Tuesday, June 16, 2015

No Glory. No Joy.

Tonight in Tukwila Washington,  the Seattle Sounders hosted the Portland Timbers in what promised as always to be a scrappy match.  The game,  the only Lamar Hunt Cup fourth round match pitting MLS teams against each other,  came in the midst of intense league play with Portland rising toward the top of the table with three wins in a row and Seattle solidly atop the division with 29 points and a game in hand on the 'Caps giving them an effective two win cushion.   

The first half was a workmanlike effort by each side not to give up anything which meant at the same time, neither achieved very much.   The second half changed all that with an early tally by Valeri off a Wallace cross--Timbers in form.  The situation looked even brighter when Brad Evans took a second yellow and was ejected from the match,  leaving the Sounders short a player.  However, close to eighty minutes in,  Martins stuck a crossing ball from a corner in to tie the match.  Not much later,  Martins was carted from the field with an injury that saw him leave on a gurney.  Seattle had used their subs and so the Sounders were down two players.

The Cup competition demands a winner. And no mercy is shown in this sport. So at 90 minutes plus stoppage time plus a short break,  the teams took again to the field and the 9 man side ratcheted up their intensity and played hard....very hard.  As the clock slowly headed to 105 and the Sounders looked hard for the grit to continue fighting,   Wallace broke through for the Timbers and put the second goal past Troy Perkins.  (How ironic that it would be another of the Timbers' former goalkeepers facing off in this match).   With the end of the first half of extra time nearing,  Seattle's Azira was red carded for an elbow and in a short sequel,  Clint Dempsey was red carded for protesting the call.  The Sounders started the last fifteen minute stretch of extra time down a goal and down four players.  

I've never seen this happen before. The ejection of Evans I have no sympathy for.  The injury to Martins after Seattle had made all its subs is sad, but bad luck.   The ejection of two more players made the ending of the game grim.  There is no joy in beating the tar out of an opponent with four men missing.  The Timbers did score a third goal in that second half but it seemed as if their efforts to just hold the ball and grind out the time were fitful and confused.   Athletes don't train to play against crippled foes and when the moment comes the quality of play drops substantially.   

In years to come,  the match will be remembered for its astonishing officiating.  I am hopeful that Portland fans will thank their stars that we got a win but will be mindful that it wasn't against a Sounders' side with all its capabilities.  In Seattle,  I am guessing that this will be remembered as a black mark in the rivalry between our clubs--despite the fact that the Timbers didn't cause any of the cards or injuries.   This is one to be glad for-- glad that we got through and didn't lose any important players,  but not one to celebrate.  

We'll step onto that field against the Sounders again,  and we want to be sure that the bitter taste of this match doesn't give them the edge next time.