Sounders clinch first-round bye in playoffs with win over Dallas
Brad Evans had two goals to lead Seattle in a 3-1 win in its final regular-season match at home this year.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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The Sounders have seen just about every trophy elude their grasp this season.
First, it was the CONCACAF Champions League back in March. Then, over the course of the year, the U.S. Open Cup, Heritage Cup and MLS Supporters' Shield followed. Lastly, before Sunday's regular-season home finale against FC Dallas, Seattle was forced to concede the Cascadia Cup to Portland after the Timbers clinched the fan-sponsored competition among Pacific Northwest rivals in Vancouver.
But one trophy remains. The most important one: MLS Cup.
And with a 3-1 win against Dallas, led by two goals from midfielder Brad Evans, the Sounders helped their cause to that aim by clinching a top-three seed into the Western Conference, thus avoiding the first round of the playoffs.
"I think this was one of the most important games of the year so far," Evans said. "We made a statement tonight."
Seattle (15-7-11) will face Real Salt Lake for the second year in a row in the conference semifinals, but which team will have home-field advantage is to be determined.
The Sounders are tied with RSL in the standings, but boast a 51-46 advantage in goals scored, the first tiebreaker. That means a Seattle win the last game of the season on Oct. 28 against the Los Angeles Galaxy would almost assuredly clinch the No. 2 seed.
But even while it was nice to look forward after a win, losing the Cascadia Cup still stung.
"We like to get trophies," said acting coach Brian Schmetzer, who filled in for the suspended Sigi Schmid. "We like to win as much as we can wherever we can."
"If we can't give (the fans) that, then we need to give them something else," added Evans.
Evans broke a 1-1 tie in the 60th minute when he hammered a cross from midfielder Christian Tiffert past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. Midfielder Mauro Rosales capped the scoring in the 79th minute when he finished into an open net on a fine pass from forward Fredy Montero, who had two assists.
It marked the second three-goal performance for the Sounders in three games.
"We did an excellent job," Rosales said. "We have to keep going like this, play the last game, and then try to be at our best level for the playoffs."
The Sounders opened the scoring in the 32nd minute from an unlikely spot.
Montero was brought down in the penalty area, drawing Seattle's first penalty kick since a Week 2 game against Houston on March 23.
Evans converted the kick, like he did against the Dynamo. He is 5 for 5 in PKs the past two seasons and earned his first two-goal game since April 30, 2011.
FC Dallas (9-13-11) responded in the 40th minute on a goal by forward Blas Perez, his fourth in three games. The score ended Seattle's season-best shutout streak at 369 minutes, which was the sixth-longest in MLS this year.
The Sounders are 14-0-3 this season when scoring the first goal, 27-0-4 since the end of 2010 — the second-longest active streak in MLS behind New York's 56 games.
The Sounders finished 11-4-2 at CenturyLink Field, their best home record for a season. Seattle, as expected, also established new MLS records this year in average attendance (43,144) and total attendance (733,441) following Sunday's crowd of 38,755.
• Sounders FC next hosts CD Marathon of Honduras in its final CONCACAF Champions League group game at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Seattle has already clinched advancement to the quarterfinals.
• FC Dallas was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. Vancouver earned the final berth thanks to Seattle's win and will face the Galaxy in the first round.
• Seattle fielded its 30th different lineup in 33 games as forward Eddie Johnson and defender Adam Johansson returned from national team duty. Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado also returned and played with a protective mask due to a facial fracture.
• Schmid was suspended for the game due to critical comments toward referee Ricardo Salazar during and after Wednesday's tie with Real Salt Lake. He was forced to watch the game from a suite but addressed the crowd in a postgame ceremony as part of Fan Appreciation Day.
• David Estrada was named the 2012 Sounders FC Humanitarian of the Year on Sunday.
• Schmetzer improved to 2-0 in MLS games.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.
|FC Dallas||1 0 — 1|
|Seattle||1 2 — 3|
FC Dallas — Kevin Hartman, Hernan Pertuz, Matt Hedges, Jair Benitez, Zach Loyd, Andrew Jacobson, Ricardo Villar (Scott Sealy, 74th), Daniel Hernandez (Carlos Rodriguez, 81st), David Ferreira, Fabian Castillo, Blas Perez.
Seattle — Michael Gspurning, Marc Burch, Jeff Parke, Adam Johansson, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Mauro Rosales (Andy Rose, 83rd), Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert (David Estrada, 89th), Brad Evans, Eddie Johnson, Fredy Montero.
|Playoff teams from Western Conference|
|The Sounders are in a second-place tie with Real Salt Lake. Both teams have one MLS game remaining.|
|Real Salt Lake||17-11-5||56|