In the closing minutes Saturday night, Sounders FC solidified its hold on the final playoff spot in Major League Soccer with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — In the closing minutes Saturday night, Sounders FC solidified its hold on the final playoff spot in Major League Soccer with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park.
Blaise Nkufo scored off an assist from Steve Zakuani when Fire defender C.J. Brown went down, opening space for the shot in the 88th minute.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid called the match the first of “three weeks of playoff games” in the battle for the eighth and final MLS playoff spot.
Credit Kasey Keller. The Sounders goalkeeper was tested hard, especially in the first half. The Fire opened with playoff intensity, putting a shot on Keller in the opening seconds. Three minutes later, Keller had to stop a breakaway. He had to stop another point-blank shot by Marco Pappa in extra time of the first half.
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Freddie Ljungberg, acquired from Seattle on July 30, started at forward for the Fire and tested Keller again with a hard free kick in the opening minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, the offense for Sounders FC (11-9-6, 39 points) mustered only two shots on goal in the first half, but had quality chances in the second half.
Fredy Montero had a good mid-box header in the 61st minute. In the 73rd, Nikufo sprang Sanna Nyassi on a break, which Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson had to double stop. The Fire (6-10-8, 26 points) came in fifth in the East.
The first yellow card came in the 28th minute to the Fire’s John Thorrington for a reckless foul. But referee Jasen Anno kept a tight rein on the game with ready admonitions for hard tackles and physical play. Pappa received the second yellow in the 70th minute.
Seattle didn’t get its first shot on goal until the 33rd minute when Montero was stopped at short range.