2009 Oct 24

Sounders finish regular season with a win, eliminating FC Dallas from qualifying for the playoffs

Seattle Sounders FC  2 - 1  FC Dallas

Qwest Field, Seattle, WA

14' DAL: Atiba Harris (Daniel Hernandez)
61' SEA: Nate Jaqua (Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg)
84' SEA: Brad Evans (Ljungberg)

Seattle: Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, James Riley; Steve Zakuani (Roger Levesque 81'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Freddie Ljungberg; Nate Jaqua (Sebastien Le Toux 85'), Fredy Montero (Tyson Wahl 89'). Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Patrick Ianni, Peter Vagenas, Stephen King.

Dallas: Dario Sala; Jair Benitez (Brek Shea 86'), George John (Kyle Davies 40'), Ugo Ihemelu, Heath Pearce; David Ferreira, Dax McCarty, Daniel Hernandez (Marvin Chavez 81'), Atiba Harris; Jeff Cunningham, Dave van den Bergh. Substitutes not used: Ray Burse, Eric Avila, Bruno Guarda, Andre Rocha.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

The Seattle Sounders FC finished their first MLS regular season with a home win 2-1 over FC Dallas. Atiba Harris scored to give Dallas an early lead, and Seattle fought back with second-half goals by Nate Jaqua and Brad Evans. As in the previous match, Freddie Ljungberg was a superb playmaker, setting up both Seattle goals plus several other opportunities.

The win means that the Sounders will finish second or third in the Western Conference. The result eliminated Dallas from qualifying for the playoffs -- they would have qualified had they won.

The record attendance for a league match gave the Sounders an average of 30,943 per match, breaking the MLS attendance record, owned by LA, by about 10%. Another record fell as Sigi Schmid now has the most wins as a MLS coach, 125, and he is looking for more this season.

Prior to the match the club unveiled a permanent tribute to the season ticket holders for the inaugural season. Mounted on the outside wall of the stadium is a 50' by 8' replica of a Sounders scarf covered with the names of the season ticket account owners. Sure enough, our name was on there.

First Half

With Seattle having already qualified for the playoffs the previous week, some on FC Dallas were hoping the Sounders would rest some of their top players. But the Sounders sent out the full A team.

Seattle controlled the opening 10 minutes and earned a few chances. Freddie Ljungberg sent Jaqua free into the penalty area on the right and he could have shot, but instead tried a square cross that was intercepted. Evans netted but had it called back by an offside flag. Left back Leo Gonzalez was up into the penalty area to take Seattle's first shot, a quick attempt that went over the bar.

The stands were full of 9s in the 9th minute as most fans raised a 9 card in a tribute to the US national team's Charlie Davies, who was seriously injured as a passenger in a bad one-car crash just before the recent USA-Honduras match.

14' DAL: Harris (Hernandez). After receiving the ball from Daniel Hernandez, Harris carried it through the midfield towards the Seattle penalty area. With Leo Gonzalez splitting his attention between Harris and the man overlapping, it gave Harris just enough space, and he launched a low shot from 20 yards that beat Tyrone Marshall's outstretched leg, beat Kasey Keller and caught the lower far corner. 1-0 Dallas.

David Ferreira had a good chance to double Dallas' score when he was sprung through the middle and touched the ball past the charging Keller, but it was touched too hard and Ferreira couldn't catch it before it ran over the end line.

For Seattle, Steve Zakuani gave Dallas trouble just past midway in the half. First, Zakuani was going to round Heath Pearce at the left touch lilne and be in on goal, but Pearce tripped Zakuani to earn a yellow card. Six minutes later Zakuani earned space in the area for a shot that forced the first save by Dario Sala. Then a nice cross by Zakuani found Jaqua open for a left-footed shot from 15, but Jaqua missed badly.

Sala finished the half with two excellent saves to preserve Dallas' lead. A long free kick to the far post was headed sharply on goal by Fredy Montero, and Sala made a point blank save, knocking the ball wide. The last chance of the half came when Ljungberg's corner kick was headed on frame by Marshall, and Sala dove to make the save.

Second Half

The sides traded opportunities early in the second half. For Seattle, Montero tried a chip shot but couldn't get it past Sala. For Dallas, Dave van den Bergh headed a shot on goal from close, but the shot was too tame to beat Keller. For Seattle, a free kick by Ljungberg was dropped to Osvaldo Alonso for a hard, low 20-yarder that was block-saved by Sala.

61' SEA: Jaqua (Montero, Ljungberg). A long cross from the left by Ljungberg found Montero on the run at the far post, and he did well to slide and knock a pass square for Jaqua. The big forward had plenty of open goal to aim for and tapped it in to pull Seattle level. 1-1.

A minute or two later Jaqua nearly had another when he headed Ljungberg's corner kick on goal and it was blocked by the man at the post. A follow-up shot by Montero went just wide.

