Brian Schmetzer has praised back-up goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland for his performance in Seattle Sounders’ 6-2 win over fierce rivals Portland Timbers.
For the Sounders, it was a priceless victory that ends a three-game winless streak in MLS play, though any triumph over the Timbers is treasured in this part of the world.
Seattle eventually ran out emphatic winners, but it could have been very different were it not for Cleveland’s performance. The Timbers had 21 attempts on the night, with nine hitting the target – enough to generate 2.1xG.
But filling in for number one keeper Stefan Frei, who is nursing a knee injury, Cleveland stood tall to earn three points for his side and praise from his manager.
“Stefan Cleveland had a very, very, very good game,” Schmetzer told reporters (via Seattle Sounders’ official website). “He was tremendous in goal.
“He did everything well. He made the saves when he had to. The couple of goals that went in, I’m not so sure he could have done anything about them.
“He is developing into a fine goalkeeper, and it’s all credit to my very good friend [club director of goalkeeping] Tom Dutra. He works those guys very hard, and all that hard work is what you’re seeing on the field.”
Seen by many as MLS‘ greatest rivalry, games between Seattle and Portland always generate an incredible atmosphere, and it was the intensity of playing in Portland’s Providence Park Stadium that inspired Cleveland to pull out such a heroic performance.
“These are the games that you watch on TV growing up, and these are the ones you dream about, the big rivalry games,” the goalkeeper said. “You always hear Seattle-Portland, the biggest rivalry in MLS. So, to be a part of it, I love playing the away rivalry games because the energy from the crowd energizes me and gives me that extra motivation.”
Sunday’s win leaves the Sounders second in the Western Conference, just a point adrift of leaders Sporting Kansas City. Next up are away trips to FC Dallas and Columbus Crew before hosting the Timbers during Rivalry Week.