Despite recent reputations, neither the Seattle Sounders nor the Portland Timbers played the “beautiful game” Sunday night.
Fans of both teams have come to expect attacking soccer from the two Cascadian sides. Last season Seattle was second in goals scored with 65 (1.91 per game) and Portland was right behind at third with 61 (1.79 pg). This season the Sounders are lagging a little, but still in second with 10 goals scored in 7 games (1.42 pg). Whereas Portland is sputtering, scoring only .875 pg with 7 in 8. So where was the offensive last night?
Either team could make the argument that they attacked enough to win. 90+ minutes of 22 men making a plethora of decisions every moment regarding a single ball yields a data-rich environment. Anyone wearing Rave Green can find the data points necessary to make their arguments, as can someone in (I don’t really know what they call it) Timber? green.
The overwhelming narrative from the Seattle camp is that the Sounders earned a gritty win by not falling into Portland’s “sit back and counter” trap. We feel we controlled the game and put in enough quality chances to get the win. South of the border, the narrative is (as always) “we deserved better.” The Timbers feel they shut down our vaunted attack and looked dangerous enough to come away with a draw and, honestly, a win would’ve been a fair result as well.
It is difficult for anyone too close to the event horizon of rivalry to be objective here. But us bloggers get paid the big bucks to try, so let’s look at the chances.
Portland had three quality scoring chances and two shots on target. Both Urruti and Chara took ambitious shots from outside the box that forced Frei to make a save. Adi, in the 81st minute, banged a dangerous header off the woodwork. Any of those shots could’ve easily gone in and changed the game. Portland took 8 other shots (some were even from within the 18 yard box) but every single one of them was either competently blocked or sailed well wide of goal. I am not counting Urruti’s offside as a chance, as it was only a “chance” because he was a mile offside.
Seattle had four quality chances and 3 shots on target. Other than the Rose shot that eventually spilled to Dempsey and decided the game, Neagle took a mean strike right at the end of the first half that forced a save, and Pappa took a shot that sailed justover the crossbar. Very early in the night, Oba found himself with the ball at his feet a mere yard from goalmouth. He danced with the ball, for what seemed like forever, looking for a chance before sending the ball harmlessly aside. Anytime Oba is in your six-yard box with the ball at his feet, you are lucky if he doesn’t score.
Of course chances don’t equal shots and shots don’t equal goals. But if you create enough good shots, eventually the ball goes in. This doesn’t always balance out over the course of 90 minutes, sometimes it take games. Last week against NYCFC, Portland only put three balls on target but got the goal. Going one-for-three is a stellar percentage, but coupled with this week, Portland only has that one in six SOG. That is definitely trending towards fair. And not too long ago Seattle was skunked in L.A. despite taking 14 shots with 10 on frame. Those two games have Seattle at one in thirteen SOG. The numbers will always regress to the mean; which is a fancy way of saying, the Sounders are still owed a couple.