Sounders FC, in its first year of Major League Soccer existence, clinched a playoff spot Saturday night with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Kansas City Wizards at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With leading goal scorer Fredy Montero struggling to find the back of the net and his team trailing the Kansas City Wizards by a goal, Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid made a bold move. And it paid off.
Schmid pulled Montero in the 63rd minute and replaced him with Roger Levesque, who tied the game in the 69th minute with his second career Major League Soccer goal and his second goal in as many games. A few minutes later, Nate Jaqua knocked in the go-ahead goal, and Sounders FC went on to win 3-2 at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
With the win, Sounders FC (11-7-11, 44 points) becomes the first MLS expansion team to reach the playoffs since the 1998 Chicago Fire, which also won the MLS Cup that year.
“To come and make the playoffs in year one is something that hasn’t happened in a long time,” Schmid said. “The scenario was different when Chicago did it because the league was a lot younger. I’m just proud of our team. I’m proud of what we’ve done all season. I still think we can play better soccer, but that’s just me.”
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Schmid will be taking his third MLS team to the postseason. He led the Los Angeles Galaxy to the playoffs from 1999 to 2003 and took the Columbus Crew to the MLS Cup title last year. That success was built in part by decisions like the one Schmid made Saturday night.
“For Fredy Montero, he’s a great player, and he was just having a tough night,” Schmid said. “Some nights are like that, so you play a hunch and say maybe it’s not his night, it’s somebody else’s turn. It worked out well.”
On the game-winner in the 76th minute, Freddie Ljungberg fed Jaqua with a crossing pass that Jaqua converted into an easy goal in front of the net. It was Jaqua’s eighth goal of the season, second on the team behind Montero’s 12 goals.
“This is when it’s fun to play,” said Ljungberg, who finished with two assists. “This is what it’s all about.”
Tyrone Marshall gave Sounders FC a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 28th minute. Ljungberg tried to bend a corner kick into the goal, and Kansas City goalkeeper Kevin Hartman dove for the save. But on the rebound, Marshall knocked the ball in the net from 4 yards out for his second goal of the season.
Kansas City (8-13-8, 32 points in the Eastern Conference) tied the game at 1-1 in the 51st minute on a goal from Zoltan Hercegfalvi, whose sliding right-footer found the upper right corner of the net. In the 53rd minute, Kansas City’s Josh Wolff scored his 11th goal of the season with a left-footer to give the Wizards a 2-1 lead.
Levesque’s equalizer came on a header after Marshall deflected a Ljungberg corner kick. Levesque knew the tall task of replacing Montero, who missed two easy chances early in the second half.
“It’s just a matter of finding myself at the right place at the right time,” said Levesque, who scored the game-winner in Sounders FC’s 1-0 win over Columbus on Oct. 3. “You get to the goal, and good things will happen.”
The Wizards were eliminated from postseason consideration before the game after Toronto FC defeated Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon.
Sounders FC will play host to FC Dallas on Saturday at Qwest Field in the regular-season finale.
“It feels good to clinch with a game in hand,” Jaqua said. “We feel really happy about it. I’m ecstatic.”
SOUNDERS FC 3, WIZARDS 2
|Seattle||1 2 — 3|
|Kansas City||0 2 — 2|
First half — 1, Seattle, Marshall 2, 28th minute. Second half — 2, Kansas City, Zoltan 2 (Harrington), 51st. 3, Kansas City, Wolff 11 (Arnaud), 54th. 4, Seattle, Levesque 2 (Marshall, Ljungberg), 69th. 5, Seattle, Jaqua 8 (Ljungberg), 76th. Goalies — Seattle, Kasey Keller; Kansas City, Kevin Hartman. Total shots — Seattle 17, Kansas City 16. Shots on goal — Seattle 8, Kansas City 6. Total saves — Seattle 4, Kansas City 5. Fouls — Seattle 9, Kansas City 5. Offsides — Seattle 5, Kansas City 1. Corner kicks — Seattle 7, Kansas City 9. Yellow cards — Vagenas, Seattle, 45th. Referee — Mark Geiger. Assistant referees — Kermit Quisenberry. Cyril Madukanya. 4th official — Chris Penso. A — 10,135 (10,385).
Seattle — Kasey Keller, Peter Vagenas (James Riley, 77th), Freddie Ljungberg, Fredy Montero (Roger Levesque, 63rd), Steve Zakuani (Sebastien Le Toux, 82nd), Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Nate Jaqua, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyrone Marshall, Leo Gonzalez.
Kansas City — Kevin Hartman, Jimmy Conrad, Davy Arnaud, Jack Jewsbury, Zoltan (Kei Kamara, 70th), Michael Harrington, Jonathan Leathers (Chance Myers, 46th), Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Josh Wolff, Claudio Lopez.