KIEV, UKRAINE – The Portland Timbers vanquished their archrivals and took some pressure off their embattled coach.
Kris Boyd scored his fifth goal of the season, David Horst converted a header and the Timbers earned a much-needed 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.
''I thought we showed an unbelievable amount of character,'' said Portland coach John Spencer, who had been dealing with reports he was on the hot seat. ''When (people) say players are not playing for me, I didn't see anyone not playing for me today.''
Portland (4-6-4) jumped ahead early and held off the attacking Sounders for its first win in the league series since joining the MLS last year.
The Timbers went up in the 16th minute when Boyd slipped past the defense and sent a cross from Steven Smith into the net. David Horst scored on a header nine minutes later for the 2-0 lead.
Seattle (7-5-4) saw its winless streak extend to seven games, the longest in its MLS history, now in its fourth season. Seattle was coming off a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City and a 4-1 loss to Montreal. Still, the Sounders were favored against Spencer's unseasoned Portland squad.
The Timbers entered the match in last place in the Western Division and 16th in the league in goals with 12. Portland took its third shutout in five games last Sunday in a 1-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy. The team's disappointing start to the season and flagging offense led to media reports this week that Spencer's job could be in jeopardy if the Timbers fell flat against Seattle.
The Timbers weren't flat but the early lead didn't feel permanent against the aggressive Sounders.
Eddie Johnson dribbled past Horst and fired a shot past straining keeper Troy Perkins into the far corner of the net in the 59th minute. Freddy Montero had a narrow miss in the 74th minute and Johnson narrowly missed a header in stoppage time.
As the Sounders kept up a desperate attack, the game became chippy, leading to several pushing and shoving incidents toward the end. Montero and Portland's Lovel Palmer were both issued red cards in the final minutes.
It was the third MLS meeting for the longtime Cascadia Cup rivals. Last year, in Portland's inaugural season, the teams played to a draw in Seattle before the Sounders won 3-2 in Portland.
While Boyd said the win served ''to get everybody off our backs and show that we can play,'' Horst said things never seemed that dire. He saw the win as an opportunity to build.
''Last year, we had a turning point (in a 3-0 win over the league-leading Galaxy), where we had a little run,'' the defender said. ''Hopefully, that's what this is - a turning point.''