SEATTLE (AP) — Clint Dempsey was a spectator last time the Seattle Sounders played archrival Portland, kept off the field by a red-card suspension during a 3-1 loss.
This time, he took charge.
Dempsey scored twice and Cristian Roldan added a goal — all in the second half — in Seattle’s 3-1 victory over the Timbers on Sunday night.
In front of 53,302 fans at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders (9-12-3, 30 points) won their third straight game and extended their unbeaten streak to four (3-0-1). They climbed within two points of Portland (8-10-8, 32 points) for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“Once we got the (first) goal, that kind of opened things up,” Dempsey said. “They had to press forward to try to get the equalizer, and we were able to pick them apart. We pretty much put in a perfect performance except for conceding that (late) one.”
Portland, which got a goal from Fanendo Adi in second-half stoppage time, has lost four of its last five games and remains winless on the road (0-7-6).
Dempsey put Seattle on the board in the 61st minute when he converted a penalty kick past goalkeeper Jake Gleeson. The chance was set up when Roldan was taken down by defender Vytas Andriuskevicius just outside the box on the right-wing side. Dempsey, who missed a PK in last Sunday’s 2-1 victory against Real Salt Lake, drilled this try high into the left side with Gleeson going the opposite way.
In the 80th minute, Roldan sent a through ball toward the Portland penalty area. Demspey caught up with it, took two dribbles, and fired it into the back-right corner from just inside the restraining arc.
Before he scored either of those goals, Dempsey, who now has eight goals for the season, had a near miss on a wide-open shot from 17 yards straight in front.
“Early in the season, that would have been the only chance I got all game,” Dempsey said. “Now, when I miss a good chance, I’m going to have two or three more. When you fight hard and keep yourself in the game, you have people who can create opportunities, and that puts you in situations to get good looks.”
Roldan headed in a shot from inside the 6-yard box to make it 3-0 in the 83rd. It was his third of the year.
The Sounders’ current four-game unbeaten run has come since Brian Schmetzer was named interim coach after the team parted ways with longtime coach Sigi Schmid on July 26. Seattle has gone from well out of the playoff picture to right back into it.
“When you have a committed group of players, they can do the math, and they read some of the highlights in the stories that are out there that maybe the Sounders aren’t going to make the playoffs this year,” Schmetzer said. “But that’s a proud team, and their response has been tremendous. I think their confidence is high, and with each win, they believe more and more that they can win the next one.”
The Timbers nearly had the equalizer twice in a span of 4 minutes. In the 63rd minute, Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei leaped to slap away a shot by Jack McInerney, and defender Joevin Jones then cleared it away from an open right side of the net.
Four minutes later, Frey went down at the top of his 6-yard box and denied McInerney in a one-on-one chance, stopping the shot with his right hand.
“We have a chance to redeem ourselves next weekend,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said, “and we will.”
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