Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Portland and Seattle gave us a US Open Cup match to remember

Last night was the start of the fourth round of the US Open Cup. This is the round where MLS gets involved with the action. This time around we got an early round treat as Portland Timbers travelled up to Washington to take on their arch rival Seattle Sounders. And boy were we treated.

Seattle plays their early US Open Cup matches at Starfire Stadium, a glorified high school stadium that serves as the Sounders' training facility and the home of their USL franchise. It is a more narrow pitch that creates a sort of uglier game in front of a smaller crowd reminiscent of the Sounders' and Timbers' lower tier days. It may seem odd that Seattle doesn't just keep the games at their normal higher capacity Century Link Field, but they are unbeaten in the Open Cup at that little venue so why bother changing a winning formula. A crowd of some 4,000 fans was gathered to witness one of the strangest and most exciting cup matches one will ever see.

The first half was pretty standard. Both teams were feeling out the awkward playing surface and nobody created any real chances. The first goal came from Diego Valeri connecting on a cross in the 48th minute. Seattle then began to slaughter the Portland goal with chances. The only thing keeping the Timbers ahead was several wonderful saves by Adam Kwarasey.

Things got fun starting in the 69th minute when Brad Evans was send off for a second yellow card. As a reaction, they used their final sub to bring in Tyrone Mears. Moments later, ten man Seattle equalized with Obafemi Martins booting home a corner.

Ten man Seattle would soon become nine man Seattle as Martins left the game with a nasty injury. Nobody scored in the rest of the second half and extra time loomed.

Portland used their two man advantage to control possession and got their reward at the 100 minute mark when Rodney Wallace banged home a rebound from close range.

Then the fireworks went off.

In the 113th minute, as Portland was mounting another attack, Michael Azira stole the ball from Maxi Urruti and threw an elbow his way in the process. Azira was sent off the the (probably unintentional) violence. That sent the Sounders and their fans into a fury. During the ruckus, Clint Dempsey must have used the magic word as he was shown straight red. Suddenly, nine man Seattle became seven man Seattle, creating some of the weirdest moments you had ever seen,

Full strength Portland was going up against six outfield players and a goalie for seven full minutes. Amidst a shower of boos, middle fingers, and actual garbage coming from the stands, Portland scored a third goal when Urruti embarrassed Troy Perkins in the Seattle goal with a low shot beyond the near post. Four minutes later, the final whistle blew and the officials had to be escorted off by police to keep them safe from the Seattle mob.

We got a taste of everything last night in the Seattle suburbs. By everything I really mean stuff you never see. First, a ten man team first coming back to score a huge tying goal. Then they used their final sub before losing another player to injury. Then they came completely unhinged in a span of a few minutes after falling behind in extra time and end up playing four guys down. All of this against their arch rival. Naturally, Timbers fans were living a dream. It truly was a sight to behold.

Should make for a fun rematch at Providence Park in two weeks.

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