2010 Oct 9

Sounders FC clinch playoff berth with a win in KC

Kansas City Wizards  1 - 2  Seattle Sounders FC

CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Kansas City, KS

66' SEA: Sanna Nyassi
78' SEA: Alvaro Fernandez

84' KC: Davy Arnaud (PK)

Kansas City: Jimmy Nielson; Roger Espinoza, Matt Besler, Jimmy Conrad, Michael Harrington; Jack Jewsbury (Graham Zusi 73'), Craig Rocastle (Birahim Diop 85'), Davy Arnaud; Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, Ryan Smith (Josh Wolff 68'). Substitutes not used: Eric Kronberg, Korede Aiyegbusi, Jonathan Leathers, Stephane Auvray.

Seattle: Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, James Riley; Steve Zakuani (Alvaro Fernandez 74'), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Sanna Nyassi (Tyrone Marshall 89'); Fredy Montero (Nate Jaqua 65'), Blaise Nkufo. Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Zach Scott, Mike Seamon, Mike Fucito.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

Seattle Sounders FC completed a sweep of four consecutive, critical matches by winning 2-1 at the Kansas City Wizards, clinching a spot in the playoffs. Sanna Nyassi and Alvaro Fernandez staked the Sounders to a 2-0 lead, but a late, questionable penalty kick gave Kansas City hope at the end when Davy Arnaud coverted the gift.

Kansas City had been the only team with a reasonable chance of knocking the Sounders out of the playoffs, but now the Wizards only have a mathematical chance of getting in.

Seattle's incredible series the past three weeks started with a win at Chicago, continued with a win at home against Toronto, and ended with this win at Kansas City, killing each opponent's playoff dreams. In that run the Sounders also won the US Open Cup over Columbus, who will be in the MLS playoffs.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid had no desire to mess with a winning formula, starting the same eleven that we have seen for recent MLS matches.

The first half was all about the Sounders withstanding the pressure that Kansas City applied on the small pitch. Their first chances came at 10' when Teal Bunbury was served in front of goal from a long free kick, then from a throw-in play, but Seattle's defense did well to deny him an open look at goal. A minute later Kasey Keller was called on to make his first save when Ryan Smith's long, curling free kick was headed nicely on goal by Matt Besler. Keller got to the post to parry the shot away with two hands. Soon Smith rounded the corner on the right for a shot and sent it a half yard over the top near corner. At 18' Kei Kamara received a short pass from Bunbury and rolled a shot just wide of the post from the arc.

It took a half hour for Seattle's first shot, a long one from Nyassi that looked promising but kept rising too long.

At 35' KC came closest in the half when Bunbury's header from Smith's cross bounced on top of the crossbar. Two minutes later Besler forced Keller's second and last save with a header from the spot off a corner kick. Keller caught it overhead and held on.

The last chance of the half was Seattle's when Fredy Montero's marker stumbled, allowing a 20-yard shot that just missed the far post.

The Wizards kept the momentum opening the second half. The first shot came at 49' when Arnaud headed well wide. The second shot came on the hour mark and Arnaud was closer, firing a yard over the bar from a throw-in play.

Referee Kevin Stott was being particularly hard on Seattle and at 61' he confused fans by apparently calling a foul against Montero after he was clearly pushed down from behind by Craig Rocastle. Montero grabbed the ball, expecting to take a free kick, but Stott inexplicably gave him a yellow card instead for delaying the KC restart! A few minutes later Schmid made what would prove to be a wise substitution, sending Nate Jaqua on to replace the frustrated Montero.

66' SEA: Nyassi. Nyassi claimed a loose ball in the middle third and ran up the middle with it, working a give and go with Jaqua. Jaqua's first touch of the match sent Nyassi through into the penalty area, past Rocastle, for a shot from a bit left of the spot. Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielson saved the first shot, but the rebound went back to Nyassi and this time he beat Nielsen with a low shot. 1-0 Seattle.

At 70' Jaqua nearly scored when his flick header from a long Nathan Sturgis free kick flashed an inch wide of the far post with Blaise Nkufo's run almost in time to reach the ball.

KC came back on the attack with Kamara's 20-yard blast up the middle inches over the bar with Keller's hand there just in case. Jimmy Conrad's long free kick just missed the lower far corner. Bunbury's long shot was a yard high.

