It became evident Saturday afternoon that even though the Seattle Sounders have championship aspirations, they are not a championship caliber team yet. This will be a team that as the season progresses, on-lookers will see if they can do the many things required for a championship. Last night they failed their first test. Championship teams close matches out. On a windy Saturday afternoon the Sounders started quickly, getting the ball out to Steve Zakuani out on the wing, and even though they were missing regular Brad Evans, Andy Rose filled in well in controlling the midfield with Osvaldo Alonso. The Timbers had an erratic start and it was a lazy back-pass from Diego Chara, which allowed Zakuani to race down the left by-line and feed the cross to Eddie Johnson for the goal in the 13th minute.
From that point on, Seattle allowed Portland to find their feet and get back into the game. Now Seattle didn’t go into the tank, but they never took charge of the match. They let Portland have more possession and allowed them almost twice as many attempts on goal. This culminated in an unmarked Rodney Wallace tying the match in the 90th minute. The Sounders should have closed this match out. It was highly impressive that they were able to take the lead so early without having their midfield maestro Mauro Rosales on the field, a player that they depend on so much. But when they added Rosales in the 61 minute and new acquired Obafemi Martins in the 70th minute they should have put their foot on the throat on the Timbers. It was a strange on-field atmosphere for such a highly competitive derby match. It lacked the usually contempt and intensity that we have become accustomed to in the Cascadia Cup. Perhaps the Seattle did have a letdown after their mid-week CONCACAF Champions League match.
With the whole team putting forth a lackluster effort, one player stood out and that was Mario Martinez. It seems he hasn’t found his stride yet this season. Not that he isn’t playing well, but he is not having the same impact as their opposite winger, Steve Zakuani. Only Sammy Ochoa had less successful passes on the night. Perhaps he is player who doesn’t find his own game, it appears he wants service rather than winning the ball and attacking the wing like his counterpart. Time will tell, but with one point on the season, the Seattle Sounders will have to start proving to their fans and themselves, that they have what it takes to be champions.