SEATTLE - For sixty minutes, the Sounders FC showed the 36,356 at Qwest Field just how they became the hottest team in MLS. Over the course of the final 30 minutes, they weren’t quite so special.
Even after allowing a stoppage time goal in the regular season home finale, Seattle was still able to maintain their poise and hold off Chivas USA for a 2-1 victory for their fifth straight win in MLS play.
“I thought we started the game really well. Early we played really well. Our goals were two well taken goals,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I’m pleased for what we did for first 60 minutes. I was a little bit displeased in the last 30. Sometimes when you get to this stage and things are going well for your team, maybe you take your foot off the gas pedal a little bit and maybe that’s what we did. Late goals are not something that we’re ever happy about. For sure we'll work on in training field.”
The Sounders rode a wave of momentum into the match, with the excitement from several pre-game ceremonies, including the unveiling of the 2010 US Open Cup championship banner, carrying over into the opening minutes.
Seattle had several dangerous offensive moments in the early going and Steve Zakuani capitalized with his tenth goal of the season in the ninth minute. Jeff Parke picked off a ball in the midfield and pushed it forward to Zakuani, who ran through a guantlet of Chivas defenders before slipping around goalkeeper Zach Thornton and easily sliding it into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“It kind of opened up a little bit and like I always say when you’re one-on-one with the keeper the easiest way is to go around him. Zach kind of stood up a little bit so I took it around him and put the ball in the goal,” Zakuani said. “It was very good. Happy to score my tenth goal."
Osvaldo Alonso doubled the lead in the 25th minute when he took control of the ball and found Fredy Montero on the left side of the box. Montero held it up while Zakuani zipped in behind him and Montero led him to the endline. There he dropped the ball back to the middle, where Alonso charged in to one-time it into the open net for his first goal of the season to give Seattle the 2-0 lead.
Montero nearly added to the lead in the 61st minute, winding up on a shot from 25 yards out. Thornton came up with his only save of the night, though, diving to his right to push the ball away before it could find the far corner.
Kasey Keller finished the night with three saves, but missed on his 12th shutout of the season when Jesus Padilla netted his sixth goal of the season with a header in stoppage time.
“We’ve got to up our discipline if we’re going to win in the playoffs,” Keller said. “It’s three points, it’s a great win to finish off our home season in the league, but we have to be better. If we take that attitude, we’re going to be fine going in.”
The Sounders close the regular season with an 8-4-3 record at home. Their 48 points surpass last season’s total and their 38 goals matches their 2009 total. Additionally, their season-long average attendance reached 36,173, which smashes the league-record marks set last year by nearly 6,000 fans per game.
Next up for Seattle is a home match in CONCACAF Champions League against Saprissa. Seattle will not advance out of the group stages, but the final two CCL matches have provided opportunities for Sigi Schmid to use his bench. Seattle will conclude the regular season with a 1 pm kickoff on Saturday, October 23, on the road against the Houston Dynamo. They will play that match without Montero, though, after his fifth yellow card earned him a one-game suspension.
The Sounders open the playoffs October 31 at 5 pm at Qwest Field in the first leg of a home-and-home aggregate goal series. Their opponent in the first round has not yet been determined. Tickets are available to season ticket holder now on SoundersFC.com. They become available to the public October 21 at 10 am.
Sounders FC - Steve Zakuani (Jeff Parke) 9; Osvaldo Alonso (Zakuani, Fredy Montero) 25.
Chivas USA - Jesus Padilla (Rodolfo Espinoza) 92+.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni (Tyrone Marshall 51), Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez 60), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero (Nate Jaqua 87), Blaise Nkufo.
Chivas USA - Zach Thornton, Mariano Trujillo, Michael Umana, Ante Jazic, Jonathan Bornstein, Rodolfo Espinoza, Michael Lahoud, Paulo Nagamura, Jorge Flores, Jesus Padilla, Giancarlo Maldonado (Sal Zizzo 76).