The Portland Timbers seem to be kicking into high gear, but they know that their road to the A-League playoffs still goes through Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

The Timbers, who got off to a feeble 0-5 start last season, are 2-3 going into Sunday's 5 p.m. match against Seattle at Seahawks Stadium.

Portland already is 0-2 this season against Seattle and 0-1 against Vancouver in the always competitive struggle for Northwest soccer supremacy.

The other team in the four-team Pacific Division is Calgary, with only the top two finishers qualifying for the playoffs.

Only 10 of Portland's 28 regular-season games will come against teams in other divisions. The Timbers are scheduled to play Seattle, Vancouver and Calgary six times each.

'So we've got to measure up against Seattle and Vancouver,' Portland coach Bobby Howe says.

This is the third year of A-League soccer in Portland.

'We had a lot of players with experience in year one, and that basically got us through,' Howe says. 'Last year we had a little more pace Ñ but less experience.

'This year, we have a younger team, with more strength and more depth. Overall, once we get going, I think this is probably going to be a stronger team than last year's.'

The Timbers' front line is showing how dangerous it can be. Fadi Afash has scored a goal in three straight games. McKinley Tennyson broke through with his first two goals of the season in Wednesday's 4-1 win over Calgary before an announced crowd of 2,772 at PGE Park.

The only other Portland player to score this season is Jason Melendez, who moved from midfield to the front line in the late stages Wednesday and knocked in the game's final goal.

The biggest concern is the goalkeeping. Rookie Curtis Spiteri, from the University of Portland, and A-League veteran Cole Burgman have divided the duties, and neither has made Timber fans forget Matt Napoleon, the strong keeper of 2001-02 who retired to go into private business.

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