Portland and Seattle produced an early contender for game of the season and one of the most notable installments in their bitter rivalry with a thrilling 4-4 draw at Providence Park on Saturday afternoon.
The compelling, back-and-forth affair started with Kenny Cooper’s opener after just three minutes. Diego Chara and Diego Valeri responded inside the opening 15 minutes to stake the Timbers to their first lead of the season, but Clint Dempsey tucked home in the 24th minute to leave the teams level at the interval.
Portland restored its lead after the break with goals from Chara and Maximiliano Urruti, but Dempsey struck twice in the final five minutes – once from the run of play, once from the spot – to seal his hat trick and snag a point at the death.
The late equalizer marked a painful setback for a Timbers side still searching for its victory on the season, but it provided a fitting cap to this entertaining contest.
Cooper incited the chaos to come by opening the scoring after just three minutes. It came as a result of more set piece issues for the Timbers as the home side found itself caught static in its zonal marking system. Jalil Anibaba drifted free at the back post and turned toward the near post for Cooper to smash home.
The lead lasted just six minutes after Chara grabbed his first and foreshadowed Sounders FC’s problems playing through midfield. The industrious midfielder closed quickly to catch Gonzalo Pineda in possession and surged into the attacking third. He then capped his run and celebrated his birthday in style with a rasping finish from distance to equalize.
The frenetic exchanges continued with a fine Andrew Weber save on a Cooper first-time effort and a shot off the post from Nagbe before the Timbers finally claimed their first lead of the season with a stunning piece of skill from Valeri.
Portland funneled its work up the left again with Nagbe playing Michael Harrington through on the overlap. Harrington played his resulting service a bit behind Valeri, but the Argentine schemer corralled the pass and subsequently thumped it off the underside of the bar to make it three goals inside the opening quarter of an hour.
Seattle drew level through Dempsey in the 24th minute after a poor pass out of the back by Norberto Paparatto. Osvaldo Alonso collected in midfield and played the ball into a good spot for Obafemi Martins. Dempsey drifted away from the line, snagged the resulting pass from Martins and tucked home inside the far post to equalize.
Weber produced another fine stop to push Chad Marshall’s header around the post to ensure Portland remained on level terms heading into the break. The intervention would prove vital as the Timbers pounced on suspect Sounders FC defending to assert control over the match after the interval.
Portland escaped from an early set piece opportunity when Martins diverted Anibaba’s shot wide and took advantage of the reprieve by grabbing a third moments later. Chara once again drove into vacant space in front of the Seattle back four and thrashed inside the far post to restore the Timbers’ advantage.
Urruti extended the lead with a sublime finish prompted by more wanton work in possession. Cooper played an ill-advised back pass to Anibaba near the halfway line and permitted Urruti to track back and win the ball. Urruti raced clear and then sumptuously curled home to seemingly place Portland on track for its first match of the season.
Seattle had other ideas after escaping from Paparatto’s header off the bar minutes later, though. The visitors reaped the benefits from Lamar Neagle’s introduction and the resulting shift to a 4-4-2 setup. The ensuing improvement piled the pressure on the Timbers and eventually led to the stunning riposte in the final 10 minutes.
Dempsey posed a persistent threat in the final 20 minutes and finally struck to reduce the deficit. Neagle did most of the hard work to create the chance, but Dempsey adjusted ever so well to collect a knockdown from Martins and then slide home from close range to set up a grandstand finish.
It took mere seconds to cap the comeback after Ben Zemanski halted DeAndre Yedlin’s enterprising run with a tackle inside the penalty area. Referee Hilario Grajeda pointed to the spot and set the stage for Dempsey to coolly dispatch his penalty to complete his hat trick and hand Sounders FC a share of the spoils.