78' SEA: Fernandez. A few minutes after entering the match for Steve Zakuani, a free kick play from Seattle's end gave the ball to Fernandez. As Nyassi had done, Fernandez worked a successful give and go up the middle with Jaqua. Fernandez had to beat Conrad, Besler, and Nielsen in succession to score the insurance goal, which would be needed. 2-0 Seattle.

84' KC: Arnaud (PK). Referee Stott's version of reality remained askew when he awarded a bogus penalty kick to Bunbury. On the play, Arnaud sent a ball into the left side of the penalty area for Bunbury. Jeff Parke ran in to cut off Bunbury's angle, and Bunbury's foot hit Parke's foot, tripping Parke. Then down went Bunbury, too easily. He deserves a 10 for the dive because he drew the penalty kick. Arnaud took the kick and sent it perfectly to the lower left corner. 2-1 Seattle.

Seattle killed off most of the remaining clock plus four minutes of added time well. Tyrone Marshall came on at 89' for Nyassi to help defend.

Kansas City had one great chance left in added time when a strong attack gave Bunbury a cross to Kamara eight yards out from the near post. Kamara's sliding shot hit the post squarely and there was no second chance. A late free kick from 25 yards by Roger Espinoza was the last chance, and it went over the bar.

Playoff tickets can be ordered now by Sounders season ticket holders. Playoff tickets will open to the public on Oct 21.

           KC    SEA
Shots:     18      8
Saves:      1      2
Corners:    3      2
Fouls:     16     16
Offsides:   1      1

28' SEA: Alonso cautioned for a late charge into Espinoza
61' SEA: Montero inexplicably cautioned for delaying a restart after he was shoved down from behind when it seemed Montero should have been awarded the free kick
63' KC: Bunbury cautioned for kicking Sturgis in the shin
81' KC: Arnaud cautioned for knocking Montero down from behind
81' SEA: Jaqua cautioned for getting Espinoza in the face with an arm

Referees: Kevin Stott; Bill Dittmar, Brian Poeschel; Mark Kadlecik

Attendance: 11,522

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC

Sigi Schmid - Head Coach

On the game: "On this field it is always tough because there are always a lot of turnovers, and it is tough to string together passes. We dropped in a little bit, so that invited them to play long balls into our box. It wasn't the prettiest game, but at the end of the day in the second half we finished a couple of goals well. Coming off a big game on Tuesday where you could expect a let-down maybe from the team, we showed character to stick with it and somehow found a way to do the job."

On having higher aspirations than just making the playoffs: "We want to do more things in the playoffs than just qualify for them. We qualified last year. It is certainly a tremendous accomplishment for our club to qualify for the playoffs in our first two years and to win two Open Cups so far. We have more wins this year than we did last year. We have won four in a row on the road now. Those are all positives. We are not afraid of who we're going to play. Whoever comes our way, we will prepare for them."

On clinching playoff berths in back to back years in Kansas City: "It is funny, because when I coached the Galaxy, we ended up clinching here as well, and one year with Columbus we clinched here, so it has been a good place that way. I've also lost a few games here. They are team that obviously made a lot of changes this year and a team that is still growing together. They are not a team I want to run into every day."

On the goals: "I think Sanna's just on fire right now. It took him forever to score one, and now he can't stop scoring. It was a great combination with Nate Jaqua. Jaqua put a good ball in to him. Nielsen made the first save, Sanna stayed with it and put away the rebound. And then Fernandez' goal, again it was a good ball by Jaqua. Good first ball by Fernandez, he got the ball back from Jaqua and then once he got in the box, he made a great move to open himself up for the left-footed shot. So individual players, they were able to turn the game. Jaqua as well really helped us. It was one of those games where you needed some fresh legs and they both provided what they could. That's been our team this year, especially in the last 14 or 13 games. Different people stepped up and contributed at different times."

On whether or not his team would have won this game earlier in the year: "We definitely would not have. Now, our character and our belief is much stronger. Without having gone through the adversity that we had at the beginning of the year, we might not be as strong character-wise, but having gone through that, we are now strong."

