Eddie Johnson, Sounders pound Timbers
SEATTLE -- One of the originals still around since the inaugural 2009 season, Brad Evans has witnessed many nights when the fans of the Seattle Sounders top what they've done before.
Playing before one of the largest crowds in league history and against a fierce rival on Sunday night could be the top.
"You always remember certain games and get emotional with certain games," Evans said. " ... Anytime you walk out and you feel the chills, you know it's going to be a special game and you play off those emotions because that pushes you through walls and that's something I thought our guys played off the crowd tonight and we won."
Eddie Johnson scored his 14th goal of the season just minutes after an own goal gave Seattle the lead, Fredy Montero added another in the 62nd minute, and the Sounders raced past Cascadia rival Portland 3-0 before the second largest crowd for a stand-alone MLS game in league history.
Johnson's goal in the 28th minute gave Seattle a 2-0 lead and helped the Sounders move into third-place in the Western Conference, two points clear of fourth-place Los Angeles. It was a vital three points in Seattle's efforts to avoid having the No. 4 seed in the MLS Western Conference playoffs and having to play an extra playoff game against the No. 5 seed with the winner of that likely getting San Jose in the conference semifinals.
So while the massive crowd was impressive and Seattle gave itself a shot at retaining the Cascadia Cup in the rivalry with Portland and Vancouver, picking up three needed points in the playoff race trumped it all.
The official attendance of 66,452 was the second largest for a stand-alone match in league history. There've been doubleheaders featuring international friendlies to go along with a league match, but in terms of a match between two MLS teams, the only one to top what Portland and Seattle drew was the first match in league history when Los Angeles hosted New York at the Rose Bowl in 1996 in front of 69,255.
Those in attendance for the latest installment of the Cascadia rivalry included MLS commissioner Don Garber, who jumped on a plane Sunday morning just to take in the atmosphere and was headed back to New York after the match on a red-eye.
"I knew this would be a historic event as it would lead in to this weekend. ... It's just another one of these great moments. We've been saying that a lot lately, but it's really true," Garber said.
It was the second-largest crowd to see a Sounders match, behind a friendly against Manchester United in the summer of 2011. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, who was featured on a large Tifo from the Sounders' supporters before the match, was emotional trying to describe what the setting meant.
"In my imagination of heaven, this is it. A packed house, beating Portland by three, fans going crazy, it can't get better than that," Schmid said.
Seattle got the benefit of an own goal from Portland to take the lead when Mamadou Danso stepped in front of a cross intended for Montero in the 25th minute. Portland originally was charged with a second own-goal, this one by Jack Jewsbury, to give Seattle a 3-0 lead. But that goal was later changed and given to Montero with persistence likely the reason Montero earned his career-best 13th goal of the season. Montero was originally stopped twice by Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and appeared to barely get his toe on the ball at the same moment Jewsbury got to it.
The result was the same, though; a three-goal lead in a match Seattle mostly dominated.
"It was 10 minutes that created the result," Portland coach Gavin Wilkinson said. "Take 10 minutes out of the first half when we were absolutely horrendous defensively and didn't manage the game well at all and we were scrambling. We started to create some decent movement and created decent chances, but I think we handed it to them."
While two Seattle goals at least had the Timbers help, there was nothing but skill on Johnson's finish. Johnson made a quick cut to the middle of the penalty area where he was waiting for a long pass from Evans. The pass was on target and Johnson took the short-hop and guided it past Ricketts with his left foot.
"All over the field, they beat us to a lot of balls, they beat us to ball in our own box and scored," Portland defender David Horst said. "You're not going to win games like that. I think we were very surprised with the result."
Johnson, who tweeted on Friday night he had received a call-up to the U.S. national team, ran over near a section of Portland supporters holding a finger over his lips while the remaining 65,000-plus fans erupted in celebration.
Johnson said after the game he couldn't comment on his Twitter message. The U.S. is scheduled to announce its roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers on Monday.
"I'm all for this rivalry thing now," Johnson said. "I couldn't wait to play."