After ending their regular season with a seven-game winless streak, Seattle Sounders FC sounded eager to turn their attention to the postseason.
The Sounders thought they saw improvement Sunday, where they led most of the way before settling for a 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Seattle ended its season with a 15-12-7 record, fourth place in the Western Conference. That seeding sends the Sounders into a single knockout game at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, when the fifth-seed Colorado Rapids visit CenturyLink Field.
“We tried to avoid that game on Wednesday,” defender Djimi Traore said. “But now it’s done and we have to move forward. I think it’s good for us because Colorado in the last game beat us badly (5-1), and of course we like the revenge. We do everything to correct that.”
A win would have given the Sounders the No. 3 seed and sent them into the Western Conference semifinals against No. 2 Real Salt Lake. Instead, that No. 3 seeding went to the defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy (15-11-8).
The Sounders reminded anyone who would listen that Los Angeles made its 2012 run to the title as the No. 4 seed.
“Nobody cares what position you were in when you started the playoffs,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “All they care is where you finish up the playoffs.”
Still, no one was denying that Seattle wanted to avoid the knockout game and end its what is now a seven-game winless streak (0-4-3).
For long stretches Sunday it appeared the Sounders would do just that.
Seattle jumped ahead in the 30th minute, when Clint Dempsey recorded his first goal after opening his Sounders career with 230 scoreless minutes.
Lamar Neagle lofted a pass to the far post, and Dempsey used the side of his heel to knock it back into the net.
“It was good to see Clint score,” Schmid said. “I think that was big for him. It takes a lot of pressure off of him.”
That lead stuck until the 78th minute, when the Galaxy sent a ball into the penalty area, and it went from head to head without the Sounders being able to clear it. The ball arrived at the foot of Los Angeles scoring leader Robbie Keane, who knocked the ball into the turf and bounced it over a defender and Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
“They (did) well to keep the pressure on, but I’m sure that’s not the shot he wanted to hit, to pound it into the turf,” Schmid said. “... Overall, the flow of the game and our play I thought was a big improvement over the way we have been playing, and certainly a big step forward as we move into the playoffs on Wednesday.”
The Galaxy had appeared to score the tying goal late in the first half, when Omar Gonzalez seemed to send a shot a foot across the goal line before it was kicked out by Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso. Referee Mark Geiger and assistant Gregory Barkey, however, waved for the teams to play on. They declined to speak to a pool reporter after the match.
“I saw it as clearly as the linesman so for me it was a no-brainer.” L.A. forward Landon Donovan said. “I was looking right across, waiting for him to put his flag up and signal goal, but for whatever reason he didn’t. I would suggest that goal-line technology would help but that one didn’t even need goal-line technology. It was real obvious.”
The crowd of 66,216 at CenturyLink Field gave the Sounders a season average home attendance of 44,038, an MLS record.
After the game, Schmid, Sounders owner Joe Roth and captain Mauro Rosales thanked the fans and promised them a win Wednesday, which would send Seattle on to a two-game, aggregate series versus the Portland Timbers.
Playoff tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt