SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
Timbers grind out a 2-1 playoff win over Seattle
In what was one of the most physical and hard fought matches at PGE Park in quite awhile, the Portland Timbers fought back from an early 1-0 deficit to grind out a tough 2-1 win over the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of the two-game aggregate goal first round playoff series. Andrew Gregor scored the game-winner on a late penalty kick and Byron Alvarez scored the first Timbers goal. Roger Levesque had the lone goal for the Sounders in a match played in front of 4,863.
It was obvious from the opening whistle it was going to be a physical match, a typical Sounders/Timbers contest. Portland's Byron Alvarez had the first really good chance in the 10th minute when his header towards the far post was collected by Seattle goalkeeper Preston Burpo.
Five minutes later, an apparent Timbers goal, or at least a great one-on-one chance, was negated by an offside call from the center referee. Two minutes later, the Sounders took an early lead when a series of passes in the Timbers box, from Jonathan Bolanos, to Kevin Sakuda, to Roger Levesque found the Sounders striker open at the far post, where he tapped the ball into the net to stun the Timbers crowd and give the Sounders a 1-0 lead.
For the next ten minutes it was the Sounders who controlled the run of play, with Billy Sleeth and Ben Somoza both getting good looks at goal, with the first shot being snared by Timbers goalkeeper Josh Saunders, and the second going just wide left.
By the 32nd minute, the momentum had swung back to the side of the Timbers, when a chip to the run of Alvarez had Burpo charging out, and losing the ball at the top of the box, but Portland's Alan Gordon was not able to get a foot on the ball quickly enough as he momentarily had an open net to shoot at, but the Sounders defense recovered before he could get to the ball and the ball was cleared.
In the 41st minute, Portland's Jake Sagare cut back across the top of the box and put a hard shot just wide left from 20 yards out. One minute later, a Timbers mistake very nearly gave the Sounders a two goal lead when Bolanos blocked a clearing attempt by Saunders, and the ball rebounded back towards the Timbers net, just barely going wide of the right post.
In the 43rd minute, a cross from Gordon found Alvarez wide open 6 yards out from net, but was unable to get the ball off his feet in time to put a shot on net. Portland's Edwin Miranda would then put a shot just wide left from 25 yards out, and then in stoppage time a shot from inside the box by Gordon was deflected just past the right post by a Sounders defender. The Timbers had another good chance just before the halftime whistle when the Timbers had a free kick just outside the box when Alvarez was fouled with an elbow to the face, but the free kick by Andrew Gregor was over the bar, and the half would end with the Sounders holding a 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes into the second half, the Timbers finally broke though when a hard, low cross into the box from Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar was redirected into the bottom right hand corner by Alvarez, and the Timbers had pulled level at 1-1.
The first good scoring chance of the second half for the Sounders was in the 64th minute when a Chad Brown header off a Somoza throw-in was redirected to the far post, but right into the hands of Saunders. In the 66th minute, a hard shot from near the corner of the 18 yard box by Levesque looked dangerous as it got past Saunders but went just wide of the far post. Three minutes later, Levesque was threatening to score again has a chip into his run had him briefly on a breakaway, but Portland defender Scot Thompson chased him down and knocked the ball away from the Seattle striker to end the threat.
In the 73rd minute the Timbers had another good opportunity to take the lead when a diving header by Gordon off a Gregor cross was saved by a sprawling save by Burpo. Three minutes later it was the Sounders threatening again, as another shot by Levesque went just wide, this time a blast from the top of the box that went just wide to the right.
In the 80th minute, a surprising turn of events decided the match when behind the play, as the Timbers were moving the ball to the far sideline, Sounders defender Marco Velez elbowed Alvarez in the nose, with the incident having taken place inside the Sounders 18 yard box. Center referee Nathan Lacy did not see the play as he had turned towards the ball and the foul happened behind him, but the assistant referee saw the play and had raised his flag immediately. The referees conferred and Velez was immediately ejected, with the Timbers being awarded a penalty kick. Gregor stepped up and buried the penalty kick right down the middle as Burpo dove to his right, the fourth successful penalty for the Timbers in four attempts this season, and the Timbers had a late 2-1 lead.
Both teams had a few decent chances in the final ten minutes, but neither team seriously threatened to score, and the match would end at 2-1 for the Timbers, who will have a one-goal lead as the match enters it's second leg on Sunday in Seattle.