TACOMA – The Sounders switched competitions but couldn’t shake their losing skid.
Seattle entered U.S. Open Cup play against rival Portland on Wednesday night and it was the Timbers who dominated, collecting a 2-1 win to advance to the Round of 16.
Players tried to remain upbeat because statistically, it was a good match for the home side. But there’s no denying it was the club’s fourth straight loss when including the three to close the opening half of MLS play. The league is on a two-week FIFA break.
“It sucks losing,” Sounders midfielder Harry Shipp said. “There were times the last three games on the road where we lost and didn’t play very well. Tonight we played well enough to win, honestly. That’s what’s frustrating. It’s a different kind of frustrating because you feel like you put yourself in position to score more than one goal — score three or four goals, which is something we’ve been lacking the last couple of games.”
The U.S. Open Cup is a 106-year-old tournament that began in May with 84 teams ranging from amateurs to MLS across the country. Wednesday was the first meeting between Portland and Seattle at Cheney Stadium, which features a natural grass field.
The match before a crowd of 6,280 was a display of Portland’s latest talent, forward Brian Fernandez. The Argentinian was signed in May from Liga MX and made an immediate impact.
Fernandez scored the opening goal in the eighth minute and nailed the game-winner in the 50th minute off a cross from Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse.
“He’s a good goal-scorer and you saw it in the second goal, the way he made that run in front of our center back,” Shipp said of Fernandez getting past defender Jonathan Campbell. “And the first goal, (Fernandez) was opportunistic and had a good finish. He wants to kind of lull you to sleep and make you forget about him and all of a sudden he’s popping up in the right places and scoring goals.”
The Sounders increased their pressure after Fernandez’s first goal but Portland goalkeeper Steve Clark was able to manage most attempts in the opening half. He had three saves before Sounders midfielder Victor Rodriguez lined up for a free kick in the 44th minute.
The Spaniard lobbed the ball over Portland’s defense and a deflection from Fernandez helped redirect the ball to bounce into the net.
Rodriguez had another opportunity in the 79th minute off a penalty kick, but missed. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer made a substitution for Rodriguez shortly after because he was limping. Wednesday was Rodriguez’s second game since a monthlong absence due to a hamstring injury.
“I was tired,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not an excuse. I put all my effort on the field and tried to do better for my team. …The most important thing is the effort and today the team was very good.”
Seattle was missing 10 players due to call-ups for either international competitions or training camps. The Sounders signed six from the Tacoma Defiance to fill out their roster and started Danny Leyva, a 16-year-old midfielder signed to the first team in April.
Portland only had four players called to other duties and didn’t sign any USL players for the match. It started a similar lineup it uses in MLS play.
Still, the Sounders had eight scoring attempts on target and outshot Portland 24-13.
Seattle was upset in the fourth round of last season’s Open Cup by the Sacramento Republic. The Sounders won their last U.S. Open Cup meeting with Portland.
“Some of the soccer was good,” Schmetzer said. “We were effective and dangerous. …I’m disappointed. We have to make sure that I as a coach and staff give the players the tools necessary to win games. No one in the franchise likes to lose four in a row. No one.”