KANSAS CITY, KAN. – Sigi Schmid was dry as he walked out of the winning locker room of CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Sounders FC had clinched a trip to the MLS Cup playoffs with a 2-1 win over the Kansas City Wizards, but that didn’t merit a repeat of the champagne shower that had accompanied the team’s U.S. Open Cup victory Tuesday in Seattle.
“No,” Schmid said. “We want to do some more things in the playoffs than just qualify for them. We qualified last year. But it’s certainly a tremendous accomplishment for our club: the first two years to qualify both years for the playoffs, to win two Open Cups so far, and we’ve got more wins than we had last year, we’ve won four in a row on the road now. Those are all positives. We’re not afraid of who we’re going to play now. Whoever it is, we’ll just prepare for them.”
The result moves the Sounders to 13-9-6 for the season, and those 45 points make a return to the playoffs a numerical certainty. However, Houston ousted Seattle in the first round a year ago, and the Sounders want to go further this time around.
“This is the gate opening,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “You have to appreciate and enjoy this part of the accomplishment, but it’s just the start. Hopefully, we do more damage than we did in the playoffs last season.”
The loss dropped Kansas City to 9-12-6. And while the result didn’t eliminate the Wizards, they do not control their future, and every relevant result must turn their way for the final two weeks of the season.
With those kinds of stakes, the Wizards played with urgency Saturday before a standing-room crowd of 11,522. And they dominated most of the way on the small soccer pitch crammed across the outfield of a minor league baseball park.
But Seattle dodged the bullets: Kasey Keller made an early diving save of a Matt Besler shot, and later in the first half Teal Bunbury sent a header off the crossbar. By the end, Kansas City would outshoot the Sounders, 18-8.
“The way the field is, they’re coming out with a different game plan,” defender Jeff Parke said. “It’s all or nothing for them. It was an important game for us to win, to get a result. But they know their field is small, it’s tight, they get after their opponent quick to shock them. We did well to fight it off.”
Seattle broke through in the 66th minute, when Sanna Nyassi took a pass from Nate Jaqua, who had come on as a reserve one minute earlier. Nyassi’s shot from the left side was batted away by goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, but Nyassi hustled to the rebound and sent it in.
It was his second goal in as many MLS games, and his fourth in three games, including the Open Cup victory.
“I’m on fire right now, scoring four goals in three games,” Nyassi said. “It’s making me have more confidence. I have to keep it going.”
Jaqua also started the next goal in the 78th minute with a pass to Alvaro Fernandez, who had entered the game four minutes earlier. But the designated player took it from there with a touch that bought space in the box, and then a tightly angled shot through traffic.
That seemed to settle it until Parke was called for a foul in the box – a call he disputed – and Davy Arnaud halved the lead with a penalty kick.
But the score held, and minutes after the final whistle Sounders management announced playoff tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Oct. 21.
“We’re all together,” Keller said. “And that’s a great place to be going into the playoffs.”
The Sounders pause for a friendly match Tuesday against Chivas de Guadalajara on Tuesday at Qwest Field. Then they meet Chivas USA in a home MLS regular-season match Saturday.