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Focus fine, but finish lacking for Timbers in 3-2 loss to Sounders

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Diego Chara lays dejectedly on the Jeld-Wen Field turf after the Portland Timbers' 3-2 loss Sunday to Seattle Sounders FC.

A large, white dry-erase board stood in the Portland Timbers' locker room with the itinerary for the match against the Seattle Sounders written on it. The last item read: '1:10 kickoff', followed by the words 'focus' and 'finish.'

Focus was not the issue Sunday as the Timbers took on their MLS archrival in a fierce derby match at Jeld-Wen Field.

Portland's problem was the finish.

After going into halftime tied 0-0, Portland twice went up by a goal. Each time, the Timbers allowed Seattle to score the equalizer. Then, in the 83rd minute, Osvaldo Alonso converted a penalty kick to give the Sounders a 3-2 victory and hand Portland its seventh straight match without a win.

'Getting beat by your biggest rivals when you've got the lead and you give up two goals, I wouldn't say it's unacceptable, but you've got to finish the game off,' Timbers coach John Spencer said.

The first half could not have been more even. Both defenses mostly marked so tightly, the only way either club could have scored was on an incredible play. When the defenses loosened just enough to allow a shot, both goalkeepers did what was needed to keep the score 0-0.

'I wouldn't necessarily say we played the best first half of the year, but we get into (the locker room) with a shutout, which is key,' Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury said.

The Timbers (5-9-3, 18 points) came out in the second half like a side playing for honor and pride.

In the 46th minute, Portland's Kalif Alhassan - playing striker for the first time this season - made a glorious run down the right side. He sliced his way through Seattle defenders and, as he got inside the 6-yard-box, fired a shot toward the far post.

Seattle defender Jeff Parke tried to challenge the shot. He stuck out his leg and deflected the ball to the near post. Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller was just a breath too late getting over, and the ball found the back of the net for an own goal.

'Anytime you get in those dangerous positions, you make it hard on those backs,' Jewsbury said. 'Kalif got it to the end line, and anytime you fire it across, you're going to get some own goals like that. It was fortunate, but we were forcing the issue.'

Seattle (9-4-8, 35 points) refused to go quietly into the blazing afternoon sun before an announced sellout crowd of 18,627.

In the 57th minute, the Timbers' James Marcelin received a yellow card for a reckless foul on Seattle striker Fredy Montero.

Montero lined up on the left side to take the free kick from 30 yards out. Montero hit a laser over the Timbers' wall. The shot was so hard, it beat goalkeeper Troy Perkins to the near post, and the score was tied 1-1.

'The back four didn't step up, and I have to cover for them,' Marcelin said. 'No matter what, I'm behind. I guess it's a foul outside the box. And then it's a free kick, and he just scored the goal.'

In the 69th minute, the Timbers' two Colombians showed what South American soccer is all about. Midfielder Diego Chara took the ball up the pitch and got it to striker Jorge Perlaza, who was unmarked along the right touchline.

'It synchronized,' Chara said, through a translator. 'We've been spending a lot of time through the years together, so we kind of know the other.'

Perlaza showed his blistering speed as he went toward the goal. Just as the defense closed around him, Perlaza hammered the ball to the near post. Keller dove too far toward the post, and the ball found the back of the net to put Portland up 2-1.

'I was happy because at the moment it gave us a victory,' Chara said.

It was not to be, though.

In the 74th minute, the Sounders pieced together a brilliant execution of passing, and Montero scored his second goal of the match to tie the score.

Lamar Neagle had the ball on the right side, just outside the 18-yard box. He sent a cross to Mauro Rosales on the left side. The Sounders midfielder sent the ball into the box. The pass found Montero, who raised his leg as high as he possibly could to get his boot on the ball. Montero's shot down the middle of the goal, just under the crossbar.

'They got a cross to the back post and had a lot of guys back there,' Timbers defender Steve Purdy said. 'We were definitely mismatched with numbers, and they were able to get a good shot and scored.'

In the 81st minute, Timbers defender Eric Brunner all but handed the match to the Sounders when he fouled Neagle inside the 18-yard box. Brunner got a red card, and the Sounders were awarded a penalty kick.

'Ball got clipped over, he had position on me,' Brunner said. 'But I felt that I reached around. I felt like I got the ball. Maybe my foot was a little high. The (referee) didn't give me an explanation. He just pulled his red card out. He said I clipped him. I think I got the ball first.'

Sounders midfielder Alonso lined up to take the PK - and sent it to the bottom corner at the right post. Perkins guessed correctly, but Alonso put too much venom on the shot. The ball went into the back of the net, and the Sounders were on top 3-2.

'I felt like I let the team down,' Brunner said. 'It's never a good feeling to get a red card and put the team in a hole like that and to give up a PK for their game- winning goal.'

The Timbers will be on the road - where they are winless this season - the next two weeks, playing the Chicago Fire on July 16 and the Columbus Crew on July 23. As Portland looks to find a way to break its losing streak, Spencer said it is the players who must stand up and be counted.

'It's a tough stretch, we know that,' Spencer said. 'It's going to be a big blow for us today. There are only so many things you can do to get yourself out of it. (The players') confidence is low a little bit. But it's only us who can get ourselves out of it.'