Sounders clinch a playoff berth with second-half surge
Designated player Alvaro Fernadez added a goal in the 78th minute to secure the win and a playoff berth for Sounders FC (13-9-6), which improved its run against Major League Soccer opponents to 9-1-3.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Thoroughly outshot and outplayed, Sounders FC hardly deserved to win on the road Saturday night.
The ball was almost exclusively in Seattle's half of the field and Kansas City held an 18-8 advantage in shots. But behind opportunistic goals from Sanna Nyassi and Alvaro Fernandez, Sounders FC defeated the desperate Wizards 2-1 to clinch a playoff berth and keep its last-season magic going.
"That's obviously shown the spirit that this team is in at the moment, that we find ways to win games," goalkeeper Kasey Keller. "We're all together. And that's a great place to be going into the playoffs."
There were no Champagne showers in the Sounders locker room after ensuring a second postseason trip in as many years. There's still work to be done.
"We want to do some more things in the playoffs than just qualify for them," said coach Sigi Schmid, whose team has won three straight on the road to improve to 6-5-3 in away games.
Added general manager Adrian Hanauer: "You have to appreciate and enjoy this part of the accomplishment, but it's just the start."
It wasn't the best start Saturday as Sounders FC (13-9-6) absorbed pressure for most of the game. In the 66th minute, however, Seattle found an unlikely go-ahead goal when Nyassi continued his incredible form by sending a rebound of his own missed shot to the far post past Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
"I'm on fire right now, scoring four goals in three games," Nyassi said. "It's making me have more confidence. I have to keep it going."
Seattle tacked on needed insurance in the 78th minute when Fernandez, a second-half substitute, wove through the K.C. defense and expertly finished a calm shot past Nielsen. Forward Nate Jaqua, who also came in a reserve, helped set up both goals.
"It's always frustrating to be on the bench; you want to be out there," Jaqua said. "But it's one of those things where when you get in you want to make the most of your opportunity."
The Wizards (9-12-6) got a late penalty-kick goal by Davy Arnaud, but fell to 4-8-3 against Western Conference opponents in front of 11,522 fans. K.C. forward Kei Kamara nearly leveled the match in the 90th minute, but his shot was denied by the post — all but ensuring his team's eventual elimination from the playoffs.
Missed opportunities killed Kansas City all game, especially early.
"The first half was very sloppy," said Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani. "Maybe we had to crash back down to earth after the Open Cup, but we stayed in there."
Seattle, which has never lost a league game in the month of October, improved to 10-5-1 against the East.
In the second half of the season, Sounders FC is 9-1-3 against MLS opponents, which more than completely reverses the early-season frustration and disappointment that at one point had Seattle in last place.
"At the beginning of the season we would've lost this game, no question," Keller said. "But that's what we've moved on to."
• Playoff tickets go on sale to general public at 10 a.m. on Oct. 21.
• Seattle next hosts Mexican club Chivas for an international friendly at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Qwest Field.
• For the second straight game, goalkeeper Terry Boss flew in from duty with the Puerto Rican national team to back up Keller.
• With yellow cards Saturday, Montero and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso will be suspended upon their next one.
SOUNDERS FC 2, WIZARDS 1
|Seattle||0 2 — 2|
|Kansas City||0 1 — 1|
Seattle — Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Nathan Sturgis, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi (Tyrone Marshall, 89th), Steve Zakuani (Alvaro Fernandez, 74th), Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero (Nate Jaqua, 65th), Blaise Nkufo.
Kansas City — Jimmy Nielsen, Matt Besler, Michael Harrington, Jimmy Conrad, Jack Jewsbury (Graham Zusi, 73rd), Davy Arnaud, Ryan Smith (Josh Wolff, 67th), Craig Rocastle (Birahim Diop, 85th), Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org