Sunday was a classic good news/bad news day for Seattle Sounders FC.
On one hand, the club handed its Cascadia Cup trophy over to the archrival Portland Timbers.
But on the other, the Sounders took a 3-1 win over FC Dallas, which assures them of a playoff rematch with Real Salt Lake next month, with only second- or third-place seeding to be determined.
“Of course we wanted both: the Cascadia Cup and to avoid the game fourth-against-fifth (elimination game),” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “But now the situation is like this. In the end we tried everything to keep the Cascadia Cup here, but the result today in Vancouver wasn’t in our hands. The other result was in our hand.”
The Sounders took the pitch at CenturyLink Field knowing that the Cascadia Cup was heading south to Oregon, courtesy of the Timbers’ 1-0 win in Vancouver.
Not only did that result cost Seattle the trophy that it had won in 2011, but it also gave added incentive to Dallas, which had revived playoff hopes because of the result.
“We all were watching the TVs and we knew the result as we were walking out on the field,” said Brian Schmetzer, who coached the Sounders while head coach Sigi Schmid was serving a one-game disciplinary suspension. “I said, ‘Well, we have to do our job here and not worry about what they do.’ ”
The Sounders did that, jumping to leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by Brad Evans before Mauro Rosales set the final score, which snuffed any chance Dallas (9-13-11) had of catching Vancouver for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Whitecaps became the first Canadian team to qualify for the MLS playoffs.
“It seems like we had to do them a favor tonight,” Schmetzer said. “Hopefully, we will get that favor repaid to us at some point in the future.”
Seattle’s first goal came in the 32nd minute when Evans drilled a penalty kick awarded after Dallas defender Hernan Pertuz took down Fredy Montero near the top of the penalty area.
Dallas equalized eight minutes later when Blas Perez scored from close range, ending a Seattle shutout streak at 369 minutes.
Evans struck again in the 60th minute, capping a Sounders break from Montero to Christian Tiffert, who took the ball down the left side before crossing into the box.
The final goal came in the 79th minute when Rosales slid onto a short Montero pass, knocking it into the net.
After the final whistle, a stage was rolled onto the pitch and Sounders coaches and players addressed the crowd of 38,755 who turned out on a rainy evening for the final home game of the regular season. That crowd brought the season’s home attendance to 733,755, an average of 43,144 – both MLS records.
“It was a good way to close out our homestand at the end of the season,” Evans said. “I think this is one of the most important games of the season so far. We made a statement, and if we play well next Sunday (at Los Angeles), I think we give ourselves a good chance going into the playoffs.”
Seattle (15-7-11) heads into its final game of the regular season a safe five points ahead of the fourth-place Galaxy and even in the points race with Real Salt Lake, which plays host to Vancouver. If Seattle and RSL remain even, the tiebreaking procedure favors the Sounders, who have long said that second place is a prize worth winning.
“If we pass the conference round then we want to be the highest seed to host the final round – but we have to beat the conference teams first,” Rosales said. “We are in a good spot, and we just need to keep going.”
Portland won the Cascadia Cup by going 3-1-2 in the round-robin competition with Seattle (2-1-3) and Vancouver (0-3-3).
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer