SEATTLE – It was an historic day at Qwest Field Saturday night.
The Sounders FC came from a 1-0 deficit to top FC Dallas 2-1 in front of 33,108 – the highest attendance figure of the year in a league game for Seattle, pushing them to the MLS single-season attendance record.
Nate Jaqua scored his career-high ninth goal and Brad Evans scored his third while Freddie Ljungberg assisted on both and Kasey Keller had two saves to earn his 12th win of the season. But the biggest number of all was 125 – as in the career win total for Sigi Schmid, making him the winningest coach in the history of Major League Soccer.
“There’s been a lot of good coaches in this league and to have won more games than any of them fills me with a lot of humbleness and also a lot of honor and pride to know that I was able to accomplish that,” Schmid said. “As I said, my favorite record is most wins in the playoffs and that’s the one I want to build on.”
Seattle had two early opportunities, but Leo Gonzalez missed high with a shot from the left side in the fifth minute and an apparent Brad Evans goal was called back when he was ruled offside.
Then Dallas got on the board in the 14th minute. Atiba Harris got the ball in space and, when he took the ball unchallenged to 22 yards out, he ripped a shot to beat Keller inside the far post for his fourth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
That score held until halftime and Seattle came out to start the second half as if they, and not Dallas, were playing for their playoff lives.
Twice in the first ten minutes, Seattle put pressure on Dario Sala, only to be turned away by the Dallas keeper. But unlike the first half, Dallas couldn’t continue to thwart their efforts.
In the 62nd minute Ljungberg twisted a cross from the left side to the far post. There Fredy Montero made a lunging redirection back to the front of the net where Jaqua one-touched it into the open net to even the score at 1-1.
“It was a great ball by Freddie on the cross and I just ran in the box, right place at the right time. But Fredy played a great ball back across,” Jaqua said.
In an up-and-down season, Jaqua finished with goals in two-straight games to reach his career-high.
Then in the 84th minute, Jaqua raced to the sideline to knock the ball away from Heathe Pearce, then played the ball to Ljungberg at the left side of the box. Ljungberg worked his way around Ugo Ihemelu and bounced a pass to Evans coming down the near post. On the run, Evans chipped a shot over Sala and into the net for the 2-1 lead.
Seattle held that lead until the final whistle to take a three-game winning streak into the playoffs.
“It was just tremendous to score goals at home again. It’s been awhile since we’ve scored goals at home so it was great to hear the crowd erupt and allow them to let out all their passion and yell their lungs free,” Schmid said. “Overall it marks the regular season, no matter what happens tomorrow we’re going to end up in the top-four in terms of points for our first season and when you look at a whole league of 15 teams and you look at an expansion team and you say you’re going to finish in the top four in points, I think that’s a pretty dang good accomplishment. It’s a tribute to the players and the team because they’ve had the character and the spirit all year and today coming back from a goal down shows that again.”
With the win, Schmid surpassed Bob Bradley on the MLS coaching list.
“It means I’ve been around a long time and I’m old,” Schmid said. “I said to someone earlier in the week, when I got into coaching originally back at UCLA, I’m going to do it but I’ve got to be successful or else I’ll go back to being an accountant. It worked out, I was successful and we won a championship. When I got into the MLS, it was like I didn’t want to be a .500 coach in this league. If I was going to be a .500 coach, after a couple years I probably would have gone back to college. That’s my drive and hopefully that drive conveys itself to the players.”
The Sounders finished the season at 12-7-11 (47 points) and currently sit in second place in the Western Conference behind the LA Galaxy (12-6-12, 48 points). On Sunday, Chivas USA will host the Houston Dynamo and that match will determine Seattle’s first round opponent. A Houston win or draw will mean Seattle will face the Dynamo, while a Chivas USA win will put the Sounders against the only team they couldn’t muster a win or draw against. Kickoff is set for noon from the Home Depot Center.