PREAMBLE: Soccer derbies — games between regional rivals — are all about emotion and sentiment and lumps in the throat. Let's dedicate this one to a uniquely verklempt figure: ex-Timbers and current Sounders striker . Kenny Cooper. Portland fans will remember Cooper as the striker who spent their inaugural season stumbling around the opposition penalty area like a raging bull caught on a frozen pond.
There is something almost noble about Cooper's steadfast refusal to play to his own strengths. And by "almost noble," I mean, for Timbers fans, ulcer-inducingly frustrating. Cooper is tall and burly, and if he simply focused on muscling past defenders and scoring goals, he might still be a US National Team player. Cooper, however, plays like he believes he's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the Swedish striker with the delicate and innovative touch, except terrified of human contact. Where he should look for a simple pass, he tries to score from the halfway line. Where he should knock a man over and score, he falls over.
Timbers fans will remember a man who should have been the reference point for their side, but was instead the most frustrating player in a frustrating season. Cooper's presence only heightens the emotion in Providence Park today. Expect him to be mercilessly booed.
11:30 am: SORRY GUYS. I've been having computer problems all morning, but I'm here now, albeit not in the Timbers' stadium.
Portland: Weber; Powell, Paparatto, Kah, Harrington; Chara, Johnson; Nagbe, Valeri, Alhassan; Urruti. Bench: Gleeson, Danso, Jewsbury, Zemanski, Zakuani, Fernandez, Piquionne.
Seattle: Frei; Yedlin, Marshall, Anibaba, Gonzalez; Alonso, Azira; Cooper, Dempsey, Pineda; Martins. Bench: Hahnemann, Scott, Remick, Pappa, Neagle, Barrett, Parsemain
11:35 am: Lineup analysis: Portland rings in the changes after a difficult start to the season. La Gata Fernandez, the Timbers' only goalscorer this season, drops out for Khalif Alhassan. It could be an attempt to restrict the attacking surges of DeAndre Yedlin. Spiritual leader Jack Jewsbury is also replaced by Alvas Powell. Seattle's formation is unclear. It could be last season's unsuccessful diamond midfield, with Cooper and Obafemi Martins together up front and Clint Dempsey in behind. Gonzalo Pineda has also played as a left winger in his career, so that's another possibility. The diamond could be an attempt to clog the middle and stifle the Timbers' passing, in which case the inclusion of Alhassan and Powell might negate some of its effects. Most sites are listing it as a 4-3-3 with Dempsey on the right and Cooper on the left of Obafemi.
11:42 am: The Sounders fans singing "Build a Bonfire" presumably don't realize that wildfires are a healthy part of a forest's life cycle.
11:46 am: Kenny Cooper might not even be the Seattle player with the most awkward connection to Portland. Fellow ex-US national team striker Chad Barrett was born in San Diego and lists that as his hometown. But he was a high school standout at Southridge High in Beaverton. MLS analyst Kyle Martino said during his commentary on Seattle's game against Kansas City that Barrett was deliberately trying to conceal his Portland roots to avoid the ire of Sounders fans.
12:01 pm: Martino interviewed Will Johnson on the TV. Johnson said (surprise) he enjoys this game.
12:02 pm: Caleb Porter drinking a hot beverage out of a paper cup in a slo-mo shot. Is it coffee? Is it tea? is it too much hot sake? THIS IS INFORMATION WE NEED!!!
12:04 pm: Yedlin hair watch. There appears to be a message in it. That message is "PPP." What does it mean???
12:06 pm: Who will get it today?
12:09 pm: Andrew Weber and Kenny Cooper will be the first men to play for both teams in this fixture after today, according to NBC.
12:14 pm: Boos for Cooper and Dempsey, I'm hearing; Cheers from both sets of fans for Steve Zakuani.
12:15 pm: Kenny Cooper being the player who gets the red card, I feel, would be the most appropriate. Other strong candidates are Diego Chara, Dempsey and Pa Modou Kah.
12:18 pm: The child mascot who led Will Johnson out has a very clean faux-hawk. "The Star Spangled Banner" is being sung. Scarves are helicoptering.
