Kalif Alhassan's first-half goal, and Donovan Ricketts' latest standout performance in goal, helped Portland beat Seattle, 1-0, to move into first place in the Western Conference.
For 44 minutes it looked as though the Sounders might pull that off, but Kalif Alhassan saw to it that there would be no scoreless draw to be had, blasting him a goal just before halftime to help give the Timbers a vital 1-0 victory at Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday night in front of a crowd of 20,674, the Timbers’ 50th consecutive sellout.
A poor DeAndre Yedlin clearance in the Timbers penalty area fell to Alhassan, who buried the chance with a low shot past a frozen Marcus Hahnemann, who started in goal for Seattle in place of struggling regular Michael Gspurning.
Already missing injured regulars Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Djimi Traore, Seattle went a man down in the 75th minute after Osvaldo Alonso was sent off for what appeared to be an elbow to the throat of Portland’s Will Johnson.
Seattle nearly found a way to escape Jeld-Wen Field with a point when Steve Zakuani blasted a wide-open look toward goal that deflected off Futty Danso before hitting the crossbar. Jack Jewsbury cleared a follow-up shot off the line from Lamar Neagle.
That good fortune, and Portland’s stingy defense, made Alhassan’s goal stand up as Ricketts finished with three saves to help the Timbers record their fourth straight home shutout victory.
The win moved the Timbers into first place in the MLS Western Conference, a point ahead of Real Salt Lake and two points ahead of Seattle with two matches remaining. They are now tied with the New York Red Bulls in the Supporters Shield standings, but the Red Bulls hold the edge via goals scored.
The Timbers victory also helped the Vancouver Whitecaps claim the Cascadia Cup, after finishing with the best record in match-ups between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
The Sounders started the match in impressive fashion, with Lamar Neagle forcing an acrobatic save and Clint Dempsey blasting a shot off the crossbar in the first 15 minutes. That early charge didn’t last though, and Portland eventually took control of the match, using their methodical possession style to limit Seattle’s chances and possession.
Dempsey played most of the match with an injured shoulder that forced him to favor his left arm after about 12 minutes into the match. He had little impact on the match after that early chance off the bar, and left in the 77th minute.
The rest of the Seattle attack struggled without strikers Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins, though Neagle saw another golden scoring chance streak by him in the 62nd minute when a loose ball sped by.
The match turned ugly in the 75th minute, when Alonso appeared to catch Timbers captain Johnson with an elbow to the throat, a move spotted by the assistant referee, who consulted with referee Hilario Grajeda before a red card was issued. Alonso had to be restrained after the call, and could face additional sanctions along with the one-game suspension he already faces.
Seattle nearly found a late equalizer in the 81st minute when David Estrada sent a low shot to the left corner, but Ricketts dove perfectly to stop the shot and preserve his 12th shutout of the season.