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Thursday, September 02, 2004 - Page updated at 12:08 A.M.
By Mike Weber
PORTLAND Former Sounder Andrew Gregor scored on a controversial penalty kick in the 78th minute last night, lifting the Portland Timbers to a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders in the A-League Western Conference playoffs at PGE Park.
Seattle defender Marco Velez was ejected after being called for a hard foul on Byron Alvarez, leading to Gregor's kick.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer disagreed with the call.
"I thought that we played extremely well, but I'm pretty upset about the way we lost, with the referees dictating the outcome of the game. And that's what's so disappointing," Schmetzer said. "The officials needed to do a better job maintaining control without affecting the outcome of the game, which is what they did tonight."
Seattle (13-11-4) was whistled for 18 fouls, while Portland (18-7-3) had eight.
"It's obvious the referees favored the home team," Schmetzer said. "We didn't deserve all those fouls, but I don't know why they felt otherwise."
The two-game series decided by the team which scores the most total goals moves to Seattle for a 5 p.m. matchup Sunday at Qwest Field.
The winner advances to the conference finals to meet the winner of the Vancouver-Minnesota series. The Western Conference champion will play the Eastern champion for the league title Sept. 18.
Playing last night without starting defender Ryan Edwards (groin injury) and leading scorer Welton Melo (hip injury), Seattle appeared poised for a huge upset in the Sounders' first postseason meeting with Portland, which had beaten Seattle in three of four regular-season games this year.
Alvarez, Portland's leading scorer (17 goals), tied the score in the 54th minute.
Portland outshot Seattle 14-7. But the penalty was on the Sounders' minds after the match.
"Unfortunately, a couple of calls by officials didn't go our way in the second half and we just didn't get a favorable result," Levesque said. "We feel optimistic though about returning home for Game 2, and we're confident that we can win Sunday. Every game against Portland is always tough, but it's a must-win situation now, and we have to prove that we deserve to move on to the conference finals."
Schmetzer said Melo, who leads Seattle with 10 goals, will play Sunday.
"And it will be nice to have him back since he's our leading scorer," Schmetzer said. "And hopefully playing at home will also provide us with some momentum, too."
Portland 2, Seattle 1
Scoring:1. SEA Roger Levesque (Kevin Sakuda assist) 16:34: 2. POR Byron Alvarez (Hugo Alcaraz assist) 51:32; 3. POR-Andrew Gregor (UA) 80:56. Shots:SEA 7, POR 14 Saves:Sea (Burpo) 4, Por (Saunders) 3. Fouls- Sea 18, Por 8. Offsides- Sea 2, Por 2. Corner Kicks- Sea 3, Por 3. Cautions SEA (Jonathan Bolanos, 27:30); SEA (Billy Sleeth, 37:22); SEA (Preston Burpo, 44:07); POR (Brian Winters, 46:23); SEA (Zach Scott 86:24). Ejections SEA (Marco Velez, 78:27). Att.:4,863.
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