Seattle kept getting a chance every minute or two, and Sala made another nice save on a 25-yard free kick sent to the lower far corner by Montero.

Dallas had been stymied by Seattle's defense for most of the half, but they got a good look at 74' when Harris was served 10 yards from goal -- he shot two yards over the bar. Next it was Ferreira with a bicycle kick, but it went right to Keller in the middle of goal.

At 80' Zakuani should have put the ball in (his mother could have), but he shot over the top of an empty goal from close after being fed with a perfect cross.

The game was going end to end at this point. Another dangerous cross by Dallas gave Harris a chance but he headed it over the bar.

84' SEA: Evans (Ljungberg). After a Seattle attack was broken up by Dallas, Jaqua did well in hustling to rob the ball from Pearce at the toucl line and relaunch the attack. Jaqua fed Ljungberg, who just barely beat a defender to send the ball towards the near post. Dallas defenders looked tired as Evans was allowed to run between them and flick the ball with his foot over Sala and into the side netting. 2-1 Seattle.

Seattle's defense allowed Dallas just one last chance at 88', when van den Bergh was served near goal by Jeff Cunningham for a shot, but Jhon Kennedy Hurtado slid in to block it and save the day.

          SEA   DAL
Shots:     19   10
Saves:      2    6
Corners:    5    6
Fouls:     11   21
Offsides:   4    3

26' DAL: Pearce cautioned for a tactical foul on Zakuani
38' DAL: Harris cautioned for a cleats-first slide into Jaqua
57' SEA: Alonso cautioned for a late attempt at a sliding tackle
60' SEA: Evans cautioned for throwing an opponent down in frustration
70' DAL: Ihemelu cautioned for a tactical foul on Ljungberg

Referees: Baldomero Toledo; Corey Rockwell, Adam Garner; Landis Wiley

Attendance: 33,108

Postmatch Quotes

Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach

Opening Statement: "It was just tremendous to score goals at home again. It's been awhile since we've scored goals at home so it was great to hear the crowd erupt and allow them to let out all their passion and yell their lungs free. Overall it marks the regular season, no matter what happens tomorrow we're going to end up in the top-four in terms of points for our first season and when you look at a whole league of 15 teams and you look at an expansion team and you say you're going to finish in the top four in points, I think that's a pretty dang good accomplishment. It's a tribute to the players and the team because they've had the character and the spirit all year and today coming back from a goal down shows that again."

On whether a loss or draw would have felt like a wrong ending with this game being about the fans: "We talked about that. We started the season on a really good note and we wanted to finish the season on a really good note. So at the beginning of the season we were able to put away a team early and run away with it. Today we had to show that we can come back a little bit. It puts fitting book ends to the regular season but we've still got more to go."

"A lot of times this season, for a new team every one of these experiences is important so being able to go into Kansas City and play away from home, go up, go down, then come back and win builds a little bit of character. Being able to come home, take in a goal where we probably had a little more of the game in the first half than they had, and still be down 1-0 it takes the air out of you a little bit but we showed character to come back and that's another learning experience. You're able to rely on those and you're able to remember those as you think about and you go into the playoffs. When those situations occur there, you know that you can accomplish then. You can come from behind on the road, you know you can come from behind at home and you feel confident that you're confident that you're going to get the goals when you need them."

On whether fans should be concerned about who they'll get in the playoffs? "No, for me the only important thing is that we're in the playoffs. I never concern myself with who we're going to play. Once I know you we're going to play obviously we'll prepare for them tactically, but it's never where I'll say I'd rather play this team or that team because I learned a long time ago - I did that once and sure enough we played the team I didn't want to play and got knocked off in the first round of the playoffs. I learned that a long time ago at UCLA and haven't done it since."

On style of play in the playoffs: "Teams certainly have played very defensive against us at times here and we knew this game was going to be a little more open because of the result that they needed. It's the playoffs and the first game of the playoffs and right now we're not sure if we're home or away in that game. The first game of the playoffs is usually of a tighter affair because it's like the first half and no team wants to give away too much. So we'll have to see how that works. If we're home in that first game we'll have to press the issue a little bit and if we're on the road then maybe we'll be looking to counter attack, it all depends on how it works out at the end."

On ending on a winning note: "It feels great and it's definitely a big plus that it happened. I'm not a guy who says, hey, was it definitely needed if we hadn't gotten the result today, would it have shattered people, no. Everything for us is like a speed bump on the road, nothing's going to be a detour in terms what we're trying to achieve and getting to the goal of trying to win MLS Cup. Being able to score some goals at home was really refreshing for our team, I think they feel good about that, doing it in this particular game, coming from behind, all those are real positives that we can build on."

