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Monday, September 06, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Sounders reach next round of playoffs

By Matt Massey
Special to The Seattle Times

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Sounders forward Welton hasn't practiced much all season because of nagging injuries. He chose not to play in the Sounders' playoff opener and sat out of practice all week with a troublesome left hip injury.

But in the end, it was well done, Welton.

The Brazilian-born forward scored the only goal as the Sounders stayed alive with a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers in Game 2 of the A-League Western Conference two-match aggregate semifinal series last night in front of 3,490 fans at Qwest Field. He scored again 10 minutes into the first 15-minute series overtime tiebreaker as Seattle advanced to the conference finals with a 3-2 goals advantage over the Timbers.

"That's his job — to come in and score goals," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of Welton. "I don't care what he does from the eighth minute to the 99th minute."

Teammates ribbed Welton for his low-stress training week but couldn't argue with the results.

"He's one of the most clinical finishers I've seen," said Sounders veteran Darren Sawatzky, who subbed in before overtime and assisted on the winning goal with a right end-line feed. "You've got to have guys like that on the field. He's bittersweet sometimes, but he scores goals, and that makes us happy."

The Sounders (17-12-4) move on to face another Pacific Northwest nemesis, the Vancouver Whitecaps, in the Western Conference finals at Qwest Field. The first game is tentatively scheduled for Friday.

"I felt good for this game," Welton said. "I just score goals and we win the game."

First, the conference's fourth-seeded Sounders had to fight back after losing Game 1 of the Portland series 2-1 on Wednesday when Welton elected not to play. Then, after a 1-0 win in regulation yesterday, Welton's golden goal vanquished the Timbers, the conference's No. 1 seed and owner of the league's best regular-season record.

The Sounders, who went 23-4-1 for the best season mark in 2002 and fell to Vancouver in the first round, know the feeling the Timbers took home. But there was little sympathy as Portland (20-9-3) talked smack before, during and after the series.

"They've been saying to the newspapers all week that they were going to beat us easily, well it was Tiiiiimbbberrr," Sawatzky said, mocking the club he played for in 2001. "Down they go. A team that says they're going to beat you, it feels good to beat them."

Welton's winner came on the left side. Sawatzky punched the ball through a crowd, past fallen teammate Roger Levesque and to a wide-open Welton, who hammered a shot into the upper middle portion of the net.

"I got buried by somebody, but I saw the ball rolling, and I said to Welton, 'Make sure,' " said Levesque of the OT winner. "Welton, that's his thing. He just buried it."

Seattle evened the aggregate series at two goals apiece with last night's 1-0 victory, forcing a series overtime tiebreaker, which consists of two "golden goal" 15-minute OT sessions. But it never got to the second OT.

Sounders 1, Timbers 0

(Seattle wins series tiebreaker in first OT)

Timbers 0 0 — 0
Sounders 1 0 — 1
Scoring — Sea: 1, Welton (Sleeth) 5:00. Series OT tiebreaker — 1, Welton (Sawatzky) 10:00, 1OT. Shots — Por 14, Sea 15. Saves — Por (Saunders) 3, Sea (Burpo) 5. Fouls — Por 9, Sea 11. Offsides — Por 0, Sea 1. Corner kicks — Por 3, Sea 2. Cautions — Por (Byron Alvarez 59:00), Sea (Billy Sleeth 20:00, Ryan Edwards 61:00, Zach Scott 82:00). Ejections — Por (None), Sea (None). Attendance — 3,490.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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