The Seattle Sounders Football Club advanced to their 7th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semi-final in the last 8 years with a 3-1 victory over the rival Portland Timbers in front of a packed house at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday night. Osvaldo Alonso scored his first goal of the season before Kenny Cooper and Marco Pappa added goals while up a man in the second extra time period. Seattle will host the Chicago Fire on August 13th with a berth to the Open Cup Final on the line; the Fire advanced after a 3-1 victory of their own over the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL.
The match started out with a very fast pace on the quick turf surface at Starfire. Seattle would see the first scoring chance in the third minute off of a long throw from Brad Evans. The throw was met by Cam Weaver in the penalty area who flicked the ball in towards Lamar Neagle in the six-yard box. Neagle put a point-blank shot on Donovan Ricketts who made the save while on the seat of his pants.
It would be less than two minutes before Portland responded with their first chance of the match from the foot of Gaston Fernandez. The chance would start with a floated ball from Diego Chara to Rodney Wallace who chested the ball into the path of Fernandez. The Argentine caught the ball off of a bounce, putting a falling shot towards the goal. Stefan Frei was able to punch the ball over the crossbar even though it looked as though the shot was already heading over.
Ricketts would come up big in the 11th minute again this time from a shot off the foot of Cam Weaver. Weaver made a run down the left wing challenging center-back Danny O'Rourke 1-on-1, as he pushed into the penalty box, he let a low shot go which deflected off of the Timbers defender. The shot skidded quickly towards the near post forcing Ricketts to stop his momentum to come back for the save. It was the first of many saves that the Jamaican international goalkeeper would need every inch of wingspan to make.
The closest chance of the first half would come in the 21st minute. This time Seattle was forcing the attack down the right wing with United States Men's National Team players Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin made a run up the right wing before feeding Evans on an overlapping run... Evans fed a low cross to the front post into the path of Weaver whose sliding effort beat Ricketts but not the post.
After this near chance, Portland would start to settle into the match. There were not many clear scoring chances in the final 25 minutes of the first half. The teams were pretty even statistically in the first 45 minutes with Seattle leading in the possession and all passing stats while Portland having the edge in shots and shots on target.
There were no changes made at halftime for either r club; as in the first half, the Sounders had the first look at goal when Kent, Washington-native Weaver heading a cross from Brad Evans over the crossbar. Seattle would see Alonso take a rip from distance after a corner kick was partially cleared but his ball did not bend instead going out for another Timbers goal kick.
Tempers would start to flare up in the 54th minute after Osvaldo Alonso and Jack Jewsbury tangled up while fighting for a 50-50 ball. The two exchanged words having to be separated by teammates and the assistant referee on the far sideline. No cards would be issued during the scuffle.
The match started to loosen up as it went on in the second half with both teams seeing big scoring changes that could not be converted. It started with Seattle in the 59th minute as Donovan Ricketts was forced to make another fully-stretched save on a lob attempt from Brad Evans. Three minutes later, Stefan Frei would give up a juicy rebound off of a low cross from Rodney Wallace; Chad Marshall was luckily in the right position to clear before Fernandez or Fanendo Adi could jump on the loose ball.
Alonso would break the dead-lock in the 69th minute with an acrobatic goal to lift the Rave Green into the lead. Brad Evans corralled the ball in the right corner before feeding a pass to Lamar Neagle. Neagle gathered, lifting a cross towards the back post which seemed to be going out of play before Alonso came flying out of nowhere to redirect the ball into the net. The Timbers play-by-play man described the goal as "half soccer, half gymnastics" which is really the best description that can be said.
Portland would press forward with hopes of an equalizer; Caleb Porter made two very offensive-minded subs after the goal bringing on Will Johnson and Steve Zakuani for Jorge Villafana and Jewsbury. The changes looked to have paid dividends in the 84th minute if it had not been for a spectacular double save from Frei. Adi found himself in space at the top of the box before releasing a low drive of a shot that Frei got a hand on to. The rebound fell into the path of Fernandez who had a gaping goal in front of him but Frei was able to recover making the second stop with his face to preserve the Sounders lead.
An equalizer would come with nearly the final kick of the ball. It would be Darlington Nagbe scoring his first goal of the season with a far post drive. The shot found the little bit of open space to tuck right inside the post, leveling the score at 1 to force extra time.
The momentum would shift into the Sounders favor nine minutes into the first half of extra time when Portland holding midfielder Diego Chara would be sent off with a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Marco Pappa. It was the end of a thirty-second stretch where each player dispossessed the other at least twice before Chara scissored Pappa's legs together from behind. Referee Chris Penso saw no choice but to send Chara off for an early shower. An assistant coach from the Timbers would be sent off during the halftime break in extra time for confronting the official presumably over the red card to Chara.
Cooper and Pappa would score five minutes apart in the second extra time period; Cooper off of a header and Pappa off of a counter-attack.
Seattle and Portland will face off against in a match televised nationally on ESPN at 7:00 pm Pacific Time from a sold-out CenturyLink Field in Seattle. 68,000 people are expected to fill the stadium for the second match in five days between the two clubs. It will be interesting to see if the extra minutes played tonight has an effect on the starting lineups for both clubs this weekend.
DeAndre Yedlin limped off of the field before the extra time periods started prompting manager Sigi Schmid to bring on Michael Azira at the right back position. Schmid indicated after the match that Yedlin was suffering from cramps and should be good to go on Sunday.
Schmid also mentioned that Obafemi Martins looked good in training earlier on Wednesday and could be available on Sunday.
Clint Dempsey was not in the squad for the match on Wednesday due to his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. He is expected to travel back to Seattle on Thursday before returning to training on Friday.
Make sure to join me here on Sunday evening for Live coverage of the big Cascadia clash between the Seattle Sounders FC and Portland Timbers from CenturyLink Field. It is promising to be another epic clash between the two sides,