past Kasey Keller into the net.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for the Sounders, as just five minutes after the Timbers went ahead defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado went in for a challenge and suffered an injury to his right knee. Much to the dismay of Sigi Schmid the Timbers continued their attack and Jorge Perlaza very nearly made it 2-0, just missing a tap in from a cross with the ball ultimately rolling into touch. Hurtado went to the sideline and wouldn't return with Patrick Ianni coming on in his place and as of now the extent of the injury is unknown pending an MRI. Things took a turn for the better just five minutes after Hurtado's injury however, as Fredy Montero curled a beautiful free kick around the wall and into Troy Perkins net from 27 yards out, giving Montero his fourth goal on the season.
As the frantic pace continued, the ball moving end to end with minimal stoppage in play and each side enjoying plenty of dangerous play the Timbers would climb back ahead in the 69th minute after Jorge Perlaza found space down the right flank (which was something of a theme on the night) and sent in a shot that deflected off of Tyson Wahl and past Keller. The Sounders stormed back however, and just five minutes later it was Montero again, getting onto the end of the final ball of a fantastic sequence of cross-field passes, first from James Riley, then Lamar Neagle and finally volleyed by Rosales to Montero who timed his run perfectly to split the defense and tap in past Perkins.
From there on out it was all Sounders and when Lamar Neagle was dragged down in the box (by a high boot nonetheless) earning a penalty and a sending off for Eric Brunner, Osvoldo Alonso stepped up to convert the penalty to put Seattle ahead of the Timbers for good. To be certain it wasn't the most dominant performance of the year for the Sounders, but in a hard-fought, well played derby match that was contested at a pace that was for more suited to their opposition Seattle found a way to emerge with a huge three points, keeping pace with LA Galaxy and gaining ground on FC Dallas. Montero was unquestionably the man of the match; his play in the build up was typically excellent but it was of course the brace that made him stand out. On a day that the team as a whole as not at its best, Montero came up huge and in a game that was clearly calling out for a big performance to separate the sides.
The Sounders unbeaten run now stands at eight games and the Sounders will next play host to the Colorado Rapids with a chance to create some significant separation between themselves and the lower half of the teams competing for a playoff slot in the West. There's also the distinct possibility that the Sounders will have a brand new Designated Player in house (though almost certainly not available) as the transfer window opens Friday.
almost 2 years ago Update 0 comments
At this point most people with even a passing interest in American soccer are aware of the Sounders-Timbers rivalry. The first MLS contest between the two sides failed to disappoint in terms of intensity and with the proceedings taking place at Jeld-Wen Field this time around there's little reason to think things will be different on that front. As for the game itself? It would be an understatement to say that the 1-1 draw in Seattle was the most enthralling game in history, but it was at the very least a tight and tense affair.
Things have changed for both sides in the two months since then. At the time of the first meeting the Timbers were riding high having won four of their previous five, while the Sounders were struggling to find their identity at the height of their injury struggles. As of late, Seattle are as hot as any team in the league while Portland have managed just a point since their last win on May 21st; after winning their first five games at Jeld-Wen the Timbers have lost three of their last four at home. Portland's run of good form had them briefly looking like legitimate playoff contenders, but as it stands the Timbers sit just one spot above bottom with the worst goals scored and goals against marks in the Western Conference. Portland's defensive struggles have been a consistent problem all season long but as of late their inability to score has been just as worrisome. The Timbers have been most dangerous from set pieces this season but that ability has largely disappeared in recent weeks, which isn't too surprising; even the best dead-ball teams have dry spells. If Portland hope to earn more consistent results, their forwards will need to start scoring from the run of play.
It's tempting to focus on the struggles of Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza as the reason for Portland's inability to mount a threatening attack, and to be sure they've been largely underwhelming. But just as damaging to both the attacking and defensive phases of the game has been the Timbers inability assert themselves in the midfield. Portland's greatest strength is their speed on the flanks, but as teams have adjusted to the threat and forced the Timbers to work the ball through the middle of the pitch they've been unable compensate. Portland have some decent players in central midfield with Jack Jewsbury leading the team with six goals and Diego Chara performing well in the holding role. Still, the Timbers have rarely been able to win the midfield battle in games where they've been unable to dictate the tempo, something they've recently struggled to do.
On the surface of things then, this isn't an especially good matchup for Portland. Seattle has managed to control possession and pace in nearly every game they've played this season. Their midfield is arguably the best in the league with Osvoldo Alonso in the discussion for best defensive mid in MLS, Mauro Rosales a steadying, creative influence on the right, Alvaro Fernandez beginning to show why the Sounders made him a Designated Player in the first place despite playing out of position on the left and whichever of Brad Evans or Erik Friberg that get the nod on a given day bringing energy and crashing runs in the box to box role. Despite occasional disorganization the back line has been a strength and Kasey Keller clearly choose to go out on top as he's shown himself to still be amongst the class of the league between the sticks.
Yet for all of their quality, Seattle have had scoring struggles of their own. As dominant as they've been, they've rarely shown an ability to blow teams out or to put opponents away, meaning that while they're rightly heavy favorites it's unlikely the final scoreline will tilt too heavily in their favor. It's likely that Seattle will be able to boss this game; the Timbers are quite simply not a good team right now and the Sounders have looked as good as any team in the league over the past two months. But without that ability to convert chances and pull away, the Timbers have a chance. Their set play ability hasn't been in evidence of late but it's not as though Jack Jewsbury has forgotten how to take a free kick and a striker as good as Kenny Cooper is bound to find his scoring touch at some point. With Jeld-Wen bound to be rocking from the start it's possible that the Timbers find the home field advantage that's deserted them.
The Sounders are a far superior side to Portland and they'll expect to take three points back to Seattle. But without the killer instinct they've lacked all season long, it's far from a sure thing. This is a big game for the Sounders even without the rivalry being taken into account; Supporters Shield contenders need to beat bottom table teams no matter the venue and with the Galaxy picking up a win on Saturday picking up only a point would make the gap look a far tougher hill to climb. But the rivalry absolutely does enter into it, and a win in Portland would go a long way towards completely erasing any remaining negative feelings over the disappointing result earlier in the season. The Sounders are going to need to find their ability to shut down and dominate inferior opponents at some point if they want to continue their march towards elite status; what better time than against a bitter rival on their own turf?