2009 Oct 17

Sounders qualify for playoffs with road win at Kansas City

Kansas City Wizards  2 - 3  Seattle Sounders FC

CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Kansas City, KS

27' SEA: Tyrone Marshall

51' KC: Zoltan Hercegfalvi (Michael Harrington)
53' KC: Josh Wolff (Davy Arnaud)
69' SEA: Roger Levesque (Marshall, Freddie Ljungberg)
76' SEA: Nate Jaqua (Ljungberg)

Kansas City: Kevin Hartman; Michael Harrington, Matt Besler (Roger Espinoza 79'), Jimmy Conrad, Jonathan Leathers (Chance Myers 46'); Claudio Lopez, Jack Jewsbury, Graham Zusi, Davy Arnaud; Josh Wolff, Zoltan Hercegfalvi (Kei Kamara 70'). Substitutes not used: Boris Pardo, Aaron Hohlbein, Kurt Morsink, Michael Kraus.

Seattle: Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Brad Evans; Steve Zakuani (Sebastien Le Toux 82'), Osvaldo Alonso, Peter Vagenas (James Riley 77'), Nate Jaqua; Freddie Ljungberg, Fredy Montero (Roger Levesque 63'). Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Patrick Ianni, Tyson Wahl, Stephen King.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

The Seattle Sounders FC clinched a playoff berth with a 3-2 road win over the Kansas City Wizards. The Wizards were eliminated from the playoffs by matches earlier in the day. The Sounders are the first MLS expansion team to qualify for the playoffs since 1998.

The match was back and forth. Tyrone Marshall's goal gave the Sounders a halftime lead. Kansas City went ahead early in the second half from goals by Zoltan and Josh Wolff. But the Sounders came back for the win with goals by Roger Levesque and Nate Jaqua. Seattle's Freddie Ljungberg had a part in setting up all three Seattle goals, and deserves to be man of the match.

The Sounders became the fifth team of eight to qualify for the playoffs. Seven teams are competing for the final three berths with one match left for each.

First Half

The first half was almost all Sounders. Early on a cross from Ljungberg was headed back across the goal mouth by Fredy Montero, but it didn't have enough on it and goalkeeper Kevin Hartman easily took the ball. Ljungberg gave Montero another chance with a cross to the far side, but Montero could only reach enough of the ball to head it wide of the near post. Another early cross from Ljungberg rolled in front of an attacker in the middle and Hartman did well to push it behind the man on the far post run.

The Wizards got their first good chance from a corner kick play, when Matt Besler fired a shot at the lower corner, rejected by the man at the post, Osvaldo Alonso.

27' SEA: Marshall. The opening goal came from a corner kick play. Kansas City left the near post unmanned, so Ljungberg aimed the corner kick there. A defender deflected it on goal, but Hartman managed to dive and block it away. The rebound went to Marshall, who volleyed a shot over the downed Hartman and in. 1-0 Seattle.

KC had a chance at 29' when a ball served into the penalty area was headed away from Zoltan by Brad Evans, but it went right to Claudio Lopez for a shot that missed a foot wide of the far post.

Seattle rookie Steve Zakuani was involved in the rest of the half's chances. He was sprung nicely on the left by Ljungberg, but Zakuani's 25-yard chip over Hartment bounced off the top of the bar. Next chance was a nice cross by Zakuani, but Jaqua headed it squarely onto the bar and Hartman saved Jaqua's follow-up shot. Another Zakuani cross to the near post almost found Jaqua, but Hartman got there first.

Second Half

Seattle ought to have had an insurance goal at 48'. The ball went from Alonso on the left to Zakuani and to Ljungberg in the middle, who passed right to a wide open Montero. But with only Hartman to beat Montero's shot went a foot wide left.

51' KC: Zoltan (Harrington). After so many chances of their own, the Sounders gave up a goal to lose their lead. Michael Harrington on the left sent in a diagonal cross towards the far side and Leo Gonzalez seemed to hold up, perhaps thinking Keller would get it. But Zoltan got there first and slammed it into the net. 1-1.

53' KC: Wolff (Arnaud). Kansas City soon took the lead when Davy Arnaud's cross from the right was swung at and totally missed by Marshall. The ball went through for Wolff, who made no mistake with the finish from close in. 2-1 KC.

For Seattle, Montero soon had a chance to tie it up when he was sprung up the middle and again had only Hartman to beat, but Montero sent it a foot wide again. He took another shot two minutes later from 25 yards, but Hartman had it covered.

The Wizards came back with a couple of good chances. Wolff got through the defense for a chance from 18, but Kasey Keller saved well. A cross gave Arnaud a chance from close, but the defense cleared it.

69' SEA: Levesque (Marshall, Ljungberg). The tying goal came from substitute Levesque. Ljungberg's corner kick to the near side was headed across the goal mouth by Marshall, and Levesque headed it in to pull the match level. 2-2.

