No one supporting Seattle wanted proof.
But they got a heap of it in the second half of the Cascadia rivalry with Portland at Providence Park. The Timbers were the equivalent of a barren forest with multiple key injuries and one victory to open the 2023 season.
None of it matters when playing a hated opponent. Portland emerged a thicket of powerful trees in a span of 19 minutes to defeat Seattle 4-1 on Saturday night. It's the Timbers' fourth consecutive win against the Sounders — first at their weakest — the Timbers also snapping the visitors' three-game winning streak.
"We gave them life," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. "I don't feel that it's a rivalry. At 1-0, we have to have that killer instinct against a team that's defeated us three games in a row. That's had our number. Stick the knife in and kill the game. ... After the game, some of our staff members, everybody talking and laughing, it's like another loss. It's not another loss. It's against the Timbers. All of us have to get back to understanding that this is a rivalry. That's what I said to everybody. It's not good enough. It's not good enough."
Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz — who received his second start of the season — opened the scoring with a slick goal in the 58th minute. Obed Vargas had the assist, cutting his pass back to Ruidiaz in the box.
Then the Timbers, who appeared outmatched the majority of the match, responded with vigor. Portland midfielder Dairon Asprilla used a bicycle kick to level the score in the 71st minute, reviving the majority of the 25,218 in attendance as the acrobatic play would do to any fan base.
Portland simply piled on with forward Nathan Fogaça freezing Sounders keeper Stefan Frei on his line with a shot from a Santiago Moreno assist in the 76th minute. In the 81st minute, Frei couldn't secure the rebound of an attempt, Timbers forward Jaroslaw Niezgoda using a left-footed flick to get his first goal of the season.
Juan Mosquera turned the loss to an embarrassment when his shot from outside the box in the 89th minute found the back of the net for Portland's fourth goal.
"I'm going to hold my hand up and say I kind of pushed too far," Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe said of how he tried to help when subbed on in the 80th minute for Nouhou and the Sounders down 2-1. "Maybe it was the rivalry, maybe it was the fact that I wanted to get us back into the game, but I left a big hole for [Sounders defenders] Jackson [Ragen] and Yeimar and they ended up getting two more. It's a lesson for an older guy as well to calm yourself down.
"The goal was to get after them. But it was the intelligence that kind of lost us toward the end because we scrambled. We attempted to put the game back on level terms and they countered."
Saturday was the 117th edition of the Cascadia rivalry and fans were seeing shades of red on the Providence Park field to start the match. Both teams wore their community kits, the Sounders draped in the red and black Bruce Lee look while Portland (2-4-2) dressed in their pinkish Heritage Rose jerseys.
The Sounders had multiple daring runs in the opening half. The best might have been in the 39th minute when winger Leo Chu nearly connected with Jordan Morris for a sixth time this season in the box. But Timbers defender Claudio Bravo was able to keep pace to deny the pass attempt.
Mosquera had his side's best attempt in first-half stoppage time that Frei saved.
Portland keeper Ajaz Ivacic had to reach high for a skillful save of a Morris shot to open the second half. He had four in the match.
Despite the loss, Seattle (5-2-1) remains a plug-and-play roster with three injuries forcing a different look for the club in the attack and Vargas becoming the latest to make an impact in his season-debut start. Vargas, who missed the bulk of last year with a lower back injury, replaced Josh Atencio (adductor) and played alongside Joao Paulo.
Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnak was out with a heel injury while Cristian Roldan was a late scratch due to suffering neck pain in the win against St. Louis City. He participated in training last week and was monitored for further concussion-related symptoms. A final evaluation Friday deemed it necessary for Roldan to be placed under concussion protocol.
The decision cleared a way to return Ruidiaz to the starting lineup and keep Chu and Morris on the field, albeit Morris playing on the right wing.
Roldan was called up along with Morris to participate in the U.S. men's national team's friendly against Mexico on Wednesday but it's now doubtful he'll be able to make the trip to Phoenix.
The Sounders' host Minnesota at Lumen Field next weekend.