On goals for the next two weeks after clinching: "We just want to make sure that we keep our rhythm. We've got to be smart. Be careful if we've got anybody carrying injuries or little knocks. I think sometimes when teams clinch and sort of know their positions in the playoffs, they start resting guys and the team loses its rhythm. It's important for us to maintain our rhythm but also be smart and if we do have somebody with a nagging injury, maybe we've got to rest them a little bit.

Sanna Nyassi

On your goal: "It was a missed clearance and then I took the ball from the midfielder. Took the defenders on and played it to Nate Jaqua, he played me through and I tried to finish but the goalkeeper made a save and it came back out and I banged it in."

On his recent scoring form: "I just want to keep it going. I'm on fire right now, scoring four goals in three games. It's making me have more confidence. I have to keep it going."

On getting his own rebound to score: "I wanted to finish it on the shot, but the 'keeper made a great save, but the ball comes back at me, and I banged it in."

On advancing to the playoffs: "Yes, I'm excited to advance to the playoffs in this game to make sure that we are on the safe side."

On the Open Cup victory: "It is good to have more silverware in our records. Last year we won it, and we defended our title this year. That was just like a bonus to us."

On the Seattle fans that traveled to Kansas City: "We have a bond with them. We have great fans, great people in Seattle. We have a lot of traveling fans. Sometimes when we travel away they travel with us. It was good to pay them back with a win tonight."

What's your scoring secret?: "Just make sure I train hard and when I get home I make sure I have enough sleep. I rest a lot. I sleep a lot. It makes me have more energy to play. It's my only secret."

Adrian Hanauer

On what the win means: "It's been a good week. A good four days. Again, I always say it, but I'm just happy for the guys. Rough start, stuck with it, believed, worked hard, turned it around. The locker room is a pretty happy locker room. We've got a lot of work ahead of us still, but another one of our preseason goals checked off."

Is getting into the playoffs worth celebrating or is this the gate opening for more?: "This is the gate opening. You have to appreciate and enjoy this part of the accomplishment but it's just the start. Hopefully we do more damage than we did in the playoffs last season."

On Seattle's ability to get results when playing less than their best: "That is a good observation. In the beginning of the year, there is no chance we would have grinded out a result in this game. Now the guys are more disciplined. They believe more, and they step out onto the field thinking that we are going to win the game. This wasn't the prettiest game, but we got the result and that's all that counts."

On clinching a playoff spot: "If feels great. I think we were confident, but you never know, and it is good to just have that stress behind us - to be able to focus on our last two games, and to then move onto the playoffs."

On their road support: "We've had tremendous road support all year. It has been remarkable. We had 200 in Chicago, and they just followed us all over the country. I know it is really important to Sigi that we show them the appropriate amount of respect and love because they help us. They helped us grind out a result today."

Jeff Parke

On the PK, did you foul him?: "No, man. It was a situation where he's running, I'm running just a little behind him, I'm going to cut his angle off. His foot comes up, trips me, and then he falls. It will be different when you see it on the replay."

On the slow first half: "The way the field is, they're coming out with a different gameplay. It's all or nothing for them. It was an important game for us to win, to get a result. But they know their field is small, it's tight, they get after their opponent quick to shock them. We did well to fight it off and come out with a result."

Steve Zakuani

On the result: "First half was very sloppy and maybe we had to crash back down to earth after the Open Cup, but we stayed in there. Then Sanna got the goal. Then after his goal we got a second. I think earlier in the year we didn't kill games off, but we're starting to."

Were the struggles their doing, your doing, both?: "We weren't our best today. I don't think we made five or six good passes together throughout the whole game. I think they were desperate. It's a small pitch so they'd just dump the ball down on us -- and they have some good players -- but we were able to withstand that and once we did, we said we'd get one on the break. And we did that with Sanna and then Flaco. That was big."

Nate Jaqua

On your involvement in the goals: "Yeah I was able to play one in for Sanna when he made a good run in, then he did a great job finishing it off. Then another one where Flaco kind of knocked it down to me and I knocked it back to him and finished a great goal as well."

Are those assists as satisfying as goals?: "The win is what's satisfying. I'm just happy to be out there and contributing. To make the playoffs is great for us. That's what's satisfying."

