CARSON, California – Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid got nearly everything he wanted out of the club’s final match of the regular season against Chivas USA. The one thing he didn’t get, though, was a clean bill of health coming out of the match.
Seattle got goals from Alvaro Fernandez and Sammy Ochoa and got the benefit of an own goal while Kasey Keller and the Seattle held Chivas USA to just one late goal in a 3-1 win.
Looking to build a rhythm and keep his team sharp for the MLS Cup Playoffs, Schmid opted to keep his regular starting group for a match against Chivas USA that otherwise had no bearing on the standings.
When Mauro Rosales went down with a right knee injury in the fifth minute, he didn’t want to risk further injury to the Newcomer of the Year favorite and Schmid took him out of the match.
“I don’t think it’s nearly as severe as it was last time,” Schmid said. “It’s just a matter of him progressing and hopefully he’ll be back before we know it.”
The Sounders will meet Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference semifinals, beginning with the first leg at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, October 29. The second leg of the aggregate goal series will be played at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday, November 2. Tickets for the second leg will be available on Monday at 10 am by visiting SoundersFC.com or calling (800)745-3000.
The injury to Rosales couldn’t keep the Sounders from their goal of closing the season with a victory at the site of the MLS Cup final though.
After a scoreless first half, Seattle finally took the lead in the 53rd minute when Fredy Montero brought down a pass from Brad Evans and had the ball knocked away by Chivas USA defender Andrew Boyens, but the ball skipped into the net for a 1-0 Sounders lead.
Alvaro Fernandez legitimized the lead with a rocket from the left side, getting out on a run off a ball from Evans and blasting a shot past Dan Kennedy for his ninth goal of the season and a 2-0 lead in the 68th minute.
Second-half substitute Sammy Ochoa added to the lead in the 73rd minute when Montero sent a ball to the far post and Ochoa brought the traveling support to their feet with a diving header for his second goal in as many games for a 3-0 Seattle lead.
“He makes those good runs and he’s also courageous in the box,” Schmid said of Ochoa. “He’s definitely been a very pleasant pick-up for us.”
Montero’s assist gave him a goal or assist in his final eight matches of the season, notching six goals and four assists in that stretch.
In the 83rd minute, Victor Estupinan cleaned up a loose ball in the box to narrow the final deficit to 3-1, but Seattle still rolls into the playoffs with a full head of steam.
“Everything is behind us,” Schmid said. “The US Open Cup is behind us … the regular season is behind us. Now we can focus on the playoffs. I think we’ve continued to improve. I’m very pleased with everything we’ve done this year and everything we’ve achieved so far, but we’ve got more work to do and we’ve got four more games to play.”
Seattle closes out the season with their best record in three seasons in MLS at 18-7-9 (63 points), finishing second behind the LA Galaxy for the best record in the league. Salt Lake finished third at 15-11-8 (53 points).
Seattle and Real Salt Lake split their two meetings this season, with each team winning their road match. Seattle ended Salt Lake’s 29 match home unbeaten streak with a 2-1 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium, getting the game-winner on a screamer from Lamar Neagle. Salt Lake came back to win 1-0 in Seattle.
Real Salt Lake held a 1-0 lead over the Portland Timbers late into their regular season finale, but allowed a stoppage time equalizer and settled for a 1-1 draw. However, FC Dallas, needing a win to overtake RSL in the standings, fell behind 4-0 and wound up losing 4-2 to the San Jose Earthquakes, keeping Salt Lake in the third spot in the West and sending Dallas into the wild card round.
Sounders FC – Own goal (Andrew Boyens) 53; Alvaro Fernandez (Brad Evans) 68; Sammy Ochoa (Fredy Montero, Roger Levesque) 73.
Chivas USA – Victor Estupinan (Andrew Boyens, Mariano Trujillo) 83.
Sounders FC – Roger Levesque (caution) 40; Brad Evans (caution) 79; Fredy Montero (caution) 80.
Chivas USA – Ben Zemanski (caution) 5.
Sounders FC – Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez (Tyson Wahl 81), Mauro Rosales (Roger Levesque 10), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, Mike Fucito (Sammy Ochoa 64).
Chivas USA – Dan Kennedy, Zarek Valentin, Heath Pearce (Andrew Boyens), David Junior Lopes, Ante Jazic (Mariano Trujillo 56), Ben Zemanski, Blair Gavin, Nick LaBrocca, Alejandro Moreno, Marcos Mondaini, Juan Pablo Angel (Victor Estupinan 74).