12:23 pm: Kickoff.
3min: GOOOOOAAALLLL!!!! Portland 0-1 Seattle (Cooper 3')
The Sounders pretty much dominated the opening exchange from kickoff. Pineda played a corner in, someone swept it toward goal and Cooper, camped out beneath the crossbar, tapped it home. The game is already far more verklempt.
5 min: Yellow card for Michael Ariza for a foul on Nagbe.
6 min: It was Jalil Anibaba whose shot basically deflected in off of Cooper. The game has been frantic and squeezed, and the ball has been floating through the air for much of it; in other words, it's probably what Seattle wants.
8 min: Seattle has pretty much just been pumping the ball at Portland's backline from its defensive third. The Timbers have looked a little bit dazed against the Sounders' physicality. They're attempting to play it out from the back, but the pace of the game is forcing them to rush their passes.
10min: GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLL!!!!! Portland 1-1 Seattle (Chara 10')
Chara rolls over Pineda like a miniature semi-trailer and then looks up and finds himself in a little meadow of serenity between the Seattle lines. He drives the ball low, Stefan Frei gets a hand to it, but it settles in the back of the net.
12min: The game is racing from goalline to goalline. Cooper forced a flying save from Weber from Yedlin's cross, then Nagbe found himself in the area and punished the post for standing in his way with a rasper. There is noise. There is smoke. There is adrenaline.
14 min: GOOOOOOOOAAAALLL Portland 2-1 Seattle (Valeri 14')
Valeri's goal was reminiscent of no one so much as LaMarcus Aldridge. Nagbe slipped the ball to Harrington, who played it short to Valeri in the area. Valeri posted up to Anibaba, then faked and turned to shoot blind into the angle of post and bar. Silkiness and strength in equal measure.
18 min: Alvas Powell, so far, has really justified his selection. Full of energy and pace, and he has served in at least one gorgeous ball.
21min: The TImbers' wide players have been bedeviling the Sounders fullbacks.
22min: Seattle looks seriously deflated. Portland counterattacks and Alhassan takes on pretty much the entire team, dinking it over Osvaldo Alonso and slipping it between the legs of Yedlin, but eventually Chad Marshall muscles him out before he can cross.
24min: GOAAAAALLLLL!!! (Portland 2-2 Seattle, Dempsey 24')
Obafemi Martins pounces on a mistake by Norberto Paparatto and plays the ball across to an unmarked Dempsey. Dempsey slots past Weber with a look on his face like he's smelled a dirty diaper.
27 min: The Timbers have been charging at the Sounders, making it difficult for them to turn and face Weber's goal. But on the attack, they haven't quite been coherent.
30min: Yellow card for Pineda; Johnson intercepted Dempsey's pass and Pineda figured he'd throw the TImbers captain over.
31min: Leandro Gonzalez nearly passed the ball into his own net from out wide, but Frei just managed to chase it down. IT would have been fun if it happened.
33min: Yellow card for Kah. The Norwegian strips the ball from Dempsey, then chases it down and clatters into Pineda dangerously.
35min: Different players are responding differently to the atmosphere. Nagbe, for instance, looks like he's scuba diving in a sea of tranquility every time he gets it. Yedlin looks like his stomach is full of butterflies made of acid and gasoline.
37min: Obafemi convulses in pain after Powell clatters him on his way to the ball. Now Pineda and Valeri start to shove one another after disputing the placement of a free kick.
39 min: Marshall's deft header for the corner forces Weber into an acrobatic but ultimately easy save diving to his left.
40min: Chara's pass sets Powell and Gonzalez on a sprint against one another. Like his countryman Usain Bolt, Powell wins so comfortably he can afford to slow up once he gets to the ball.
42min: On a Timbers breakaway, Johnson had Pineda breathing down his neck, so he decelerated to send his pursuer careening off frame. It was like a car chase scene in the movies. Urruti has just shaved the post trying for a low, very wide-angle finish.
44min: Valeri is now on the ground with a hurt knee. There is an oozing gash on the top. Beyond that, it's irresponsible to speculate about what's going on, except to say that the Argentine looks to be in pain.
