SEATTLE – When Sounders FC and the LA Galaxy meet, there is a natural playoff atmosphere. That was heightened on Sunday with a crowd of 66,216 at CenturyLink Field for the MLS regular season finale, and the intensity of the match fit the bill as Clint Dempsey and Robbie Keane traded goals in a 1-1 draw.
Dempsey scored his first goal for Seattle in the final regular season match of the year while Michael Gspurning finished with four saves as Seattle moved to 15-12-7, one point behind the LA Galaxy and in fourth place in the Western Conference.
Seattle will meet the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Overall, I was happy with our play today,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Putting the midfield together the way we did and playing the two up front - Lamar Neagle and Eddie Johnson - I thought it resulted in some good possession for us and I thought we created some good chances. We need to make better use of those chances.”
Seattle took the first four shots of the match and controlled most of the possession over the first half hour.
In the 30th minute, Dempsey scored his first goal in Rave Green, giving Sounders FC the 1-0 lead.
Johnson rolled the ball out to Neagle on a run up the right side and Neagle crossed it to the far post. Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez had the far post well covered, but LA goalkeeper Jaime Penedo got a fingertip to the cross and the slight deflection left it for Dempsey, trailing Gonzalez by half-a-step, to hit it off the outside of his right foot and into the net, just past the diving Penedo.
“It’s always good to score. You don’t want to have a goose-egg for the season,” Dempsey said. “It’s good to get on the scoresheet and hopefully they’ll start coming a little bit easier now. I knew that it was a matter of time.”
Dempsey just missed adding another in the 38th minute when Johnson rolled it to him at the top of the box on the right side and he curled a shot past Penedo toward the far post, only to have it bend just wide.
In the 40th minute Gspurning kept Seattle in the lead with his second save of the night. On a missed clearance, Robbie Rogers rocketed a right-footed blast toward the near post, but Gspurning got his hands to it and deflected it away.
It was the first start for Gspurning since back-to-back defeats to the Rapids and Vancouver Whitecaps FC earlier this month and getting some early saves helped him back into the rhythm of the match.
“I felt good. Coming back now is something special,” Gspurning said. “I just went back to the basics and push the reset button.”
Two minutes later, Osvaldo Alonso had a tremendous clearance off the line to stop a Gonzalez header. Landon Donovan sent the corner kick in from the left side and Gonzalez smacked a header back toward the opposite post, but Alonso cleared the would-be equalizer and Seattle went into the half with a 1-0 lead.
Replays appeared to show that the ball crossed the line, but the referees ruled no goal, giving Seattle the break that Schmid felt wasn’t going in Sounders FC’s favor in the recent stretch.
“Maybe luck is turning for us a little bit,” he said after the game.
In a second half that lacked goal-scoring chances for the first 30 minutes, Keane found the equalizer on a mishit ball in the 78th minute.
After a long ball bounced around in the box, Jose Villarreal headed the ball down to Keane at the top of the box and he unleashed a tremendous shot on the volley that hit hard into the turf and bounced inside the far post for his 16th goal of the season, evening the score at 1-1.
Seattle put pressure on the LA goal, but couldn’t manage to break through to reclaim the lead and the match finished with that score.
While disappointed to not get the victory, the draw snapped a four-match losing streak and Schmid hopes that will provide a boost entering the postseason.
“The most important thing is that we play well and get results. I think today was important as well to stop the bleeding a little bit,” Schmid said. “We just have to continue to know what that did for us and build off it.”
Seattle went 1-1-1 against the Rapids this season, with the defeat coming in the most recent match on October 5 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Kickoff for Wednesday’s playoff match is scheduled for 7:30 pm PT, with local television coverage on KONG 6/16 and radio on KIRO Radio 97.3. Playoff tickets will go on sale Monday, October 28 at 10 a.m. Tickets will be available at www.SoundersFC.com or by calling 800-745-3000.
Sounders FC – Clint Dempsey (Lamar Neagle) 30.
Galaxy – Robbie Keane (Jose Villarreal) 78.
Sounders FC – None.
Galaxy – Robbie Keane (caution) 43; Marcelo Sarvas (caution) 60.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Marc Burch, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Adam Moffat, Clint Dempsey, Lamar Neagle (Andy Rose 87), Eddie Johnson (Mauro Rosales 78).
Galaxy – Jaime Penedo, Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Kofi Opare, Greg Cochrane, Robbie Rogers (Jose Villarreal 78), Michael Stephens (Hector Jimenez 65), Marcelo Sarvas, Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan.