Seattle Sounders 4 - 3 El Paso
Memorial Stadium, Seattle
42 EP - Dimitrov
50 SEA - Sawatzky (Gregor)
69 EP - Alessandro (Rowland)
73 EP - Rowland
74 SEA - Howes
83 SEA - Gregor (Barton)
107 SEA - Howes (Henderson)
Seattle: Bill May; Ali John Utush, Craig Waibel, Kieran Barton, Scott Jenkins (Craig Tomlinson 46), Tim Steidten (Kei Kinoshita 46); Sean Henderson, Andrew Gregor; Viet Nguyen, Greg Howes, Darren Sawatzky.
El Paso: Joe Larson (Dimitar Popov 53); Alberto Mancera (Jose Barajas 83), Guillermo McFarlane, Michael Griego, Dimitar Vasev, Dimitar Dimitrov; Jose Lomeli, Erik Wilson; Omar Mora, Kevin Noleen (Mark Rowland 46), Bill Alessandro (Bisser Georgiev 80).
The Seattle Sounders came back from a 1-3 deficit to defeat the visiting El Paso Patriots 4-3 after extra time. With the win, the Sounders clinched first place in the Pacific Division and finished the regular season undefeated at home. Rookie Greg Howes scored twice, including the match winner, to pull into a tie with Minnesota rookie John Menyongar for most goals (17) in the A-League. With two more assists (7 assists), Howes leads Menyongar by two "points" in the "scoring" race. Darren Sawatzky scored the first goal and Andrew Gregor notched the third goal that forced extra time. Sawatzky is third in the league in scoring with 15 goals and 8 assists.
El Paso made a tight match of it with a lone first-half goal by Dimitar Dimitrov and second-half goals by Bill Alessandro and Mark Rowland. But in the end, the El Paso defense couldn't stop the Sounders juggernaut. The Sounders have now won eight consecutive matches.
Seattle played without Erik Storkson (injury), Dick McCormick (yellow card accumulation) and Chad Brown (red card), while El Paso played without Kirk Wilson (red card) and Mobi Oparaku (yellow cards).
The first half was short on chances, with each side taking five shots. El Paso's Kevin Noleen took the first shot of the match with his back to goal, and Bill May saved comfortably.
Viet Nguyen had Seattle's first good chance in the 18th minute, but his shot from 10 yards was right at goalkeeper Joe Larson.
Alessandro's 25-yard free kick to the right post was saved by May. A few minutes later Alessandro tried a 25-yarder after stealing Gregor's pass, but the shot missed the top left corner by a yard. Noleen used a feint to get a shot from the top of the arc, missing the top left corner by two yards.
In the 40th, Gregor blasted a 30-yarder up the middle but right at Larson.
42' Dimitrov. On a corner kick play, Dimitrov's first shot from left of the arc was blocked by Craig Waibel and the ball went right back to Dimtrov, whose second shot glanced off Waibel's arm and went inside the far post to give El Paso the haftime lead. El Paso 1-0.
In the final minute before intermission, Nguyen's cross from inside the area gave Sean Henderson, just off the injured list, a good chance on a run up the middle, but Henderson's shot was again right at Larson.
Halftime: Seattle 0 - 1 El Paso
To start the second half, Seattle's outside back/midfielders Scott Jenkins and Tim Steidten were replaced by Craig Tomlinson and Kei Kinoshita. El Paso replaced Noleen with Rowland, who would become productive. Rowland got the first good chance of the half when he won a battle for the ball with Ali John Utush to go in alone against May, but Rowland put his shot a yard above the crossbar.
50' Sawatzky (Gregor). Seattle suddenly leveled the score when Gregor sent in a long, outswinging cross from the left side and Sawatzky ran loose up the middle to head the cross inside the far post from 8 yards. 1-1.
Dimitar Popov replaced Larson in goal for El Paso in the 53rd minute and on his first punt Popov's boot travelled half as far as the ball. As someone tossed Popov's boot back to him, Henderson tried a long shot from 45 yards up the left touch line and Popov had to scramble back to make the rare one-shoed save.
In the 60th Seattle earned a free kick from the arc and Howes took it, forcing a save by the collapsing Popov, and the rebound was cleared by the defense. On the counterattack, Alessandro got by Gregor for a shot that settled on the top of the net.
69' Alessandro (Rowland). Rowland got around the defense on the left and drew May to the near post. Instead of shooting, Rowland crossed to the far post for Alessandro, who managed to trap the ball with his first touch and score from inside the goal area despite being double-marked. El Paso 2-1.
73' Rowland. Rowland outmuscled Utush on the right side to win a ball and was in alone against May. Rowland put his shot low past May from 10 yards for what appeared at the time to be an insurance goal. El Paso 3-1. But it wouldn't be enough insurance.
74' Howes. On Seattle's kickoff play, Howes got the ball from Henderson or Gregor and used a feint to get free for a shot from outside the penalty area on the left side. The shot was over Popov and into the top far corner to pull Seattle back within one. El Paso 3-2.
A minute later Howes headed Gregor's cross on goal but Popov made the diving save.
Then on an El Paso attack Alessandro fired a nice shot from 25 yards, inches wide of the lower left corner.
83' Gregor (Barton). Kieran Barton intercepted an El Paso forward pass near the circle and passed ahead to Gregor, whose 40-yard shot went over Popov and dove perfectly into the top far corner. Seattle were back in it at 3-3.
Seattle nearly had a match winner in the 90th minute when Howes' 35-yard free kick curved unpredictably and Popov could only leap and block it with his hands. Nguyen was alone to head the rebound from 8 yards but he sent the shot a yard over the bar while Popov was in the process of picking himself up from the floor.
Regulation: Seattle 3 - 3 El Paso
El Paso substitute Jose Barajas had the first shot in extra time when he got free on the left and from 25 yards sent in a low shot/cross that forced a diving save by May. Omar Mora had a chance when he tried to put a header over May from 12 yards on the left, but May caught the shot easily.
Seattle's first good shot was Gregor's 35-yard free kick up the middle at 96', bent at the top right corner, but Popov flew to parry the shot wide for a corner kick.
107' Howes (Henderson). After 10 minutes with no good shots either way, Seattle cashed in on Nguyen's corner kick from the left. Nguyen sent the kick over the crowd to open space and Henderson, serving as garbage collector, ran onto the ball and blasted a low shot at the near post from 15 yards. Popov went down to make the block save and the rebound went back to Henderson, who touched the ball square for Howes, 4 yards out from the near post, and Howes put the sudden-death match winner past Popov.
Final: Seattle 4 - 3 El Paso
The happy Sounders players gathered near the circle to celebrate their first-place finish in the division and their undefeated home record, and to bask in the noise that the crowd kept up for a few minutes. On the way to the showers, Utush and Tomlinson raided the bottled water supply at the visitors' bench and opened bottle after bottle, showering the fans, including Utush's family and the Pod, with mineral water, grinning from ear to ear. This was the first time the Sounders had finished in first place since their first year in the APSL in 1994.
Referee: Kevin Boisen; Asst. Refs: Kevin O'Brien, Fariborz Khadem; 4th Official: Jim Kokenos.