PORTLAND – The plan was for Clint Dempsey to go 60 minutes and see how he was feeling less than 72 hours after playing 90 minutes in a U.S. national team exhibition against Mexico.
When the one-hour mark arrived, Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders were trailing rival Portland by two goals. He wasn’t about to check out.
Dempsey scored the first hat trick in his MLS career, including goals in the 85th and 87th minutes to help the Sounders rally for a wild 4-4 draw with the Timbers on Saturday.
“You always feel good when you are contributing, scoring goals or getting assists,” Dempsey said. “I’m in a good rhythm at the moment.”
Trailing 4-2 for most of the second half after goals from Diego Chara and Maximiliano Urruti early in the half gave Portland the advantage, Dempsey led Seattle’s stunning late comeback to earn a point in the first Cascadia Cup matchup of the season.
Dempsey scored in the 85th minute to get Seattle within 4-3, a goal that felt was coming with the pressure the Sounders were pushing forward. Seconds later, Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin was taken down in the penalty box by Portland’s Ben Zemanski and referee Hilario Grajeda immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Yedlin said he was hoping to draw a penalty on the play and Zemanski obliged by clipping the young Seattle defender’s ankle.
After a brief discussion with Gonzalo Pineda, who was expecting to take the penalty, Dempsey stepped up. He converted the chance, beating former Seattle goalkeeper Andrew Weber to get Seattle even.
The afternoon was an advertisement for the league, even if it gave the coaches heartburn. Play was wide open and end-to-end. There were four goals in the first 25 minutes – including goals from Seattle’s Kenny Cooper, Portland Diego Valeri and Dempsey – along with the two late scores.
And the biggest star on the field burned brightest even if he was a little tired at the end.
“He’s a leader. He wants to lead this team,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “And he wants to show people he’s ready for the World Cup. I think he did that today.”
Seattle walked off thrilled with the result and knowing there were other missed chances in the final minutes to get a winner. Meanwhile, the Timbers stood stunned as the worst start in their MLS history continued. The Timbers have just three points after five games, not the opening anyone in Portland expected after reaching the Western Conference finals last season.
“You should never tie a game if you score 4 goals,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said.
Chara was the star until Dempsey took over. On his 28th birthday, Chara scored in MLS play for the first time since 2011. His first goal in the ninth minute deflected off goalkeeper Stephen Frei’s hand but had enough force to get into the net. Chara’s second goal came from about 25 yards and Frei had no chance at the save. Both times, Seattle’s defenders failed to step up and defend Chara.