Timbers push back Sounders with 2-1 playoff win

PORTLAND, Ore. - In another hotly contested match between two long-time rivals, the Portland Timbers took a 2-1 goal advantage Wednesday night over the Seattle Sounders in the first game of their Western Conference Semifinal series before 4,863 at PGE Park.

Byron Alvarez and Andrew Gregor leveled both Portland goals in the second half as the Timbers rallied from a 0-1 deficit at halftime.

Portland extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games with the win and has taken six of its last seven meetings against Seattle dating back to last season.

The victory puts the Timbers up one goal entering the final match of the two-game, aggregate goal semifinal series between the two clubs on Sunday in Seattle.

The team with the most combined goals after Sunday’s contest will move on to play Minnesota or Vancouver for the Western Conference title.

Seattle went up 1-0 in the 17th when Roger Levesque managed to get a foot on an errant ball inside the box, trickling it into the left side of the net. Kevin Sakuda was credited with the assist.

From Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar’s left foot to Alvarez’ right, the Timbers pulled the series even in the 52nd minute. Alcaraz-Cuellar moved left and centered inside the box to Alvarez, who flicked it into the back of the net.

Things got rough in the 78th when Seattle defender Marco Velez elbowed Alvarez in the face inside the box, resulting in an automatic red card ejection and a penalty kick awarded to the Timbers.

Gregor, a former Sounder, took full advantage, and as Seattle goalkeeper Preston Burpo dove left, Gregor struck right for the 2-1 advantage on the penalty kick.

The Sounders have drawn red cards in three of five contests against Portland this season and collected four yellow cards and 18 fouls in Wednesday’s physical contest between the rival clubs.

Alvarez seemingly scored earlier in the 16th in a one-on-one situation, but the goal was waived off as Alvarez was called for a foul.

Portland had plenty of first-half chances, out-shooting the Sounders 8-4 in the period, but could not take advantage of the effort.

Edwin Miranda launched a shot from 30 yards out in the 44th, but it flew wide and to the right.

Alan Gordon collected three shots in the half, including a bouncing attempt that missed its mark to the right of the far post.

Levesque gave Seattle their best shot at a goal in the second half, crossing a ball just past the far post in the 66th minute.

Gordon spun a feed from Gregor off his head in the 73rd, but missed into the hands of Burpo.

The second leg of the two-game series moves to Qwest Field in Seattle on Sunday, Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. (Pacific).

TIMBERS NOTES: The Timbers are now 3-4 in A-League playoff games … Portland is 2-0 at Seattle this season … former Timbers Darren Sawatzky and Ben Somoza both saw action for the Sounders.

SCORING SUMMARY: Levesque, 17th (Sakuda); Alvarez, 52nd (Alcaraz-Cuellar); Gregor, 81’ (PK).

PENALTY SUMMARY: SEA Bolanos, YC (28’), Sleeth, YC (38’), Burpo, YC (45’), Velez, RC (79’), Scott, YC (87’); POR Winters, YC (47’).

LINEUPS: SEATTLE (1-2) Burpo GK, Velez D, Jackson D, Scott D, Sleeth M, Somoza M, Farrell M, Sakuda M, Callahan M (Brown 62’), Bolanos F (Sawatzky 77’), Levesque F; PORTLAND (2-1) J. Saunders GK, Wilkinson D, Morrison D, Thompson D, Alcaraz-Cuellar M, Winters M, Gregor M, Miranda M, Sagare M, Alvarez F (Afash 82’), Gordon F.