45min+2: Kah is on thin ice. The referee calls him for a handball on the edge of the Timbers box and he's fairly lucky not to get his second yellow. Pineda's cross from the free kick leads to a Cooper header that sends Dempsey, Paparatto and Marshall charging into the near post. It looks like it was painful for Marshall, who has collapsed under the crossbar. Now it's halftime
HALFTIME: It has been exciting. It has been breathless. Both teams' game plans seem to be working fairly well, and the atmosphere is coaxing mistakes out of both sides.
Let's talk about subs. Lamar Neagle, Marco Pappa and Chad Barrett are all quick and dangerous. Their speed and trickery could add a dangerous dimension to a Seattle team without much genuine pace up front at the moment. Steve Zakuani's entrance could be an emotional one, and we can be certain La Gata Fernandez will make some kind of contribution. If the Timbers want to slow the game down, bringing in Jack Jewsbury or Ben Zemanski to add bodies in the middle could work.
THEY'RE BAAAACK. The second half is noticeably slower, and the Timbers have been keeping the ball and moving it deliberately so far.
49min: Yellow card for Chara, who knocks Dempsey down in the center circle.
50min: The jitters have returned to the game. Weber tries to roll the ball to Kah inside his own box and Dempsey hunts him down and starts a chase. In the end, the Timbers keeper just barely scrambles it away.
52min: Pineda's corner leads to both Sounders center backs shooting and Obafemi Martins blocking both efforts in the goalmouth. Silently, Timbers fans give thanks to the Nigerian striker.
53min: The game in the second half has corresponded far more closely to the expected pattern, with Portland having good stretches of possession and Seattle trying hard to take advantage of free kicks and corners. Michael Azira, already on a yellow card, throws Urruti on the ground and is very, very lucky to remain on the field. He thanks the keeper.
54min: Michael Harrington receives a long ball from Will Johnson and uses an astonishing touch to take it past Yedlin and give himself a small eternity on the edge of the Sounders box to pick his shot. But Harrington sweeps it well wide of the post.
55min: GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!!! Portland 3-2 Seattle (Chara 55')57min: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!!!!!! Portland 4-2 Seattle (Urruti 57')
First Valeri and Alhassan worked a combination on the right touchline to get the ball to Chara. The Colombian's first touch was a beautiful caress, and he again found himself carrying an ocean of space forward with him, so he figured, why not try and shoot from 35 yards. And what a shot! Frei had no chance.
Then Cooper (it would always be him) sold Anibaba short with a poor backpass, and Urruti pounced, mugged him, took his ball, ran off to start a new life in Brazil, and measured a sumptuous, sensual curving shot around Frei.
60min: Seattle brought Neagle on for Cooper and Yedlin reduced Johnson to a quivering heap of agony with a tackle that sent the Portland captain skyward and landed him headfirst on the turf. Seattle again offered Urruti the freedom of their midfield to pick out a shot, but this time Frei didn't have to pick it out of his net. He was angry and he is now yelling at his defenders, gesticulating with fury.
64min: Nagbe takes on two players in the area and manages to beat three, but unfortunately the third is himself. Nevertheless, the Timbers have a corner and Paparatto crunches a header into the crossbar that looks over, but is really on the near side of the line. At least that's what the referee says.
65min: It was probably a goal. Yedlin hurdled himself back into his goal and threw his face at it, but there's no telling whether it crossed. If it was in the goal, it was momentarily so. Paparatto, rather than the goal, gets a yellow card for a foul on Pineda.
68min: Alhassan, Johnson and Chara play a little game of monkey in the middle with Alonso, who chases the three of them furiously around the center circle and ends in a heap with the ball far away. Pappa is coming on for Azira, who has looked impotent in the second half.
70min: As they always do when they are on top and feeling confident, the Timbers are toying sadistically with the Sounders. Alhassan decides to dribble Gonzalez in his own half just because. Now Yedlin has gotten himself a yellow card for scything Nagbe as if he was a burly, bustling stalk of wheat.
71min: Alonso and Marshall allow Valeri to dribble to his heart's content in their penalty area but, presumably feeling pity for the Cuban after the frustrating afternoon he has, Valeri turns the ball over to him with an ill-advised cutback. Urruti still gets the chance to ping the ball wide of the mark.
