The Northwest Passages: Seattle heavyweights win, lose big games

Seattle fans may lament the thrashing of the Sounders, but should take solace that the Reign have been out of gum and kicking tail for weeks.
Both of Seattle's professional soccer teams played this past weekend with high expectations. The Seattle Sounders and the Seattle Reign were seen by many observers as possibly the best teams in their respective leagues, offensive powerhouses threatening to run away with first place.

But when the dust cleared and the fans went home, only one team remained an undisputed favorite. And it sure as heck wasn't the Sounders.

The Sounders' match against New England was always a potential banana skin, being a long trip to face a talented team that had begun to get it together after a slow start. But nobody, not even Jay Heaps in a dream, would have seen the Revs hanging a five-spot on the Sounders in 46 minutes and completely blanking the league's premier offense.

The Sounders may be contributing more players to the USA's 30-man squad for the World Cup than any other club, but Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury stole their milk money and made them eat sand for crying about it.

The highly regarded Seattle attack was stifled by Revs keeper Bobby Shuttleworth (six saves, including a palmed-away clearance to deny Obafemi Martins early on), and its own incompetence: Clint Dempsey took a game-most seven shots, and put a big fat zilch of them on target.

If Bob Kraft remembers any time this year that he owns a soccer team, this result should make him feel something resembling pride.

Across the country, the Reign had a much shorter trip, but perhaps an even more daunting one. A quick jaunt down I-5 brought the last two undefeated teams in the NWSL together in the league's most pressurized atmosphere as the Reign entered a cauldron at Providence Park, home of the reigning champion Portland Thorns.

Portland poured on the offense, tying its season high of 18 shots, but Hope Solo was up to the task and it was the visitors who scored the game's only goal to preserve their remarkable 100 percent record and go 6-0-0 on the season. (A 3-2 home win over FC Kansas City on Wednesday made it seven in a row).

The goal came in dramatic fashion, with Kim Little scoring in the 89th minute. Elli Reed forced a turnover from Portland's Rebecca Moros in midfield, and Little was off to the races, rounding FIFA World Player of the Year Nadine Angerer and finishing neatly from a tight angle.

It was a deserved goal for Little, who is fairly skipping away with the league's MVP plaudits. The former Arsenal playmaker is the dominant player in the league right now, able to carve out space with a deft turn before playing a pass, or skip past defenders and charge into open acreage with the ball at her feet. She is an absolutely thrilling athlete to watch in a soccer game.

What's more, this game might mark the birth of the first real, lasting rivalry in American women's club soccer. Not just two good teams competing and getting a little chippy, but a clash with real venom in it. Hope Solo was jeered, accusations were tossed, and as it has in MLS, the NWSL edition of Portland vs. Seattle turned into a full-blown, opposition fan base baiting, we-really-don't-like-you-and-our-players-and-owners-are-going-to-get-spicy-at-each-other-on-Twitter partisan blood feud.

And long may it last.


Portland — It wasn't a win, and Caleb Porter wasn't happy (or that unhappy, actually — Caleb Porter doesn't go in for emotions often), but sneaking a point at the last moment against LA is always satisfying, and Timbers fans will be relieved to see Diego Valeri finding the form that made him the preseason MVP favorite. But the Timbers can't do diddly or squat with moral victories and a bunch of draws. They need lots of goals and three-point harvests, and they need them now. Loaning in towering (6-foot-4) striker Fanendo Adi from Copenhagen is a good start.

Coming up: The Timbers host the absolutely woeful Columbus Crew. Gregg Berhalter's boys are winless in seven and on a three-game losing streak. Which probably means a 1-1 draw because that's how Portland rolls these days. Saturday, 7:30 p.m. PT - MLS Live.

Seattle — Here we were, praising Seattle to high heavens in this very space, anointing the Sounders the true future kings of MLS and they go to Gillette and get pumped for five goals in 46 minutes. Thanks for ruining the narrative, jerks. Your mothers probably pretended to root for Lee Nguyen on Mother's Day.

Coming up: The Sounders welcome the San Jose Earthquakes to CenturyLink, but the Goonies will be exposed at the back without Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez, and nearly toothless without Chris Wondolowski, Shea Salinas, Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, a situation that prompted the club to recall Adam Jahn from loan. If Seattle is the real deal, last week could be just a blip, and it could pick up like that 5-0 never happened. Saturday, 7 p.m. PT - MLS Live.

Vancouver Erik Hurtado's 37th-minute goal in Columbus was a thing of beauty. It wasn't just a wonderful, eye-wateringly magnificent strike, but the control to set it up — boxing a man out to chest it down, a slick outside of the foot touch behind his body — was toe-curlingly delightful. Watch it. Then watch it again. Then try to do it in your pickup game, but you can't because he's ridiculously talented and a pro athlete and you haven't been able to climb a flight of stairs without running out of breath since high school.

The Whitecaps also lost to Toronto FC on penalties midweek in the Canadian Championship, because there is nothing destined to fail quite like the 'Caps playing for the Canadian Championship.

Coming up: The Whitecaps have no games this coming week. Take a break, guys. Do a puzzle. Read a book. Catch up on "Game of Thrones."