SEATTLE -- The largest crowd to attend a Sounders FC Major League Soccer match turned out Sunday night, and the club sent them home happy.
Seattle rolled to a 3-0 victory over the Portland Timbers before 66,452 at CenturyLink Field.
It was the second-largest crowd ever for a stand-alone MLS match.
"When I walked onto the field, I said to (assistant coach Brian Schmetzer), 'This is what heaven must be like,' " coach Sigi Schmid said. "In my imagination of heaven, this is it: packed house, beating Portland by three, fans going crazy. It can't get better than that."
With the victory, the Sounders (14-7-10, 52 points) moved past Los Angeles (50) into third place in the Western Conference playoff race.
They also moved past Portland (7-16-9) into the top spot of this Cascadia Cup competition, which will be decided Oct. 21 when the Timbers visit Vancouver. A Portland win gives the Cup to the Timbers, while any other result keeps it in Seattle.
"We put ourselves in the best position possible," Schmid said of the Sounders' 2-1-3 Cascadia run. "We're in a position now that they have to go to Vancouver and win. Anything short of a victory gives the Cascadia Cup back to us. And in a year where we had four of (the) six games on the road, and they had four of six at home, I think that's a big tribute to our team."
Portland could have clinched the Cup with a win or a draw Sunday, but the Sounders considered it important not to let that happen in front of all those home fans.
"Before the game we give a speech," Brad Evans said. "I just said, 'Everybody's here for each and every one of us. ... They're here to watch us win, to watch us play, to put on a show. As long as we do that, they're going to be behind us 100 percent. If we give our all and put on our big-boy pants and go to work, they're going to keep coming back.' "
The Sounders moved ahead with back-to-back goals in the middle of the first half.
The first came in the 25th minute, when a series of Sounders passes reached the front of the Portland goalmouth, where Timbers defender Mamadou Danso beat Fredy Montero to the ball, but knocked into his own goal.
About three minutes later, Evans chipped a pass to Eddie Johnson, who was running free in the penalty area, and Johnson one-touched it in from about 12 yards.
Seattle's final goal came in the 62nd minute, when Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts saved a shot by Fredy Montero. However, Montero scrambled to the rebound and scored.
It was Johnson's team-leading 14th goal; and for Montero, a career-high 13th.
"The good goal and the easy goal count the same," Montero said. "When you see the numbers, you see that I have scored more goals than the last three years. But I think the team is playing good, and hopefully this year in the playoffs we can advance."
Three goals were more than enough as goalkeeper Michael Gspurning recorded his second consecutive shutout and seventh of the season. However, it didn't come easily, as Portland outshot the Sounders 17-11, and put six shots on target to Seattle's four.
"If this is not an emotional game, why we are playing soccer? Of course, it was emotional," Gspurning said. "It was a great atmosphere. It was also for the fans a great game, I think, because Portland also had a couple of chances."
The celebratory tone of the evening was set before the first kick as pregame introductions were handled by former Sounder and Golden Scarf recipient Roger Levesque, and another massive south-end tifo was unfurled.
The Sounders now head into a final break in the regular-season schedule. Their next match will be Oct. 17, when Real Salt Lake visits CenturyLink.
* Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruizthenewstribune.com