Raul Ruidiaz scored a brace in the second half and Kelvin Leerdam added a late third to ensure Seattle Sounders gained a massive victory over MLS is Back Champions Portland Timbers in the Cascadia derby between the sides at Providence Park.
The game was poor for the majority of the 90 minutes, with both sides struggling to carve out chances. However, Ruidiaz's goal after Joevin Jones' pass set the Sounders on their way to victory in what could be described as clinical finishing by the Sounders in the final stages of the match.
Story of the match
The Timbers thought they were off to a dream start just five minutes after kickoff, when a free kick from Diego Valeri came out to Chris Duvall at the edge of the area. The defender smashed the ball home for what he thought was his first goal in three years; but on review, a VAR check saw the goal disallowed. Portland midfielder Eryk Williamson - who was the first to touch the ball after the free kick from Valeri - was just offside on video review, keeping the score 0-0.
Valeri had Portland's other best look at the opener in the first half at the end of the first half. Sebastian Blanco found him with a cross in front of goal, but the midfielder skied his effort way over the bar. The score remained goalless at the break, with the Timbers looking to most likely to go in front.
However, it was the away side that struck first: Ruidiaz opened the scoring in the 72nd minute. Good work from Nicolas Lodeiro put in Joevin Jones, who crossed the ball for the Peruvian to somehow manage to find the net. It was an instinctive finish, and one that Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark could do very little to keep out. Blanco nearly equalized just three minutes later, but Stefan Frei managed to save the close-range effort from the player that was so impressive in the MLS is Back Tournament. It was a superb bit of skill from Blanco before the shot, showing just how much of a game changer he can be on his day.
Unfortunately for the Timbers, they would pay for Blanco's missed opportunity. Ruidiaz added to his tally in the 83rd minute when substitute Will Bruin flicked a long goal kick from Frei into the path of the Peruvian, who made it 2-0 with a cool chipped finish past Clark. Kelvin Leerdam put even more gloss on the victory two minutes later. He side footed home after superb work from Lodeiro, Bruin and then from Ruidiaz to ensure the game ended 3-0 to Seattle.
Takeaways from the match
After a disappointing tournament from the Sounders in MLS is Back, it was Raul Ruidiaz who sparked them into life against their Cascadian rivals. His first goal was a moment of individual magic, and was a finish very few players would be capable of. His second was also impressive, delaying and delaying the finish to unsettle the goalkeeper before cooly dinking the ball into the net. He could very easily have shot late on to complete his hat-trick, but played in Leerdam to make sure of the victory for his team.
For all the credit Ruidiaz will take, however, focus must also be given to Yeimar Gómez at the back for Seattle. He was outstanding throughout, bringing the solidity and organisation to the Sounders that was missing throughout the tournament that the Timbers were worthy winners of. To keep an previously in form Jeremy Ebobisse extremely quiet as well as restrict Valeri and Blanco to mininal chances is no mean feat. In addition, his center back partner - Shane O’Neill - also put in a very decent performance, with the pair working well together as a defensive partnership.
Stand out players
It has to be Ruidiaz. From six MLS matches against the Timbers, Ruidíaz now has seven goals and two assists. Seattle’s Peruvian striker can now claim to be the best performing Sounder against the Timbers since Clint Dempsey. If Ruidiaz is on form, Seattle take some stopping - as was proven by their clinical counter attacks on the night. He also provided an assist for Leerdam when he could have selfishly shot - showing that is a team player too and not just in it for himself.
Valeri and Blanco did have chances for the Timbers and looked impressive throughout, but when Frei saved the latter's effort just after the Sounders went 1-0 up, it was destined not to be the Timber's night. As much as the loss will hurt, they have a quick turnaround before their next game against San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night.
Portland Timbers: Clark, Duvall, Tuiloma, Mabiala, Villafaña (Conechny, 87), Chara, Williamson (Mora, 73), Loría (Polo, 60), Valeri ©, Blanco (Paredes, 87), Ebobisse (Niezgoda, 73).
Substitutes (Not Used): Attinella, Bonilla, Cascante, Zambrano.
Seattle Sounders: Frei, Leerdam, Gómez, O’Neill, Jones (Bruin, 81), Svensson, João Paulo (Nouhou, 74), C Roldan (A. Roldan, 87), Lodeiro ©, Morris (Bwana, 81), Ruidíaz (Ibarra, 87).
Substitutes (Not Used): Cleveland, Dobbelaere, Atencio, Dhillon.
Next up for both
Both teams return to action on Wednesday night, with the Timbers travelling to play San Jose Earthquakes and the Sounders playing LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center.