SEATTLE - For the seventh time this season, the Sounders FC came from behind for a dramatic victory, rallying from a goal down to top the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at CenturyLink Field.
However, the talk of the night wasn’t Sammy Ochoa’s first goal for the Sounders FC or Fredy Montero’s 87th minute game-winner.
Instead it was a flurry of saves by Kasey Keller, who was being honored in his final regular season home match with a crowd of 64,140 who celebrated en masse when the Sounders walked off with a 2-1 win.
In the 65th minute, Patrick Ianni rolled a ball back for Keller, but didn’t get enough on it and Khari Stephenson charged on it, only to be met by Keller at the top of the box. Keller knocked it away, but Chris Wondolowski - already with a goal to his credit - took a left-footed shot off the rebound that left Keller to make a foot-save at the right side of the box. Simon Dawkins hammered the rebound from the top of the box and Keller dove to his right and pawed it away. Wondolowski nearly got to that loose ball too, but Keller dove and slapped the ball away before he could get a foot to it and kept the Sounders to within a goal.
“Big goalkeepers make saves at crucial points in the game and they don’t give up generally soft goals, and that’s what Kasey does,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He makes saves at important junctures in the game to keep us in it and that keeps us in the game. He was able to do that for us tonight and he’s done that numerous times.”
That 12-second flurry allowed Seattle the opportunity to spring back with goals in the 82nd and 87th minutes and improved their record to 17-7-9 (60 points). The victory was made even more important to the Sounders because of all the festivities surrounding the match. Not only was it Keller’s final home match in the regular season, but it was also Fan Appreciation Night and Breast Cancer Awareness Night and the club set a franchise record for attendance, both in a single match and for the season.
“This was the most nervous I’ve been for a game since the World Cup because I just didn’t want to disappoint,” Keller said. “We’ve done it so many times this year that once again, you definitely don’t want to leave this stadium early because we’re going to make things happen at some stage of the game – it might be a little bit late but we’ll make it happen.”
The match got out to a slow start for Seattle, though they controlled much of the possession in the opening half, and San Jose was able to pounce with the first goal in the 24th minute.
After Jhon Kennedy Hurtado left his mark to clear a ball, Wondolowski was left available when Hurtado’s clearance fell to Rafael Baca, who slid a pass forward and left 2010’s MLS Golden Boot winner one-on-one with Keller. He played it into the box, then pounded it inside the far post for his 15th goal of the season and a 1-0 San Jose lead.
In the second half, Schmid turned to Mauro Rosales in the 64th minute and Ochoa in the 68th minute and was rewarded in the 82nd minute when the two combined on the equalizing goal.
Rosales, playing in his first match since spraining the MCL in his right knee September 17 in a 3-0 win over DC United, gathered the ball at the midfield stripe, looked up-field and flipped it over the heads of the San Jose defense. Ochoa ran under it and hit a half-volley off the second bounce to knock it past Jon Busch for his first MLS goal to even the score at 1-1.
“Certainly, you could see the impact that Mauro has on our game,” Schmid said. “When he came onto the field, he just changed our whole dynamic a little bit.”
The Sounders weren’t done there though. In the 87th minute, Rosales made a Herculean effort to keep the ball alive in Seattle’s attacking end and the ball found its way to Brad Evans. He sent it to Lamar Neagle at the top of the box and Neagle found Montero, who touched it down, then shot it past Busch inside the far post for his 12th goal of the season to give Seattle the 2-1 lead.
“It was a perfect assist from Lamar. I just went to shoot on goal and fortunate for me it went in the net and we got three points,” Montero said. “It wasn’t a pretty game or a good game for us, but we got three points and that’s the important thing.”
The Sounders have one final MLS match on the slate for Saturday at the Home Depot Center against Chivas USA. First, though, they will face Monterrey in the final match of the group stage in CONCACAF Champions League.
They will open the playoffs the weekend of October 29 against either Real Salt Lake or FC Dallas. The home leg of that series will come either November 2 or 3 at CenturyLink Field.
Sounders FC - Sammy Ochoa (Mauro Rosales) 82; Fredy Montero (Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans) 87.
Earthquakes - Chris Wondolowski (Rafael Baca) 24.
Sounders FC - Patrick Ianni (caution) 48.
Earthquakes - Justin Morrow (caution) 6; Brad Ring (caution) 40; Jason Hernandez (caution) 57.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl, Alvaro Fernandez (Sammy Ochoa 68), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle (Zach Scott 89), Mike Fucito (Mauro Rosales 64), Fredy Montero.
Earthquakes - Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Bobby Burling, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Simon Dawkins, Sam Cronin, Brad Ring, Rafael Baca, Chris Wondolowski, Khari Stephenson.