Sounders eliminate Rapids to set up playoff showdown vs. Timbers

Evans

Photo by Jane Gershovich/Soccer By Ives

By JASON MITCHELL

SEATTLE – It took almost seven weeks, but the Seattle Sounders sure picked a good time to get back to their winning ways.

The Sounders rode goals from Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson to a 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference knockout round on Wednesday night, setting up a mouth-watering second round matchup against the Portland Timbers.

The win in front of 32,204 at CenturyLink Field advances Seattle to face the top-seeded Timbers in the conference semifinals. The two-leg, aggregate-goal series begins Saturday night in Seattle, with a second leg scheduled for Nov. 7 at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland.

It was not, despite the scoreline, an easy win.

The Sounders started the match playing some of their best soccer in weeks, capitalizing on a rare bit of roster continuity and a second-straight match featuring a diamond midfield formation to put the Colorado defense under consistent pressure.

“I thought we created a number of good chances,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “I thought we played some very good soccer, I thought we had more of the game in the first half.”

Evans opened the scoring in the 28th minute after a Colorado defender headed a Leo Gonzalez cross toward the far corner of the penalty area. Evans chested down the clearance and whistled a half-volley into the upper corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.

“It was actually something I thought about a little today,” Evans said. “I thought that I was going to score on a volley and I was just hoping it was going to come true. The ball came across and I was able to chest it down. When I saw a little bit of a gap I was able to get good contact on the ball and find the back of the net.”

Johnson added the insurance goal in stoppage time with his team down a man, his starting goalkeeper ejected, and his defense surviving more than a couple nervous moments.

In the 93rd minute, Johnson stepped into a pass into the area from Clint Dempsey. The 29-year-old forward then took one touch to nutmeg defender German Mera, and just one more to scoot a shot past goalkeeper Clint Irwin for the 2-0 lead.

“I knew it was going to be a physical game,” said Johnson, “and I knew it was going to be a difficult game. But I was in it, I was focused for 90 minutes, and when my opportunity came I made the best of it.”

Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was ejected with a straight red for handling the ball outside the penalty area in the 85th minute, but Colorado couldn’t capitalize in the remaining eight minutes.

The Rapids began to turn the tide of the match well before Gspurning’s ejection, but could never find the equalizer.

Gspurning came up with a big save in the 57th minute, snagging a Deshorn Brown shot that looked sure to curl into the upper corner.

In the 68th minute, Gspurning mishandled a Rapids free kick, leaving the ball lurking dangerously in the center of the area with bodies everywhere, but defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado stepped in with the clearance.

In the 88th minute, Vicente Sanchez unleashed a rocket of a free kick from 19 yards out, just grazing the top of Seattle’s wall for a corner kick. Hendry Thomas got a clean header on the ensuing corner, but sent it just over the crossbar.

The loss means history won’t repeat itself for fifth-seeded Colorado, which also entered the 2010 playoffs as the fifth seed before eventually winning the MLS Cup.

“If you ask me today, I feel terrible,” said Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja. “I’m not happy, obviously. I can see great things that happened in the season, but we are competitors here and obviously there is some bitter[ness] in this result.”

“It was disappointing,” added Rapids captain Drew Moor. “I’m certainly proud of the boys for leaving it all out on the field. I think for one thing, I wish we would have started off a little brighter. [It was] a playoff game—it’s different. If we start the game the way we finished the second half, I think we give ourselves a little better chance.”

The win leaves the Sounders looking forward to perhaps the two most important matches in their decades-long rivalry with the Portland Timbers.

“I think everybody had their mind on it, even looking at the Colorado game,” admitted Evans. “Regardless of if we wanted to focus on this game, there was always that chance you will be playing Portland in the next round. That [was] obviously on the back of everybody’s mind.”

Here are the match highlights:

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111 Responses to Sounders eliminate Rapids to set up playoff showdown vs. Timbers

  1. Jose says:

    Why is Dempsey so bad? I thought he was supposed to be really good.

