CARSON, CALIF. – Sounders FC, which wanted to go into the MLS playoffs with momentum, accomplished that goal Saturday night with a 3-1 win over Chivas USA at Home Depot Center.
The Sounders will open the playoffs Saturday at Real Salt Lake, which finished third in the Western Conference, one spot behind Seattle.
The clubs will meet in a two-game, aggregate-score series, with the second game to be played Nov. 2 or 3 at CenturyLink Field. Game times were not immediately announced. Tickets for the Seattle game go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing,” forward Sammy Ochoa told television station KONG. “Hopefully when the playoffs come we’ll get to play here (in MLS Cup) and we’ll get the win, too. But you know we’ve got to take it step by step.”
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The Sounders’ position in the Major League Soccer standings was set regardless of their Saturday result. However, coach Sigi Schmid said he wanted to his team end the regular season in a good rhythm, and he backed that up by sending a top-level lineup onto the pitch.
The decision seemed to backfire in the opening minutes when midfielder Mauro Rosales was carried off on a stretcher after suffering a knee injury. No prognosis was immediately given, however. Rosales watched the game from the bench and seemed to walk well under his own power.
Even without their assists leader, the Sounders surged to a 3-0 lead.
The first came an own goal credited to Andrew Boykens of Chivas (8-14-12) who misplayed a clearance of a Fredy Montero chance.
In the 68th minute Alvaro Fernandez calmly scored in space after a pass from Brad Evans.
Another highlight-reel goal followed in the 73rd minute, when Fredy Montero sent a cross that Ochoa sent in with a diving header.
“Fredy saw me and he gave me a great ball,” Ochoa said. “All I had to do was put my head on it, and it went in …”
Kasey Keller’s bid for a shutout in his final regular season game lasted until the 83rd minute, when rookie Victor Estupinan headed in the first goal of his career.
Seattle ends the season with an 18-7-9 record. They amassed 63 points to set a club record, second highest in the league this season. The Sounders were league leaders with 56 goals scored and nine road wins. Keller ended with nine shutouts.
These Sounders topped the 12-7-11 record (47 points) of their expansion 2009 season, and the 14-10-6 (48 points) of last season.
Now they also hope to improve their playoff results. The club has never won a playoff series, losing to Houston in 2009 and Los Angeles last season.
They split two games with RSL this season, with each club taking a 2-1 win on the other’s home pitch.
More information at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer