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Sunday, May 02, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By Matt Massey
PORTLAND In boxing parlance, the Seattle Sounders took a stunning jab and never recovered.
They couldn't get off the ropes.
Dazed by Alan Gordon's chip-shot goal after just 21 seconds last night, the Sounders never recovered in falling to the Portland Timbers 2-1 in the A-League season opener for both teams before 6,891 fans at PGE Park.
Seattle, which played a man down for the final 48 minutes after defender Ryan Edwards' ejection, never got in sync on offense. New Sounders forward Welton missed the game with a strained groin.
The Sounders showed fight in the second half, but it was too late after the slow start.
"It couldn't have started any worse," said Sounders goalkeeper Preston Burpo, whose last two trips to Portland have been forgettable after breaking his jaw 15 minutes into last season's opener. "The blame is all me. Things just didn't go our way."
Portland snapped a two-match losing streak to the Sounders in home openers.
Seattle outshot Portland 8-7, but that was little consolation.
"It's tough to crawl out of a hole like that so early on," said Sounders midfielder Jason Farrell.
"Obviously, you don't want to give a goal away that early in a game," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. "Ryan gave the ball away and the back three were a little too tight. The suddenness of the goal caught us off guard and it was a boost for them."
Schmetzer was glad to see some resolve after halftime.
"We better respond," he said. "Hopefully we can use this as an early-season wake-up call."
Portland went in front 2-0 when Byron Alvarez volleyed a shot neatly inside the right post from a tough angle, beating a frozen Burpo in the 71st minute.
In the 75th minute, the Sounders cut the Portland lead to 2-1 when Kyle Smith, the team's leading goal-scorer in 2003, tucked a shot into the right corner off a feed from Farrell.
"That goal was an important goal since this is an Open Cup qualifier," Farrell said. "It will make the game against them in a couple of weeks more interesting."
Seattle hosts Portland on May 15 in the second leg of two U.S. Open Cup qualifiers.
The Sounders' next match is their home opener Saturday at 7 p.m. at Seahawks Stadium against the expansion Edmonton Aviators.
Play got chippy around the 26th minute when Seattle's Billy Sleeth and Portland's Lee Morrison got into a shoving match after Sleeth's unsportsmanlike behavior resulted in a yellow card.
In the 29th minute, the Timbers' Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar was issued a yellow card for a hard tackle that led to an altercation with Seattle's Sean Michael-Callahan and Kyle Smith.
Edwards took an early exit in the 42nd minute with a red card during a loose-ball tangle in front of the Timbers' open goal. Edwards was booted for foul play, ultimately shoving Portland defender Gavin Wilkinson in the face and leaving Seattle down a man for the final 48 minutes.
Portland 2, Seattle 1
Scoring: POR: 1, Alan Gordon (David Henning assist) 1:00; POR 2, Byron Alvarez (Hugo Alcarez-Cuellar assist) 71:00. SEA: 1, Kyle Smith (Jason Farrell assist) 75:00. Shots: Sea 8, Por 7. Saves: Sea (Preston Burpo) 2, Por (Josh Saunders) 3. Fouls: Sea 16, Por 21. Offsides: Sea 3, Por 1. Corner kicks: Sea 4, Por 2. Cautions: Sea (Billy Sleeth 26:00, Kyle Smith 76:00, Marco Velez 90:00), Por (Hugo Alcarez Cuellar 29:00). Ejections: Sea (Ryan Edwards 42:00), Por (None). Att: 6,891
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