Sounders FC got two first half goals and escaped from a wild atmosphere at PGE Park with a 2-1 win over the USL Portland Timbers in a U.S. Open Cup third-round match.

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PORTLAND — Roger Levesque had downplayed the animosity the Portland Timbers faithful have long felt for him, on Monday dismissing the hatred as a rallying point for Timbers fans against Seattle soccer teams.

But Levesque, a nemesis of the Timbers from the United Soccer Leagues days when the Sounders and Timbers were rivals in the same league, had something for the legions of Timbers Army supporters Wednesday night at PGE Park. It was an answer to their vitriol, and one that spurred Sounders FC to a 2-1 victory in the U.S. Open Cup third-round match.

Levesque headed in a cross from Sanna Nyassi in the first minute of play for a goal, stunning the Timbers and their fans that packed the downtown stadium. Then he took a swipe at the Timbers with his planned goal celebration.

The typically mild-mannered Levesque had teammate Nate Jaqua pretend to be a logger with an ax, and Levesque played a tree. Jaqua chopped at the air and Levesque fell back as if cut down. Tim-berrrrrr.

“That was for the fans,” Levesque said with a grin after the game. “We were just fortunate enough to get out of here with the win tonight.”

Sounders FC ruined the party for Portland soccer before a mostly partisan crowd of 16,382. The Timbers lost a chance to upset the Major League Soccer team from up the freeway and offered a glimpse of the future of this Northwest rivalry.

The Timbers, one of the USL First Division’s top teams, didn’t go down without a fight, however, and left fans of both sides with plenty of anticipation for two years from now.

That’s when Portland joins Sounders FC in MLS, along with Vancouver, B.C., to make the Northwest a cradle of high-level soccer in the United States. Based on last night’s atmosphere and sellout crowd — with a regional TV audience — it already is. On this night, in front of the largest crowd to watch a Timbers game since the team joined the USL in 2001, the boys from the big leagues reigned.

Seattle was the better offensive team in the first half with 11 shots to Portland’s eight. When midfielder Stephen King collected a loose ball off Jaqua’s foot and deposited it in the back of the net for a 2-0 Seattle lead at the 26-minute mark, a rout seemed to be in the making.

The Timbers fought back. Mandjou Keita fired a point-blank shot past goalkeeper Kasey Keller just before halftime.

Portland attacked more in the second half, but the tempo of the match fizzled over the final 20 minutes. Sounders FC took more of a defensive stand and held on to win.

“This is what a derby game is all about,” coach Sigi Schmid said, using the British term for a rivalry. “Once Portland comes into MLS, once Vancouver comes into MLS, it’s going to be something unique.”

Sounders FC won its third U.S. Open Cup match and advanced to the tournament quarterfinals, where the Kansas City Wizards of MLS await. Kansas City defeated Seattle at Qwest Field in an MLS match earlier this season.

Keller was red-carded in the first half of that match and ejected. This time, he has other plans, assuming he is the keeper when Seattle hosts the Wizards at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila on July 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Thursday at 10 a.m.

“I’ll try to stay on the field the whole time,” Keller said.

Sounders FC 2, Timbers 1

Seattle Sounders FC 2 0 — 2
Portland 1 0 — 1

First half — 1, Seattle, Roger Levesque (Sanna Nyassi, Stephen King), 1st minute; 2, Seattle, Stephen King (Nate Jaqua), 27th minute; 3, Portland, Mandjou Keita (David Hayes), 43rd minute. Second half — None. Goalies — Seattle FC, Kasey Keller; Portland, Steve Cronin. Yellow cards — Patrick Ianni, Seattle, 5′; David Hayes, Portland, 26′; Sanna Nyassi, Seattle, 59′; Tony McManus, Portland, 61′; James Riley, Seattle, 93’+. Total shots — Seattle 14, Portland 13. Shots on goal — Seattle 7, Portland 4. Total saves — Portland 5, Seattle 3. Fouls — Portland 12, Seattle 9. Corner kicks — Seattle 5, Portland 3. A — 16,382.

LINEUPS

Seattle FC — Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Nathan Sturgis, Sanna Nyassi, Peter Vagenas, Stephen King, Roger Levesque, Sebastien Le Toux, Nate Jaqua. Substitutions — Fredy Montero, Jarrod Smith, Tyson Wahl.

Portland — Steve Cronin, David Hayes, Cameron Knowles, Stephen Keel, Scot Thompson, Brian Farber, Johan Claesson, Keith Savage, Takayuki Suzuki, Mandjou Keita, George Josten. Substitutions — Mamadou Danso, Tony McManus, Alex Nimo.