Friday night was the last Seattle Sounders MLS home match of the 2010 season. It was also Fan Appreciation Night as the host team upended Chivas USA 2-1.
The Sounders were intent on scoring their first goal and victory of their two-year history against the Los Angeles-based team, against which they were 0-2-2.
The sole Seattle win came in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal in Tukwila when the Sounders triumphed 3-1, enabling the team to advance to the finals and a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew.
Sounders FC is currently the hottest team in American soccer. Friday‘s win enabled Seattle to advance to 14-9-6 and improve to 10-1-3 in its last 14 MLS matches.
The Rave Green is undefeated (8-0-2) at home in 10 MLS and Open Cup matches since June 10.
With one game remaining in the regular season, Seattle surpassed last year's point total with 48 points on Friday. An opportunity to soar past the 50 mark with 51 surfaces Oct. 23 in a road match against the Houston Dynamo.
Meanwhile Chivas, a team accustomed to making the playoffs, will stay home this season. Friday’s loss was Chivas’ fourth in its last five outings.
The Sounders, a team that had trouble scoring goals during the first half of the season, when injuries were a pervasive factor, during the second half has become a team accustomed to jumping on top fast.
Such was the case against the Red and White as the Sounders cranked the scoring machinery into motion for a goal in the 9th minute.
Steve Zakuani tallied his 10th goal of the season, tying him for first in team honors.
Defender Jeff Parke notched his first assist as a Sounder by flicking the ball to Zakuani at midfield. His speed carried the fleet midfielder the rest of the way, past Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton for a 10-yard drive into the net.
It was up to Ozzie Alonso to keep the momentum going. Alonso scored his first goal since 2009 as he capitalized on assist from Zakuani and Fredy Montero to secure a netter from six yards out. Montero now ranks third in MLS with 10 assists while Zakuani has 6.
Chivas coach Martin Vasquez has seen Friday‘s pattern repeated too many times, including the late goal that his team scored.
"Yeah but that has been the same story for us this season,” Vasquez said. “We have given up early goals and have to try and chase the game and come up short. Knowing that we have to do better."
It turned out to be too little too late once more for the Los Angeles team. The goal came at the 92-minute-plus overtime phase. Jesus Padilla did the honors with his sixth goal of the season. The assist was furnished by Rodolfo Espinoza, his third of the campaign.
While Vasquez bemoaned that one goal was too few, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, seeking to whip his team into winning playoff form, found it one too many.
"I thought we started the game really well, “Schmid said. “Our goals were two well-taken goals. Good individual effort by [Steve] Zakuani off a good pass from Jeff Parke. The second was a great combination between [Fredy] Montero, [Steve] Zakuani, and the goal by Osvaldo. It was good to get him his first goal.
“I'm pleased for what we did for first 60 minutes. I was a little bit displeased in the last 30. Sometimes when you get to this stage and things are going well for your team, maybe you take your foot off the gas pedal a little bit and maybe that's what we did. Late goals are not something that we're ever happy about. For sure, we'll work on it on the training field."
With a crowd of 36,356, Sounders FC set a new MLS single season attendance record at 542,600. Average attendance was a record-breaking 36,173. The match also marked the team’s 31st consecutive sellout.
Montero drew a second-half yellow card. He will therefore miss the team’s final MLS match against Houston. Schmid substituted Nate Jaqua for him in the 87th minute, not wanting to risk a red card that would prohibit the Colombia Comet from appearing in his team’s first playoff game.
Early in the season, when the Sounders were having trouble winning, the team often led in shots but fell short on goals.
Now it has become more opportunistic, sometimes taking fewer shots but taking better advantage of chances. Chivas USA had a 14-11 overall edge in shots and a narrow 4-3 advantage on goal. Each team had five corner kicks.
Seattle will return to the international scene for the final time this season on Tuesday night by hosting Saprissa of Costa Rica in the final CONCACAF test. Action will commence at 7 p.m. PT with national television coverage supplied by Fox Soccer Channel.