PORTLAND — For all of the antics and animosity that come from a Timbers-Sounders soccer match, the best way to understand the story of Sunday’s match at Jeld-Wen Field was to follow Timbers defender David Horst from whistle to whistle.
Oh, such a narrow view would have meant missing one of the easiest goals Kris Boyd will ever score. But no player was more involved with the drama of Portland’s 2-1 triumph over Seattle than the 6-foot-4 central defender. And the resiliency and tenacity with which Horst played on Sunday matched that of his teammates, who gutted out a win that might allow the Timbers to make something of this season.
Portland’s first MLS win over their Cascadia rival moved the Timbers out of the Western Conference basement and extended Seattle’s winless stretch to a franchise-record seven games. Portland (4-6-4, 16 points) sits eighth in the conference, but has played the fewest league games. Seattle (7-5-4) sits fourth in the conference and has four losses and three ties in its last seven league matches.
Despite a great start — goals from Boyd and Horst had Portland up 2-0 25 minutes into the match — the bigger development might be the way the Timbers stood up to the Sounders in the testy final 30 minutes. A season ago, the Sounders scored two late goals to escape Jeld-Wen with a 3-2 victory.
Horst’s first career Major League Soccer goal proved to be the difference as Portland made an early two-goal lead stand up for a critical win.
“It was amazing. Last year I had a lot of close calls, and the beginning of this year I’ve had a couple,” Horst said. “It just feels good to finally know that, yeah, I can score.”
Horst’s goal came in the 25th minute, when he shook a defender and headed a corner kick delivery from Frank Songo’o into the turf and watched the ball bound beyond the reach of Sounders goalkeeper Andrew Weber.
Horst’s goal happened less than 15 minutes after he nearly scored from an identical corner kick delivery.
“The first one I was just trying to get the ball on goal, and I didn’t get in down enough,” Horst said. “The second time I was thinking ‘I’ve got to get it down this time.’ I headed it down. I saw it go in and I couldn’t believe it. I just went crazy.”
Crazy as that play was, the first Portland goal was probably more perplexing for the Sounders. Boyd made it 1-0 in the 16th minute with a point-blank goal. Fellow Scotsman Steven Smith made a run down the left wing and crossed the ball to the goal-mouth. Smith has teamed with Boyd enough during their careers to know the striker will be lurking near front of the goal.
“I expected a defender to be a lot closer to him there, but he’s made a career out of being in that position and scoring goals,” Smith said.
“It’s the first time in a long, long time I’ve found myself with that amount of space in the box,” Boyd said.
As easy as those goals were, there was little doubt that beating the Sounders would be difficult. Seattle began to assert control of play late in the first half, and carried the momentum throughout a second half that was extended by six minutes of stoppage time.
“The second half we couldn’t get a hold of the ball,” Timbers coach John Spencer said, praising the Sounders’ talent and plan. “They dominated most of the play, but we dug deep, showed a lot of character.”
That character was needed. In the 58th minute, Eddie Johnson turned a Horst gamble into a Sounders goal. Horst was late in trying to intercept a pass, sending Johnson into the 18-yard box for a pretty goal that set the stage for furious finish.
“I didn’t realize how big (the rivalry) was until today,” Johnson said. “I played in Europe for the past three years and played in some big stadiums there, but this is as big as it gets here.”
The fury included a shoving match away from play between Horst and Johnson that escalated when Seattle’s Fredy Montero intervened and Horst ended up on the ground. Before order was restored, Montero and Portland’s Lovel Palmer had been sent off by referee Ricardo Salazar.
“We’re battling the whole game so tempers are going to rise, and they did,” Horst said. “But both Eddie and I kept our heads and walked away after we had our say.”
And Montero’s reaction? “All I can say is he pushed me pretty hard onto the ground,” Horst said.
Hard or not, Montero’s frustrated shove and the Timbers’ spirited response provided an appropriate final act to an afternoon when the Timbers finally got the best of their rivals.
TIMBERS 2, SOUNDERS 1
Seattle FC 0 1–1
Portland 2 0–2
First half–1, Portland, Boyd 5 (Smith, Songo’o), 16th minute. 2, Portland, Horst 1 (Songo’o), 25th.
Second half–3, Seattle FC, Johnson 5 (Scott), 58th.
Goalies–Seattle FC, Andrew Weber; Portland, Troy Perkins.
Yellow Cards–Evans, Seattle FC, 18th; Chara, Portland, 44th; Alonso, Seattle FC, 48th; Alhassan, Portland, 54th; Smith, Portland, 73rd; Jewsbury, Portland, 90th.
Red Cards–Montero, Seattle FC, 90th+; Palmer, Portland, 90th+.
Referee–Ricardo Salazar. Assistant Referees–Peter Manikowski. Mike Kampmeinert. 4th Official–Jason Anno.
Seattle FC–Andrew Weber, Marc Burch, Jeff Parke (Patrick Ianni, 42nd), Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Alex Caskey (Cordell Cato, 75th), Brad Evans (Andy Rose, 46th), Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero.
Portland–Troy Perkins, David Horst, Mamadou Danso, Steven Smith, Franck Songo’o (Lovel Palmer, 79th), Darlington Nagbe, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan (Sal Zizzo, 54th), Jack Jewsbury, Michael Fucito (Danny Mwanga, 66th), Kris Boyd.