MEN OF THE MATCH
Sounders Clinch Playoff Berth With 3-2 Win
By MATT GASCHK
Sounders FC Insider
KANSAS CITY, Kansas – The Sounders FC is playoff bound.
It took a dramatic come-from-behind effort, but Seattle came back from a 2-1 deficit to top the Kansas City Wizards 3-2 Saturday night to clinch a berth in the MLS playoffs, making them only the second expansion team in league history to reach the playoffs.
Freddie Ljungberg instigated all three Seattle goals, as Tyrone Marshall, Roger Levesque and Nate Jaqua found the back of the net to improve Seattle to 11-7-11 on the season and seal a playoff berth with one game still remaining on the schedule.
“Obviously it's an important win,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I'm proud of our team, and I'm proud of what we've accomplished. We showed a lot of desire, a lot of will power, a lot of attitude at times on the field, and that's important to win games.”
Ljungberg’s impact on the game was felt early as he sent a cross to Fredy Montero at the far post in the sixth minute, but Kansas City goalkeeper Kevin Hartman got in front of Montero’s header for the save.
Hartman made another save in the 28th minute, this coming off of a corner kick from Ljungberg. Knowing the field was narrow, Ljungberg tried to bend his corner kick from the left side into the net, but Hartman jumped in front of it to knock it down, but it ended up at Marshall’s feet and he sent it home with a left-footed blast for his second goal of the season to put the Sounders up 1-0.
The Sounders continued to put the pressure on Hartman. In the 30th minute, Steve Zakuani lined a shot from long range that skimmed off the top of the crossbar, then he sent a cross to Jaqua for a header in the 35th minute, but Jaqua knocked it off the crossbar too. Another opportunity for Jaqua in the 38th minute spurned a strong save by Hartman and Seattle went into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
Kansas City came out on fire to start the second half.
In the 51st minute, Michael Harrington took the ball up the left side before slotting a ball through to Zoltan running at the far post. Zoltan popped a one-touch shot past Kasey Keller for his second goal of the season, knotting the score up at 1-1.
Before the Sounders had a chance to recover, Josh Wolff made it 2-1 with his 11th goal of the season, knocking in a bouncing ball from Davy Arnaud in the 53rd minute.
After that, Keller put up an impenetrable wall and came up with four saves to keep the Sounders in striking distance.
Schmid put Levesque into the game in the 62nd minute and his confidence in Levesque paid off.
After already scoring the lone goal in Seattle’s 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew Oct. 3, Levesque came up big again, heading in the game-tying goal in the 69th minute.
Ljungberg lofted a corner kick from the left side in front of Marshall, who was making a run at the near post. Marshall got a piece of it, bouncing it up to Levesque and he headed it in for his second goal of the season.
Ljungberg battled with Matt Besler against the right sideline, then darted toward the net, slipping the ball past Jimmy Conrad and Hartman to Jaqua coming down the middle of the box. Jaqua got his right foot on it for his eighth goal of the season, giving the Sounders a 3-2 lead that they would hold on to for the final 14 minutes of the game, making Seattle the first team to reach the playoffs in their inaugural season since the Chicago Fire accomplished the feat in 1998.
“We thought we had some chances definitely. We hit the crossbar and Hartman came up with a couple of saves,” Schmid said. “They scored a couple of good goals, and luckily for us, we had a lot of character. We stuck with it and came back and pulled out the win.”
Sounders FC playoff tickets will go on-sale Saturday, October 24 at 10 am through Ticketmaster.com and at 800.745.3000. Season ticket holders must purchase playoff tickets no later than Monday, October 19.
Visit www.SoundersFC.com for the most up-to-date playoff match information and activities.