Seattle Sounders Reach MLS Playoffs with 2-1 Triumph in Kansas City
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How many times do you have a chance for two gala celebrations the same week?
This is the delightful circumstance in which the Seattle Sounders found themselves Saturday night in Kansas City following a tough and exciting 2-1 triumph over the host Wizards. This was the identical score by which the team’s initial celebratory triumph was achieved Tuesday night in Seattle.
On Tuesday evening the Sounders came from behind on two Sanna Nyassi goals to defeat the visiting Columbus Crew in the finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tournament. Gambian star midfielder Nyassi had notched his first MLS goal in a 3-2 win over Toronto last Saturday.
It had taken two years for Nyassi to notch his first MLS goal last week. Now he is on a virtual tear with the two scores against Columbus Tuesday followed by his team’s first goal Saturday after the teams went into halftime scoreless.
The fates were smiling on the Sounders for Nyassi to be available for action Saturday. He had earlier been called into action by the Gambia National Team. Eager to help his team in Seattle’s successful defense of the U.S. Open Cup title it won last season, he missed a an important preparation camp the Gambia team held in Belgium.
Since Nyassi had missed significant preparation it was concluded that his chances would be small of engaging in action. He therein decided to travel with the Sounders to Kansas City for a match that offered a chance of clinching the Sounders’ second playoff bid in a row.
Nyassi’s goal came in the 66th minute. It resulted after Nate Jaqua, who had entered the action one minute earlier, played him into the box. The scenario was another case of the soccer second opportunity rule. Be alert and you may get a second chance if your first attempt fails to succeed.
This is what occurred with Nyassi. His first shot was stopped by Wizard goalkeeper Jimmy Nielson with a spectacular diving effort. In the process the ball rebounded back to Nyassi, who was not about to miss a second successive chance and drilled the ball into the net.
Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid netted immediate results with a Jaqua assist on the first goal. Another substitute, Uruguayan Alvaro Fernandez, who entered the match in the 78th minute, produced what turned out to be the game’s decider. Fernandez rolled a left-footed shot under Nielson for his second goal in MLS play after entering play in the 75th minute.
Kansas City gave its partisan faithful numbering 11,522 an opportunity to cheer in the closing stages of play. After Jeff Parke was ticketed for a foul in the box on Teal Bunbury, Davy Arnaud stepped up to take the penalty kick.
Kasey Keller guessed correctly and dove to his right. Arnaud slammed home a beauty, however, driving the ball into the far corner of the net to bring the score to 2-1, after which the Sounders were able to milk the clock for the remainder of regulation play and stoppage time.
While the Sounders extended their record to 13-9-6 and 45 points with the victory, KC has now lost three in a row and stands at 9-12-6 with 33 points. The home team, realizing that a victory was badly needed to stay in the playoff hunt, started fast and put plenty of pressure on the visitors in the first half.
On the evening Kansas City held a commanding 18-8 advantage in shots. The teams were equal with on goal shots at 3-3. Both sides were called for 16 fouls.
Sounders FC became the third team in MLS history to qualify for the playoffs in its first two seasons, achieving the same feat as Chicago and Miami in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Seattle continues to be the hottest team in MLS play with victories in its last four league encounters and a glossy 9-1-2 mark over 12 matches. It has surpassed the team’s 2009 win total.
Schmid had at a much earlier point in the season set 45 points as the milestone that he believed would put his team in the playoffs.
“We want to do more than just qualify for the playoffs,” Schmid said afterwards. “We qualified last year.”
Sounders General Manager Adrian Hanauer was thinking in the same vein, saying, “Hopefully we do more damage than we did last year.”
The Sounders return to the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field for two matches. The first is a friendly with powerful CD Chivas de Guadalajara Tuesday night. On Friday evening Seattle faces Chivas USA in MLS play.
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