Seattle Sounders FC closed its regular season Saturday with a come-from-behind, 2-1 win over FC Dallas at sold-out Qwest Field.
The game had been dedicated to the club’s record-setting fans, and the Sounders agreed it seemed only fitting to give them the happy ending they believe this inaugural season deserved.
“That’s what we truly, truly wanted to do,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “The fans have been superior all year. We just wanted to be able to go out on a high note on that game, and now we can concentrate on the playoffs.”
The Sounders won’t learn their first-round opponent until Houston’s game at Chivas USA concludes this afternoon.
Los Angeles clinched first place in the West with a win over San Jose on Saturday.
If today’s Houston-Chivas game ends in a draw, Seattle will finish second in the Western Conference and will open the playoffs at Houston. Otherwise, the Sounders will finish third – behind Los Angeles and today’s winner. In that case, they would begin the playoffs against the No. 2 finisher, probably Thursday at Qwest Field.
However, on Saturday night, players and coaches were more interested in celebrating than frying their brains with postseason math.
“For me, the only important thing is that we’re in the playoffs,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I never concern myself with who we’re going to play. Once I know who we’re going to play, obviously, we’re going to prepare for them tactically. But it’s never where I say I’d rather play this team or that team.”
Dallas took the lead in the 14th minute when Atiba Harris fired low from 20 yards and the ball beat Keller to the far side. Harris cupped both ears to the crowd as he raced back to his bench to celebrate.
The Sounders pulled even in the 62nd minute. The play started with a long, looping cross by Freddie Ljungberg. Fredy Montero saved it with a slide at the goal line, touching it back to Nate Jaqua, who finished from directly in front of the goal. That ended the Sounders’ streak of 466 scoreless minutes at home.
“It’s been a while since we’ve scored at home,” said Schmid, who notched his MLS-record 125th career win. “So it was great to hear the crowd erupt and let out all their passion and yell their lungs free.”
The second eruption came in the 84th minute, when Ljungberg lost his defender and sent a pass into the box. Brad Evans then flicked the ball over Dallas goalkeeper Dario Sala and into the net.
“We’ve been disappointed with the results we’ve had at home the last four or five games, and it’s just nice to finish things off the right way,” Keller said. “We came from behind last week, and we came from behind again. It shows a lot of character, and we couldn’t have a higher level of confidence going into the playoffs.”
After the final whistle, the Sounders remained on the pitch for a postgame celebration of their fans.
The finale drew a crowd of 33,108, most ever for a regular-season Sounders game. It also gave the Sounders an average home attendance of 30,943, the highest ever in MLS.
Earlier in the day, the Sounders announced that all playoff tickets had sold out Saturday in the first 30 minutes after going on sale. Because of that demand, the team will open 3,000 loge seats in the upper level.
“It’s been beyond anybody’s wildest dreams,” Schmid said. “Everybody talks, ‘Hey, it could be like this. It might be like this. We think it’s going to be good, and it’s going to be received.’ But it’s beyond anybody’s wildest dreams. The fans continue to come out, game after game. The support that we’ve gotten from the city, the love that they’ve showered upon our team and the organization – and hopefully what we’ve returned to them as well. We just want this to continue. I don’t want to wake up if this is a dream.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808