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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Playing man down, Sounders cough up equalizer, settle for draw vs. Timbers

Jayda Evans Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Debate after Saturday’s meltdown might focus on a silly rule regarding getting a yellow card for removing your shirt to celebrate a goal.

But the question is how did the Sounders allow Dairan Asprilla to, again, spark his Portland Timbers team? The midfielder’s header in the 67th minute — his first touch since subbing on in the same minute — helped propel an unlikely comeback.

Instead of getting their first Cascadia derby win at Lumen Field since 2017, the Sounders were stuck with a 2-2 draw.

The home side played a man down the final 37 minutes. Leo Chu was shown a second yellow in the 53rd minute for a bad foul. The first yellow was for excessive celebration after scoring a goal in the 30th minute and ripping his shirt off — an automatic booking no matter how many people globally don’t like it.

With the Sounders disheveled, Portland midfielder Evander had the beautiful equalizer from outside the box in the 70th minute.

The Sounders had a lead at Providence Park in April when Asprilla used a bicycle kick to score a goal that broke the Sounders in the 71st minute. Portland won the match 4-1.

Saturday’s draw was just as disappointing.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer didn’t really want to share the decisions his staff would have to make if striker Raul Ruidiaz couldn’t net his first goal since June.

Concern washed away nine minutes into the derby. With a goal and an assist, Ruidiaz appeared to revive the Sounders on a picturesque, late-summer night.

Ruidiaz was in the right spot at the back post to head the game’s opening goal into the back of the net. His celebrations wove from being congratulated by teammates, tucking the ball under his shirt like a pregnant belly and a massive smile toward the Sounders bench. Schmetzer gestured two thumbs up back at Ruidiaz.

The goal tied Ruidiaz with Sounders original Fredy Montero for the record against Portland at nine apiece. Since signing with Seattle in 2018, Ruidiaz has scored in 12 of his 16 matches against the Timbers.

Portland defender Juan Mosquera conceded the corner that set up Ruidiaz’s scoring play. Teammate Albert Rusnak sent the ball into the box where defender Jackson Ragen head flicked it backward for Ruidiaz to head home as designed on the training ground.

Ruidiaz’s assist was due to his defending alongside Chu. The latter picked off a pass, Ruidiaz tapping the ball ahead for a racing Chu. The midfielder then put on a show. He headed the ball further downfield to beat three defenders with his pace and used the insole of his right foot to delicately slip the ball past Portland keeper David Bingham in the 30th minute.

Referee Jon Freemon was just as swift to show Chu a yellow card.

As spectacular as the goals were to witness at Lumen — something that hasn’t happened in abundance in an MLS match since a 3-0 win against St. Louis City SC in April — it was goal-line stand that received the loudest roar and had most of the 37,031 out of their seats.

Ragen had a nice tackle in the box that Portland striker Felipe Mora collected for a shot at goal. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei was there for the save in the 40th minute, but Mora sent a header back at goal that Joao Paulo cleared off the line with a header. Nouhou added a bicycle kick clearance and Chu kicked out of play to complete the escape from danger.

Evander missed a free kick attempt from deep just wide of goal in first-half stoppage time, the Sounders entering the break leading 2-0.

Then everything changed.

Nico Lodeiro recorded assists in the team’s past two matches but was on the bench Saturday. He played 90 minutes in the road win against Austin FC and was one of five changes from the midweek match.

Schmetzer’s main change was slotting Ruidiaz back up top with Jordan Morris playing on the right wing.

Seattle has a two-week layoff before three consecutive road matches, beginning with a trip to play FC Dallas on Sept. 16.