It was a 4-4 draw that saw a hat trick from Clint Dempsey, and the Sounders fight back from a two-goal deficit to escape Portland with a point in what very well could end up being the most entertaining (read: heart-attack-inducing) match of the MLS season.
The starting lineup was a question heading in, given that Dempsey went 90 and DeAndre Yedlin 21 minutes in the national team’s Wednesday game against Mexico, but both of them played every intense minute on Saturday afternoon.
The Dempsey/Obafemi Martins/Kenny Cooper trio delivered as promised. I was definitely curious to see how the midfield would look with both Gonzalo Pineda and Michael Azira (subbing for the injured Brad Evans). Plus, seeing Jalil Anibaba get his first start (Djimi Traore was on red-card suspension) promised some intrigue. The result wasn’t exactly intrigue.
Given the nature of the Cascadia rivalry, instead of a regular recap I’ll take you through the emotions I felt through each of the game’s key moments.
3’ – Jalil Anibaba to Kenny Cooper for a quick goal. What a start. Anibaba’s pass was perfect, and Obafemi Martins knew it, as he simply ducked his head, let it sail right to Cooper, who knocked it in effortlessly. EMOTION: ELATION!
9’ – Gonzalo Pineda gives ball away to Diego Chara in front of the goal. First it was Pappa assisting TFC in the opener, now it’s Pineda getting stripped right in front of the goal. EMOTION: SIMMERING ANGER.
14’ Timbers take the lead when Michael Harrington crosses to Diego Valeri, who makes Jalil Anibaba look helpless. Valeri is damn good, and there wasn’t a whole lot Anibaba could have done to stop him, but … eesh. EMOTION: STOMACH-CURDLING ANXIETY.
24’ – Sounders tie with a brilliant Ozzie-to-Oba-to-Dempsey sequence left substitute goalkeeper Andrew Weber facing the national team captain all by his lonesome. EMOTION: RELIEF.
55’ – Anibaba decides to backpedal in fear rather than mark Chara, who sends Timbers ahead with a strike from 25 yards. Yeah, I was curious about Anibaba. I mean, we traded a couple solid players for him. Traore is getting old. Maybe he’d step up and steal the starting job. Uh, nope. No. Definitely, absolutely not. He was an utter mess in this audition. EMOTION: RAGE ATTACK.
Two freaking minutes later – Perhaps inspired by Pineda’s generosity, Anibaba gives the ball away to Maxi Urruti, who puts Portland up by a depressing two goals in the 57th minute. Anibaba, come on, man. EMOTION: ALL-ENCOMPASSING, WHITE-HOT HELLFIRE OF FURY.
64’ – DeAndre Yedlin saves a set-piece goal with his face. EMOTION: APPRECIATION.
85’ – Dempsey pulls the Sounders closer, after he finishes a nifty pass from Martins. At 4-3, it was still tough to think of getting another goal against a bunkered Portland with only 5 minutes and stoppage left. But looking back, this was really a turning point. Dempsey was great from the opening kick, but wow – dude just put the team on his back in the latter part of the second half. EMOTION: HOPE?
87’ – Yedlin draws a penalty when he’s taken down in the box, setting up Dempsey for the third of his goals. Yes, it was definitely a PK, though a light one. Still counts. There was little doubt who was going to take this one – and Dempsey looked every bit of his swaggerous (new word I just made up) self as he calmly walked up to the ball before sending it past Weber. EMOTION: I LOVE SPORTS! I LOVE CLINT DEMPSEY! I LOVE EVERYBODY! EVEN THE TIMBERS! EXCEPT WILL JOHNSON! I STILL HATE YOU!
And that was it. An exhausting, inspiring, infuriating, entertaining, incredible match. Which could have been won by the Sounders were it not for some unfortunate midfield and defensive play.
But who cares? If you didn’t like it, I’m not sure what MLS can do for you.
(image courtesy of Don Ryan/AP)