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Portland Timbers

by: DeNISE FARWELL, Portland’s Andrew Gregor (right) and Edwin Miranda of Puerto Rico scramble to head the ball in their match Saturday at PGE Park.

Next: Portland is at Seattle's Qwest Field on May 5 and then home against the Sounders on May 11. The only other meeting is Aug. 1 at Seattle. … The Sounders are 0-1 after a 1-0 loss at Vancouver. Seattle, like Portland, missed the playoffs last year. And the Sounders have had to replace key forwards Maykel Galindo and Cam Weaver. … Forward Greg Howes, an indoor star who had previous outdoor stints with Portland and Seattle, is back with the Sounders. New in Seattle is ex-Timber midfielder Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar.

• Portland - physical, more balanced and deeper than last season - outshot visiting Puerto Rico 16-9 on Saturday at PGE Park to win its season opener 3-1.

'We did everything right. Everything,' forward Chris Bagley says. 'We showed we can get the ball down and keep possession and go forward, and defend. Everything we worked on in preseason we did. To be on the same page this early in the season, that's a giant step.'

'We came out flying,' says Troy Ready, a second-year Timber who had a lively game wide left in midfield. Twice, he nearly scored, hitting a post on both ends of the field.

• The result stamps Portland as a playoff contender, especially with eight of the 12 teams qualifying. 'I think the rest of the league will take notice,' midfielder Andrew Gregor says.

• With two screaming free kicks, Gregor matched the two goals he scored in 13 games with the Timbers in 2004. He also came up empty on two penalty kicks against Puerto Rico. 'The first PKs I've missed in probably three or four years,' he says. 'It's a weird game sometimes.'

• Central defender Justin Thompson played 52 games, starting 49, this season for Worcester City in England. 'A strong defender and powerful in the air,' says Steve Carley of the Worcester News. 'He also comes forward for set pieces and is a threat in the opposition penalty area.' Thompson, listed at 6-4 and 200 pounds, is said to be physical but managed to pick up only three yellow cards for Worcester this season.