The first 68 minutes of the match between the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders was a standard soccer match.
Then someone gave it an oil drum full of Red Bull and let it loose.
Five goals in the final 52 minutes would produce one of the craziest games in MLS playoff history, only this time the second half magic Seattle had played with all season long finally ran out. Portland would defeat Seattle 4-2 in penalty kicks to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
The Sounders entered the second leg trailing 2-1 after losing in Portland on Sunday. On Thursday, the Sounders ‘beat’ Portland in regulation time, 2-1, to force extra time. After swapping goals, the game went to penalty kicks, with Portland prevailing. The Timbers will face either Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City in the next round.
After the contest, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer could only sum up his feelings in a few words.
“A kick in the stomach”, Schmetzer said.
“Give Portland credit, they came in and did the job they need to do. When you come so close and you see your arch rival celebrating on your field, it hurts.”
The prelude to the gut punch came in the 68th minute with a goal that might’ve sent Seattle to the Western Conference Finals.
Thats’ when Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella mishandled a cross that allowed the ball to get to Raul Rudiaz, who’s shot would go into the back of the net and the crowd of over 39,000 at CenturyLink Field erupted in an Earth-shattering roar. The goal would give the Sounders a 1-0 lead and tie the aggregate score at 2-2 with Seattle holding the tiebreaker in away goals.
Suddenly, it was Portland who was on the offensive. For the last 22 minutes of game time, the Timbers, who had played somewhat less than aggressive, had to fight for their playoff lives.
Portland struck back, in the 78th minute Sebastian Blanco scored on a low strike from outside the box that rolled past Sounders keeper Stefan Frei and the score was tied 1-1. With Portland in control of the aggregate scoring and getting an away goal, the 1-1 draw was really a 3-2 Portland lead.
Then it was Seattle’s turn to counter with a dramatic goal. In the third minute of stoppage time another Rudiaz strike would give Seattle the lead and force extra time.
Throw out the aggregate scoring in extra time, per MLS rules, and bring on the craziness.
In the third minute of extra time, a cross would find the head Darion Asprilla and Portland led again. But a Portland handball gave the Sounders a penalty shot, which Nicolas Lodeiro converted to force another tie.
With all the confusion and emotion that both teams had faced, as the clock ran out in extra time, Portland had thought they won the match as players were celebrating on the field. They quickly had to be composed and get ready for a penalty shootout that would see someone going home.
Misses by Will Bruin and Ozzie Alonso proved more than Seattle could overcome, and Portland won when Asprilla drilled his shot past Sounders goalie Stefan Frei.
In the locker room, Bruin said that the “kick in the stomach” delivered by the Timbers was a bit different than what Schmetzer had described.
“It hurts for sure, I think the kick might’ve been lower than the stomach, but it hurts.”