On being honored as the winningest MLS coach: "It means I've been around a long time and I'm old. I said to someone earlier in the week, when I got into coaching originally back at UCLA, I'm going to do it but I've got to be successful or else I'll go back to being an accountant. It worked out, I was successful and we won a championship. When I got into the MLS, it was like I didn't want to be a .500 coach in this league, I wanted to be one of the better coaches in this league. If I was going to be a .500 coach, after a couple years I probably would have gone back to college. That's my drive and hopefully that drive conveys itself to the players. There's been a lot of good coaches in this league and to have won more games than any of them fills me with a lot of humbleness and also a lot of honor and pride to know that I was able to accomplish that. As I said, my favorite record is most wins in the playoffs and that's the one I want to build on."

Reflection on the season and fan reaction: "It's been beyond anyone's wildest dreams. I think everybody talked it might be like this, it could be like this, we think it's going to be good and it's going to be received. But you guys have been here all season as well. It's beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The fans continuing to come out game after game, the support that we've gotten from the city, the love that they've showered upon our team and the organization, and hopefully what we've returned to them as well. We just want to have this continue. I don't want to wake up, if this is a dream I want to stay asleep."

On season's high points and low points: "The low point was definitely the loss in San Jose, the 4-0 loss in San Jose. I don't like losing games like that. That was just a game where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. High points have been many. The ability to come back in Chicago, make that 1-1, what I always call those are defining moments that start to build the character of your team. It really started with the opening game, winning 3-0 at home was a huge high point. Going out on our first road game and winning at Toronto, the second best attended team in the league. The comeback in Chicago was something that I'll remember was a big high point. Going into Houston and coming out with a draw in a very difficult place to play was another high point, another character building thing for our team. This isn't even a league game but going into Portland, and winning in Portland was a very emotional game. Winning the Open Cup as well. Winning in Kansas City as well to wrap it up. And then the game tonight. All of those have been character building things where we've done it different ways. It's been great."

Nate Jaqua - Sounders FC Forward

On scoring a goal: "It was a great ball by Fredy on the cross and I just ran in the box, right place at the right time. But Fredy played a great ball back across."

On going into the playoffs: "I think we are comfortable with whoever we play. We are playing well. It was good to get that win. Going into the playoffs, I think we have a lot of confidence right now. I think we are ready for it. Whoever it is, we will prepare for them."

On breaking home scoreless streak: "It was definitely good to get on the board here at home. We were confident. We knew that, regardless of this outcome, we were still playing well and creating chances. We just weren't touching the back of the net but eventually that is going to happen."

Freddie Ljungberg - Sounders FC Midfielder

On his two assists: "On the first one, I think I got it from Zakuani and I kept it a little bit so that he [FC Dallas defender] would come up towards me and then I just chipped back on the back post where I know a player should come. Montero came there and he found Jaqua for the open net. The second one, they say that that defender is one of the quickest in the league, so when I was taking him on I knew it was him. At the same time, I was still in great form so I crossed it in and Brad was there to hit it in. I think we could've scored some other goals maybe as well. But it was a great game."

On playing for MLS expansion team: "We are a new franchise and when you look at the history normally they get blasted every game and fans don't really enjoy it that much because they lose all the time. I think we changed that history and we are doing well. We won the [U.S. Open] Cup in Washington D.C. Now we will just go on. That's the good thing about this team. We are not really celebrating here today. We are taking it easy and we want to win the big thing."

On next season: "We will see what happens. A bunch of fans have been on me and want me to stay for longer. That is of course very flattering."

Kasey Keller - Sounders FC Goalkeeper

On tonight's match: "Now we can concentrate on the playoffs and we will know tomorrow who we play. We don't fear anybody. We are very confident against whoever we play. It's just so nice to get that monkey off of our back, the home goal drought and results. I'm just very proud of the way we kept battling. We felt confident after halftime and we said that we can win this thing. And we did exactly that."

Schellas Hyndman - FC Dallas Head Coach

On his emotions after losing the lead in tonight's game: "It is a difficult environment; Seattle has done a great job here. The fans are very supportive and very knowledgeable. We played in an environment that the field turf was wet and a pretty good, aggressive team. You put all that together and it was a difficult night. We had a one-nil lead till about the 61 minute and gave up the goal. The second goal was similar circumstance."

On playing well to finish the season: "We had a rough start, but we ended up playing as well as anyone in the league at the end. This was one of those games where we never really had a chance to get our rhythm into the game. That is our own fault and we have to get it right for the future."

On Jeff Cunningham possibly winning the Golden Boot Award: "He had a fantastic season, my hats off to Jeff. He came on and scored a lot of big goals for us in this run we have had. It is unfortunate; I don't even know that he got a shot off tonight. He was marked pretty well, tremendous accomplishment if he does end up with the award."

On having control of the game being up 1-0: "No, no, I knew it was a game that was going to change any moment. A game like this changes so quickly with a player slipping through, cross, injury, or a referee decision. The Sounders crossed a lot of balls through towards Jaqua and we were a little afraid of that happening. It was strange that Montero ended up knocking it across. I thought throughout the game that it was going to be difficult to hold that one-nil lead."

Other match reports: