The first of Seattle’s four goals in its 4-2 defeat of the Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday didn’t have the visceral thrill of the second one scored on the counter, the slow-burn build-up of the third or the individual brilliance of the fourth.
The first may have even been the least aesthetically pleasing of the four.
But it was the one that most set the tone for the rest of the match.
Sigi Schmid has harped on his team’s lack of width throughout its recent slump, the lack of a consistent threat from the same wide areas that set up Sunday’s opener.
“We know that (Darlington) Nagbe doesn’t really like to defend, doesn’t get back too much,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “So if I tuck in and DeAndre (Yedlin) pushes hard, it makes their defenders make a decision.”
In the 18th minute, Michael Harrington chose to step forward to challenge Yedlin’s charge forward, and Yedlin played Evans into the space the defender vacated. Evans beat Liam Ridgewell to the end line and crossed for Obafemi Martins to tap in.
The wide threat was established, and though the Timbers were reeling, they couldn’t just pack into a defensive shell to regroup. The gaps widened as the field was stretched from sideline to sideline.
Portland was forced to make a decision, and nothing it chose permanently relieved the pressure.
It is dangerous, though, to look at the performance as a definitive end to all the Sounders’ recent attacking woes. The match was so open at least partially by Portland’s design. Desperately needing points down at the bottom end of the Western Conference and playing at home, the Timbers fielded an attacking lineup and pushed forward from the start.
Future opponents will have no similar qualms in sitting back, especially if Seattle can’t regularly break down massed defenses. Space is usually at a premium come playoff time, as well.
Saturday’s match at home to Colorado should provide more definitive answers as to whether Seattle’s return to attacking fluency will stick.
By the numbers: Six — yellow cards shown in a rivalry match that certainly lived up to its feisty reputation.
In their own words: “Congratulations to Seattle. They took their chances well. Obviously, they have great players, a great team, a good coach and they were deserved winners today” — Portland coach Caleb Porter.
Up next: Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids, Saturday at 1 p.m. at CenturyLink Field.