On frustrations watching: "I didn't watch much of the second half because I was warming up. So I didn't see much of that. But it's always frustrating to be on the bench. You want to be out there. But it's one of those things where when you get in you want to make the most of your opportunity."

Are you celebrating this or is there work to be done?: "There's definitely work to be done. I think last year we were maybe a little more happy and content with making the playoffs. We didn't quite know what we were capable of when we made the playoffs. This year we're happy to get in but also looking to get to the final and see what we can do."

Kansas City

Peter Vermes - Head Coach

On the game: "It's amazing that mathematically we're still in it, which is incredible. I don't think that there were a lot of chances on either side in the game. The two that they got, I obviously want to see them again, but they weren't spectacular. You know we had a few good shots and a few other chances, but it wasn't enough on our part to get the three points. We didn't deserve the 3 points. It wasn't enough, although we had chances. We hit the cross bar, and we hit the post and all those other things you can say...it just wasn't enough."

On the difference between what happened tonight and during the team's successful run: "Even last game, we played great other than the goal we gave up. Credit to the Sounders. They played a very sound, organized game. I thought they did a very good job on the outsides against us where we have a lot of danger in our attack. I thought in the second half we were a little more dangerous up front because we made a couple of adjustments in our movements. But I've got to give them credit in this game. They were organized and their lines were where they needed to be."

Were they playing for the draw?: "No doubt. They're not going to expose themselves, and they really didn't. Once the game opened up with the goals, the next thing you know, we're unleashing numbers at them, and that's why they brought in a fifth defender and played with five in the back at the end there. They did a very good job of managing the out of bounds over here and ending the game on us."

What do you need to do now?: "Go for broke against Chicago and hope everything else happens on the other teams. Crazier things have happened. Believe me. Anything can happen. Again, we've got to focus on Chicago. We don't have anything else other than to get three points there."

Teal Bunbury

On the foul that led to Arnaud's goal via penalty kick: "Davy gave me a well timed ball to perfection, and I was one-on-one with the guy. I cut him, and I tried to bring out my left to try to take a shot and he just clipped the back of my ankle. I'm not a diver. People were asking me after the game. There's no way I'm diving there. If I've got a chance to score there, why would I dive?"

On potentially missing the playoffs: "Definitely it's a sour pill. We've worked hard in training from preseason to now. Everyone gives everything they've got. To come out and lose this game...people say we're not mathematically out of it, but obviously it is hard to swallow. We've got to get to work. We've got a game Tuesday in Chicago and then a game on Saturday. We've got to finish these next three games off strong. We need wins. That's the bottom line: we need wins."

On going down 2-0: "That's how it is. It's been like that. It's plain to see that we're getting chances but we're just not executing. As a striker, I need to be scoring more than I am. I'm getting opportunities and chances. I take that upon myself, and so are other guys. That final touch and that final pass are things we need to work on."

Jimmy Conrad

On going down 2-0 in the game: "The last three or four games, we've put ourselves in a hole. We took a lot of energy to get that 4-3 win against Houston, and we almost conjured up the same type of magic against Dallas. It was the same in New York and now here. We just need to hit one and feel good about it. That's been the bane of our existence this season."

On their playoff situation and missed opportunities: "I think we could look to five or six games where we outplayed those teams and deserved to get three points and didn't. Seattle, in Seattle. LA, at home. Those are just a couple off the top of my head. Those games come back to haunt you. Those are early games in the season, and I think a lot of us older guys understand the importance of points regardless what point it is in the season. You can't wait until the end of the season to try to make it happen. We find ourselves in this position again. We've been in this position for a number of years now. You think we would learn from these mistakes, but you need some breaks. I don't believe in luck. You create your own luck. We just need to take advantage of opportunities we created and this is why we find ourselves in this position."

On mathematically being still in the playoff race: "It's nice that there is still a chance. I had to give you a cliche, but you just need to take it one play at a time. I thought we did a lot of good things tonight, but we didn't get the result to show for it. These are lessons to learn for this team. If we can't make something of it this year, then hopefully we can build on it for next year."

On the quick turnaround for the game in Chicago: "I think the best thing following a loss is to get right back in the saddle. I think it helps that we have a chance, mathematically, so we can get up for it. Maybe for the next 24 hours, we can feel sorry about this, but we need to get on with it and try to get something in Chicago."