Seattle had the next chance when Zakuani carried the ball a long ways and earned a shot, but he barely missed the far post.

Next chance was for Kansas City when substitute Kei Kamara got around the left corner and centered a ball that Wolff touched on to Arnaud, whose hard shot was well saved by Keller.

Zakuani got another chance when Ljungberg fed him wide open on the left. Zakuani tried to nutmeg Hartman, but Hartman managed to make the block save.

76' SEA: Jaqua (Ljungberg). Ljungberg did well to set up the match winner. He won a 50-50 ball on the right touch line and turned the corner to advance towards goal alone. The low cross went by the last defender and by Hartman leaving the net open for Jaqua, who finished with a shot high, but well under the bar. 3-2 Seattle.

Seattle then subsituted James Riley in for Peter Vagenas, pushing Evans up to center mid.

Kansas City had their chances to catch up. Kamara earned a 25-yard shot but missed the top far corner. Wolff volleyed a cross over the bar from 15 yards. Graham Zusi earned a quick shot from 10 yards on the right that just cleared the bar. A long shot was blocked early by Alonso, conceding a corner kick. At 89' Claudio Lopez drove a fine shot from distance on goal, but Keller made another great save.

At 89' Seattle took a good shot when substitute Sebastien Le Toux fired from 20, but Hartman saved well overhead.

The final of three added minutes gave Kansas City their last chance, a corner kick that was headed wide.

The Sounders were pleased to earn a win, qualifying them for the playoffs and setting up the season closer at home as a match for playoff position. It should be a love fest between the club and the fans.

           KC   SEA
Shots:     16   17
Saves:      6    4
Corners:    9    7
Fouls:      5    9
Offsides:   1    5

45' CBS: Vagenas cautioned

Referees: Mark Geiger; Kermit Quisenberry, Cyril Madukanya; Chris Penso

Attendance: 10,135

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid

On Seattle's playoff-clinching win:
"Obviously it's an important win. For a first-year franchise to make the playoffs in the first year, it hasn't happened in a long time. Like I said, the scenario was different when Chicago did it because the league was a lot younger. I'm proud of our team, and I'm proud of what we've accomplished. I still think we can play better soccer, but that's just me. I always think we can play better soccer. We showed a lot of desire, a lot of will power, a lot of attitude at times on the field, and that's important to win games."

On the comeback:
"We thought we had some chances definitely. We hit the crossbar and Hartman came up with a couple of saves. They played very well, and they have nothing to lose so they can cheat a little bit on defense and encourage their guys to go for it. They scored a couple of good goals, and luckily for us, we had a lot of character. We stuck with it and came back and pulled out the win."

On what the playoff clinch means to him personally:
"I've had a lot fun coaching this sport. Last year in Columbus and with Columbus' showing this year, they're a tremendous team. We built a great team there and they'll carry it on. What we're trying to do right now is build the same thing in Seattle. For me, everything's been a different challenge. When it came to LA it was sort of 'hey they're a good team, can you take them to the final level?' and we did it. I come to Columbus and it was 'rebuild the whole thing' and we did it. And now we're starting something new and we're starting to get there. That's what makes life fun. An Irish friend of mine says 'if one doesn't accept the challenges life brings you, it's not worth living.'"

Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Freddie Ljungberg

On the comeback:
"We came back from being down 2-1, and that's not that easy so we feel good."

On the pitch at CAB:
"The grass is very good. The pitch was very good. It was small, but the quality of the pitch was very good."

Kansas City Wizards Head Coach Peter Vermes

On the game:
"It was a tough game to lose. Having a lead at home...that's something we work hard to get, and when we got the lead tonight and couldn't defend it that was really frustrating. I think our effort was good tonight, but we gave up a couple of easy goals in the second half and that was the difference. Now we need to regroup for another home game next week against D.C. United, and we need to play hard and finish our season on a high note."

On playing Saturday after finding out earlier in the day that the Wizards had been eliminated from playoff contention:
"It wasn't difficult for me, and it wasn't for the coaching staff. The players played hard tonight, so I think they did a good job of focusing on the job at hand. Despite us getting eliminated prior to our game tonight, we all know it is important to play well at the end of this season so that we can be a better team in 2010."

On Zoltan's first career start:
"I thought he played well tonight. He scored another goal, his second in three weeks, and that's one of the things he brings to this team. As we move towards 2010, Zoltan is a guy we will be counting on to play an important role on this team and challenge for a starting spot."

Kansas City Wizards forward Josh Wolff

On setting a career-high for goals this season:
"It feels good, but it's just too bad that I couldn't do it in a season that we made the playoffs. My job is to score goals. I was just doing my job this year."

Kansas City Wizards defender Jimmy Conrad

On the game:
"I thought a tie was a fair result tonight, but that isn't what happened. We learned a few more lessons this game. Unfortunately we keep learning these lessons and we're not going to make the playoffs this season."

Other match reports: