While the Sounders are able to enjoy a bye through the Knockout Round in 2017, last year's MLS Cup Playoffs were vastly different. After securing a postseason berth on the final day of the 2016 campaign, the Sounders had a quick turnaround against a pesky Sporting KC side at CenturyLink Field. Historically, the matchups against Sporting had been low-scoring, close and physical. On multiple occasions, Seattle has scored a winner in the final minutes of the match.


This Knockout Round battle was no different.


In the 88th minute, the lone goal of the match came on a stunning header by Nelson Valdez. From just beyond the area, captain Osvaldo Alonso found Tyrone Mears on the right flank, whose cross was booted out but recovered by Joevin Jones. The left back bursted down the left side of the 18-yard-box and sent a pass to the middle. Valdez - who hadn't scored a single goal in MLS play up until this point in 2016 - delivered a glancing header into the back of the net.


Euphoria ensued.


An emotional Valdez sprinted behind the goal and found a huddle of teammates in the southwest corner of the field. CenturyLink Field went absolutely bonkers in the cold autumn air. The rest of the field players soon joined Valdez, who collapsed to the turf with tears in his eyes.



From this point on, it was clear this squad was capable of an ethereal postseason run. Led by a group of fiery veterans, emerging young talent and a passionate head coach, the Sounders had begun an epic quest towards their first MLS Cup. Although at this point it had yet to be determined how it would end, the first chapter of this magical postseason fairy tale had been written. 

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