The Seattle Sounders are in deep trouble in the MLS Cup Playoffs, but it could have been a lot worse if not for Osvaldo Alonso. Seattle's tough tackling defensive midfielder smashed in a late goal off a corner, giving them hope heading to Oregon, but the Portland Timbers will be very satisfied with their 2-1 road win.
Seattle had all of the possession early but didn't turn it into any clear-cut chances. They got the ball into the Portland box frequently and looked like the much more likely team to score, but they fell asleep on a Portland counter in the 15th minute. Jack Jewsbury found space down the right and hit a perfect near-post cross to Ryan Johnson, who split Seattle's central defenders and nodded one past Marcus Hahnemann.
It didn't take long for Seattle to regain control of the match, though they failed to find a goal to turn things around before the halftime break. Their best chance to pull level came five minutes after Johnson's goal, through Clint Dempsey on a free kick. From 25 yards, he ripped a shot towards the top corner that looked to have Donovan Ricketts beat, but the Timbers keeper stretched to tip the ball over the bar.
Just two minutes into the second half, Lamar Neagle was shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Diego Valeri. The card was his fifth on the year, and he'll miss the second leg of this conference semifinal series through yellow card accumulation.
Around the hour mark, both teams made substitutions that would significantly alter the game. Kalif Alhassan came on for Valeri, who has been nursing an injury, pushing Darlington Nagbe into the center from his right wing starting position. Seattle brought on attacker Mauro Rosales for right back Zach Scott, setting up a serious shuffle in their formation that moved Neagle to midfield and Brad Evans to right back.
Six minutes later, Portland scored their second goal to take complete control of the tie, and their substitution played a massive part in it. A pretty build-up ended with Alhassan finding Nagbe near the top of the penalty area, and Nagbe placed a pretty finish to the far post with his second touch after popping the ball up to himself, giving the Timbers a stunning 2-0 lead.
In the 73rd minute, the Timbers attempted to solidify their midfield, bringing on defensive midfielder Ben Zemanski for Nagbe. The Sounders did create a big chance for Dempsey off a scramble two minutes later, but Dempsey missed and the Timbers settled things down a bit after that.
The Sounders kept pushing forward, however, and found a lifeline in stoppage time off a throw that took a big deflection and fell to Alonso, who was waiting at the penalty spot to thrash the ball into the back of the net.
Seattle will still be big underdogs in the second leg, but thanks to Alonso, they're in with a chance.
Seattle: Hahnemann, Gonzalez (Burch 84), Traore, Hurtado, Scott (Rosales 63'), Alonso, Moffat (Joseph 77'), Evans, Dempsey, Neagle, Johnson
Goals: Alonso (90')
Portland: Ricketts, Harrington, Kah, Danso, Jewsbury, W. Johnson, Chara, Wallace, Valeri (Alhassan 61'), Nagbe (Zemanski 73'), R. Johnson (Valencia 83')
Goals: R. Johnson (15'), Nagbe (68')