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PK starts 2-0 first half that buries Sounders in second leg of MLS Western Conference semifinals

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Portland Timbers defender Pa Modou Kah (center) and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts (right) hug Pdefender Mamadou 'Futty' Danso after Danso scored the Timbers' third goal Thursday night against the Seattle Sounders.The Portland Timbers' season of magic continued Thursday night.

And, for the Timbers and the announced crowd of 20,674, advancing in the MLS playoffs could not have been any sweeter than doing it against the Timbers' archrival, the Seattle Sounders.

After beating the Sounders 2-1 in Seattle last Saturday, Portland already had Seattle on the ropes before the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals began. The Timbers needed only a draw to advance on aggregate goals. Instead, they went for the Sounders’ jugular.

Portland jumped to a 3-0 lead, then faltered a bit as the Sounders scored two goals in the 74th and the 76th minutes. The Timbers were able to hold on for a 3-2 win, though, and advanced with a 5-3 aggregate advantage.

Will Johnson and Diego Valeri scored goals in the first half, Mamadou “Futty” Danso added a goal in the second half and Rodney Wallace recorded two assists.

“When we had it going, we were very relentless,” Timbers coach Caleb Porter said. “Our ruthlessness getting to goal was very good. We should’ve had more goals. In the end, we were the better team and we deserved to move on in the series.”

The Timbers will play Sunday at Real Salt Lake in the first game of the two-game Western Conference championship series. RSL advanced by defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 on aggregate goals.

The short turnover is the result of a FIFA competition. After the first match on Sunday, there will be a two-week break before the clubs play again in Portland on Nov. 24.

“We’re three games away (from the league championship), and we have two teams in our way,” Porter said. “The players are happy, but they won’t be truly happy unless we win it all. We’ve got a difficult team ahead of us. But we’re getting closer.”

Trailing by one goal, Seattle needed to chase the match from the opening whistle. It was the Timbers who came out firing, though.

The Timbers took a commanding lead in the 29th minute.

Defender Jack Jewsbury dribbled into the right corner of the 18-yard box. Just as Jewsbury got into the box, the ball bounced high and caught defender Djimi Traore on the hand. Referee Hilario Grajeda made the call, and the Timbers were awarded a penalty kick.

“I was trying to get around him, and I was around him (when the handball occurred),” Jewsbury said. “The reality is it hit his hand. I’m not a guy who usually stops mid-play. But it was so obvious to me that I turned around.”

Johnson lined up for the PK. He sent it down the middle, Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning dove to his right and the Timbers had a 1-0 lead.

“He moved a little early, and I put it to the other side,” Johnson said.

Portland tacked on another goal in the 44th minute.

Wallace played a ball to Valeri. The Timbers midfielder chased it down just in front of the 6-yard box. As he reached the ball, two Sounders defenders were closing in on him. Valeri slid and got his boot on the ball. He put enough on his shot to send it to the left of Gspurning and into the back of the net.

The Timbers controlled only .475 percent of the possession in the first half, but it felt like more, as Portland took eight shots and put five balls on frame. Seattle shot four times with one attempt on goal.

The Timbers continued to be the aggressors as the second half began, taking a 3-0 lead in the 47th minute.

Wallace played a ball into the box. Danso reached it before any of the Sounders. He dove for it five yards from goal, got his head on it and sent it in, to the left post.

“It was a set play,” Danso said. “I saw that Rodney had the ball, and I just gambled and ran for it.”

With a trip to the conference championship round assured, Portland pulled off the throttle after Danso’s goal.

The Sounders took advantage in the 74th minute.

After a throw-in, the ball bounced around the box. Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts was unable to smother it. Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin got to the ball and, from two yards, slipped it inside the right post to make the game score 3-1.

Seattle struck again in the 76th minute.

Yedlin had the ball on the right side. He sent a volley into the six-yard box. Striker Eddie Johnson knocked a header to Ricketts' right, making the score 3-2.

“It’s a reminder that if you let your guard down in this sport, you’ll get punched in the nose,” Porter said. “Soccer games turn in a moment.”

The Sounders tried desperately to find another goal, but to no avail.

The Timbers finished with .452 percent of the possession. Both clubs had 13 shots, but Portland put six balls on frame to three shots on goal by the Sounders.

And, as the final whistle sounded, the noise from the crowd was deafening.

The Timbers' celebration will have to be shortlived. Porter said that the Timbers will be ready for Real Salt Lake by Sunday.

“With the two-game series (against the Sounders), we exerted some energy, but we were able to reserve a bit in the tank,” he said. “Would you like to have a week off? Yeah. These are big games. But Salt Lake is in the same situation as us.”

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