MLS 2013 is officially in the books. It’s been a playoff run to remember, and the Sounders have finally cemented their position in the MLS Cup playoff. When Sounders last won a match (September 13th) they were in control of their playoff destiny. Seven straight fixtures without a win have left Sounders matched up against Colorado in the play-in for the two-legged semi-final against Portland. Sounders were the beneficiary of Vancouver Whitecaps win against Colorado. Had the Rapids beat the Whitecaps the play-in would have been hosted in the thin oxygen of the Mile-High City.
Sounders were missing Obafemi Martins, still sidelined with a groin injury and Lamar Neagle took his spot at the forward position. Sigi Schmid tried an unconventional midfield lineup with Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Adam Moffat, and Clint Dempsey. Those are four central players primarily. Evans plays every/any position for Sounders, and Dempsey has played wide for the USMNT, Fulham, and Tottenham. It was surprisingly effective at keeping the LA midfield bottled up. Adam Moffat had the first notable action for Sounders in the first half, a shot from distance with the Scotsman moving inside from his wide-left position and another attempt on a follow-up that he put into the side netting.
Sounders clearly had the better of play early in the half. LA Galaxy were not able to develop possession into danger. It would not be until the 25th minute that the Galaxy would create a shot. Donovan and Gyasi Zardes forced Michael Gspurning into two saves in the 25th and 29th minute and appeared that Bruce Arena’s men were finding some rhythm offensively.
It was at that moment when Clint Dempsey would score his first MLS goal since his transfer to Seattle. A cross from the right side from Lamar Neagle to the far post found Dempsey in the clear when Omar Gonzalez overran the play and Dempsey took one touch with the outside of his foot and sent the ball back the way it was coming and beat Jaime Penedo who was scrambling to recover after he came out for the cross that he was.
Eddie Johnson missed the best opportunity of the night on a ball played by Lamar Neagle that went right at Pinedo in the 35th minute. But the real goal controversy was when Osvaldo Alonso cleared the ball out of the goal in the 42nd minute off of a corner quicker than you can say “goal-line technology. Omar Gonzalez’s header was clearly over the line. Clearly more than the width of the ball, and Alonso had both feet behind the goal-line by a noticeable distance.
Alonso also gifted Robbie Rogers with a goal scoring opportunity when the Cuban settled a ball that Rogers took cleanly. The shot was on target but not too far for Gsuprning to parry away.
Robbie Keane clipped Djimi Traore in the back of the leg and was booked for it as the half drew to a close. Neither team made substitutions at half.
Sounders had packed it back a bit in the second half content to defend their lead. They would not muster another attempt that would find the frame for the rest of the night.
At his post-match press conference Sigi Schmid gave insight into his first substitution of the night. Schmid revealed that Mauro Rosales had been having some trouble with his knees and that Eddie Johnson started to tighten up a bit. In the 78th minute the Sounders manager made the subsitution right after Arena brought on Jose Villareal for Robbie Rogers. Villareal wasted no time making his presence felt on the match as his shot rebounded to Robbie Keane who smashed his volley into the turf and watched it bounce past Gspurning for the equalizer that should have been a winner.
With 10 minutes to go in the match both teams had their playoff fortunes laid out. LA would finish 3rd and Sounders would host the play-in against Colorado Rapids on Wednesday. Portland Timbers await the winner.
Sigi Schmid is anxious to get back at Colorado Rapids for their contribution to the Sounders recent misfortunes. In a one-off match anything can happen. Both Colorado and Seattle are on equal rest for Wednesday’s play-in. And as Schmid mused, “maybe luck is turning for us a bit.” Perhaps it is. The lineup worked to Schmid’s favor against the Galaxy and Sigi deserves credit for tweaking the lineup with what he had available against the holders of the MLS Cup.
Sometimes all it takes is a goal to break things loose. After rattling the frame for the last month and a half hopefully Sounders have found the scoring touch. If that is the case the MLS Cup field had better take notice, Sounders are showing sign of improvement just in the nick of time.