73min: Valeri, standing over the ball, starts making kissy faces into the area. What is he plotting? Well, he plays the ball low and Alhassan sends a looping backheel into empty space in the Seattle area. Unfortunately no TImber could get to it. The move ends with one of the worst shots I've ever seen from Alvas Powell, who tried to curl it into the far corner and ended up bending it the wrong way and out for a throw.
74min: A sweeping move that involved Johnson pirouetting around Alonso ended with Nagbe tiptoeing into the area and shooting the ball against a Seattle defender.
76min: DeAndre Yedlin is throwing himself into tackles like an angry pufferfish. I don't know what he was doing smashing into Johnson on the left touchline.
78min: The Sounders suddenly started looking dangerous. The introduction of Neagle and Pappa has widened the field for Seattle. A move ends with Dempsey chipping into the far post for Obafemi and the Nigerian striker tapping a header over the bar.
79min: An indecently brilliant cross from Pappa finds Neagle in acres in the area. Neagle plays back to Pineda who suffers a bout of existential horror at finding himself with the game at his feet and eons to shoot in the area. He tarries too long. Dempsey scuffs. Weber collects over Paparatto. There's time for another Dempsey shot. All of a sudden Seattle is on top.
81min: The Timbers are actually reduced to a long ball up to Urruti, albeit a precise lob to feet from Powell. Yedlin hurdles down the other end and flashes a cross in. Now it's Kah's turn to frantically hack the ball clear like a gridiron punter.
82min: Though Seattle as a whole has grown into the game and taken charge, Dempsey is a problem. As in the playoffs this year, he has decided he is predestined to be the game-winner, and every time the ball comes to him, he tries some cultured improvisation. It's like seeing a pretentious teenager fresh from a summer vacation delicately mispronouncing French phrases to his classmates. Now Frederic Piquionne and Ben Zemanski are coming on for Urruti and Nagbe.
85min: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!! Portland 4-3 Seattle (Dempsey 85')
86min: PENALTY!!!! Seattle has a huge chance to take the lead after Zemanski's foul on Yedlin.
87min: Dempsey stands over it and ...
88min: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLL!!!! Portland 4-4 Seattle (Dempsey 87'P)
So first Neagle measured a low cross to Obafemi in the eight-yard box, and the Nigerian did enough to drop it at the far post, where Dempsey got back to basics and scuffed it in. Then Zemanski stepped across the onrushing Yedlin to give Dempsey the chance to stroke the ball low to the left while Weber guessed the opposite way. Now Zakuani is on for Johnson.
90min: Another set piece, with Pineda standing over it. Dempsey nearly gets his fourth with a treacherous daisycutter right down Weber's throat in the rain.
90min+1: Seattle nearly takes the league, with Neagle finding Yedlin with a cutback. The fullback blazes the ball into the area and Obafemi stabs at it but gets it just the wrong side of the post. By inches. It was uncomfortable.
90min+3: Zakuani is now the center of attention, first winning a throw-in off of three Sounders players, then trying to dribble past Yedlin. But Yedlin's pace is too much and he can't get to the ball. Piquionne earns the right to shoot by stealing a ball above the D and holding off Pineda, but he can only find the top of the stand.
90min+4: Pineda tries to get around Piquionne and gets an errant elbow in the face. Alhassan takes the ball past umpty-million Sounders and Zakuani wins a corner. A fateful one? No. The header is cleared and Powell gets the last kick of the game with a dipping shot that just misses the far post.
IT ENDS 4-4
FINAL THOUGHTS: It was a game of movements. First you had a pulsating first half, a total shootout in which both sides took lumps out of one another. Then the Timbers slowly wrested control, pass by pass, starting with the second-half kickoff, and before the Sounders knew it, they were reeling on the mat. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid reacted, putting on a pair of wingers to spread the play and asking new questions of the Timbers. Lamar Neagle opened up space for Yedlin on the right and his and Dempsey's determination was too much for the Timbers. MLS games get no better than that one. Anyway, it was some game.