Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Timbers made quite an
impression in their first MLS playoff match on Saturday, going to Seattle and
handing the Sounders a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Western Conference
And that result gives the club plenty of confidence ahead of Thursday's return
leg in Portland at JELD-WEN Field, which is a place that Timbers head coach
Caleb Porter has labeled "a fortress".
"We're one step away," Porter said Saturday after the Timbers' win. "We
obviously have to have a good performance next game Thursday at home. But they
have to come on our home field and get a piece of us in order to get through,
and I like our chances. Obviously, we have to play as well as we did in this
game. We have to be as hungry, we have to fight as hard, we have to be as
Portland knows that a draw on Thursday will be enough to reach the Western
Conference final, while Seattle must do what only one team did this season,
and that is win a match in Portland.
The Timbers put together the top home record in MLS, going 11-1-5 at JELD-WEN
Field this season, and that lone defeat came March 9 against Montreal in the
second regular-season game of the campaign.
Since Aug. 21, Portland has not allowed a goal at home, a streak that spans
450 minutes and includes five straight clean sheets.
With that in mind it is no wonder the Timbers are in a confident mood ahead of
Thursday's match. However, the Sounders find themselves in a familiar position
after the first leg, and are not fazed by the deficit.
In the past two seasons Seattle has lost the first leg of a playoff series by
a 3-0 score, with the first coming to Real Salt Lake and last season against
The Sounders were unable to overturn either of those deficits, but the 2-1
score they face is certainly not as big a hurdle.
"I know right now it's not nice, but it doesn't change how we approach the
game in Portland," Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. "We still go out
trying to win. That's all we have to do. We just need to win by one goal to
get it to overtime."
The reason for optimism in Seattle is the late goal scored by midfielder
Osvaldo Alonso which reduced the deficit to 2-1.
A first-half header from Ryan Johnson was followed by Darlington Nagbe's goal
in the second half, putting Portland in complete control.
But Alonso scored in stoppage time to hand his team a lifeline, and head coach
Sigi Schmid thinks his team is fully capable of going to Portland and getting
the necessary result.
"It's halftime of the game," Schmid said after Saturday's defeat. "We feel
very confident we can go to Portland and win. Just as Portland came here and
won, we feel very confident we can go there and win."
Schmid's team would also be boosted by the return of both Obafemi Martins and
DeAndre Yedlin, who are to training this week after missing out on the first
leg against Portland.
With forward Lamar Neagle out through suspension because of an accumulation of
yellow cards, Martins' return to the lineup would be huge, while Yedlin is
hoping to recover in time from an ankle injury to take his place in midfield.
The Sports Network