The Sounders had an opportunity Sunday to clinch a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs and secure their second Cascadia Cup in three years, but failed to accomplish either, falling to the Portland Timbers 1-0 at Jeld-Wen Field. A red card issued to Osvaldo Alonso in the 74th minute for throwing an elbow to a Portland player’s chops only added to Seattle’s late-season meltdown.
The Sounders (15-11-6) have dropped three consecutive matches — the first three-game losing streak of the season — by a combined 10 goals to 2. They have also fallen into third place in the Western Conference standings, their 51 points trailing Portland’s 53 and Real Salt Lake’s 52.
The loss handed the Vancouver Whitecaps the 2013 Cascadia Cup, awarded to the Northwest club (Sounders, Timbers, Whitecaps) with the most points in head-to-head competition.
This marked the fourth consecutive match in which Seattle had an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth and failed to do so, and the first time in the history of the rivalry that Seattle failed to score. After Kalif Alhassan’s goal in the 44th minute, the Sounders failed to mount any significant scoring opportunity until the 91st minute when Steve Zakuani blasted a shot off the crossbar.
At that point, Seattle had been playing down a man after a frustrated Alonso threw an elbow into Will Johnson’s jaw, drawing a belated ejection. Johnson embellished the severity of the blow, but it worked with the officials, who booked Alonso, who had to be restrained by teammates from further acting out his frustrations.
The loss of Alonso was only one handicap with which Seattle had to deal. Clint Dempsey, starting for the first time since Aug. 31, suffered an injured shoulder in the 12th minute when he was felled by a Diego Chara foul. Dempsey, who has yet to record a goal or assist for the Sounders, departed in the 27th minute, leaving Seattle briefly shorthanded, to get the injury tended to, but played in obvious distress until the 77th, when head coach Sigi Schmid removed him.
The Sounders also played without Eddie Johnson, serving duty with the U.S. National Team, and the injured Obafemi Martins. With their two leading shotmakers missing, Seattle couldn’t generate any striking power. Schmid also started Marcus Hahnemann in goal and benched Michael Gspurning, whom he criticized Wednesday after Gspurning allowed nine goals combined in losses to Colorado and Vancouver.
The Sounders dominated the run of play for the first 20-25 minutes, producing two scoring chances, notably in the 14th when Dempsey rattled a shot off the crossbar. But as the match progressed, the Timbers began to assert themselves.
Darlington Nagbe answered Dempsey’s attempt with a strike in the 39th that Hahnemann swatted away, and nearly scored again in the 40th, his shot sent astray with a sliding tackle by Alonzo. But three minutes later, Alhasson found the left corner of the net, sending the Sounders off at halftime trailing 1-0.
NEXT: The Sounders play at FC Dallas Saturday and then host the LA Galaxy in the final CenturyLink match of the regular season Oct. 27.