SEATTLE – Only one result would do Sunday.
As the Sounders faced a bitter rival of almost 40 years and drew another record home crowd, as flags waved and bellowing chants filled CenturyLink Field, only a win would suffice.
Eddie Johnson scored in the 60th minute on a finely placed free kick by Mauro Rosales, and that was all the hosts would need in front of 67,385, the largest soccer crowd this city has ever seen, to earn a 1-0 win against the Portland Timbers.
The Sounders’ fourth win in five games and the home debut of U.S. national team star Clint Dempsey drew the second-largest attendance in MLS history for a game that wasn’t part of an international doubleheader.
Seattle (11-8-4) improved to 3-1-3 against the Timbers in the MLS era of a rivalry that dates to 1975 in the old North American Soccer League.
The win was secured on a familiar combination, as Rosales curled in a picturesque cross that Johnson rose high to head past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
Johnson has been especially dangerous in the rivalry with four goals in five games against Portland, most among active players. Overall, his 61 career MLS goals are tied for 22nd in league history.
Rosales earned his team-high sixth assist on the play after entering as a second-half substitute. His 32 career assists rank second in the franchise record books behind Fredy Montero’s 34.
Portland (9-4-12) had a chance to equalize in the 88th minute, but Darlington Nagbe’s blistering shot from distance was tipped away on a diving effort by goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. A couple heart-stopping headers in stoppage time went safely into the hands of Gspurning.