    • scott47a says:

      Did you watch the same game as I did? Dempsey’s passing was something you rarely see on an MLS pitch.

      • Sean C says:

        Yeah, this comment may have made some sense a few weeks ago — but he was very good both last week and this.

        • ATX_Colin says:

          I agere, I thought Duece looked very dangerous all night and engaged his teamates much more, overall good performance.

          • Rory says:

            Meh, as a Rapids fan I was never nervous when Clint had the ball. EJ worried me, and long rebounds that become bouncing chip shot material for the likes of Neagle and Evans. But I’d let Dempsey take all the shots he wants to put in the stands all day long.

        • RB says:

          Wow, I’d be hard pressed to describe the overall performance of Dempsey or anybody else on that field last night as “very good”. I don’t know, Clint Irwin’s, maybe…

          • Mark says:

            Please enlighten us on how Barcelona is better.

            • RB says:

              You can, if that’s what you want to do. (shrug) It’s clear from the various comments here that I’m hardly the only one who thought that that was something less than a wonderfully played game.

    • Limey says:

      He’s very obviously carrying an injury or likely more than one. It’s unfortunate because he’s way better than his recent performances. Look for Dempsey to tear up this league next year, as long as he can stay fit playing on that awful plastic field.

      • JRP says:

        Blah blah FIFA approves plastic. Blah Blah, better than grass.
        -signed annoying Sounders fans.

      • CeezNYRB says:

        Injury or not, people need to remember that the guy came over fresh off his EPL offseason and basically jumped right into the action here. Not only that, but he hasn’t had a full preseason to gel with his teammates. People talk ridiculous sometimes!!

        • Gary Page says:

          So true. I could give dozens of examples where players join a new team and a new league and don’t do squat until their second season. Dempsey was clearly the best p@sser on the field last night.

          • Fahq says:

            Thank you! Someone that actually watched the game. His skill on the ball is the best on the field. No, he isn’t scoring, but it will come.

  2. petedx says:

    Get ready for gridiron lines saturday night. Seahawks play early Sunday and this game will go late. People who hate the turf as is, are gonna be even more upset with NFL logos all over.

  3. Limey says:

    Wow for a team with real ‘grit’ players and lots of playoff experience Seattle looked shaky at best. Not impressed at all.

  4. Larry says:

    anyone see what was written on EJ’s undershirt when we scored? Probably something about being paid like a Jack in the Box salary?

  5. Raffi says:

    I only saw the 2nd half but what a miserable display by both teams. They are both better than that but it was shocking how many errant passes there were. I hope the other playoff games are played at a higher level. Maybe I just missed the good play in the first half.

    • Cody says:

      God I know. It was terrible.

    • Herbert Maldonado @MLS_Biblical says:

      I just blame the turf

      • Helium-3 says:

        Games on US (artificial) turf fields are always like this because their grass blades are shorter than European fields, thus ball moves faster and bounces higher. With the ball moving faster, most MLS players don’t have the technique to trap it so everything seems hectic and everyone is running around faster than on natural grass field.

        If you watch Novara in the Serie A from few years ago, their turf grass has a more natural bounce and the ball doesn’t move as quickly as the (worn) out turf fields in the US. I noticed almost all the turf fields in Europe have a more natural bounce than here.

        Maybe a professional in the artificial grass industry can comment on the validity of this.

        • Sean C says:

          That’s a very interesting comment. Other than that Russian stadium where they had the CL final a few years back, I didn’t realize there were many European turf fields, at all.

        • jlm says:

          A lot of European fields in big first division stadia use a turf/natural grass blend now. Something like 30% turf/ 70% grass (I am guessing on those percentages). Maybe a variation of that sort of blend would work on NFL/MLS fields here?

          • Beto says:

            I believe there are a few of those grass/turf combo fields in the US too.. Philly’s NFL stadium is like that

        • Sean C says:

          Your comment spurned me on to do a quick Google search and found this article a bit interesting. It certainly doesn’t answer your question but I really had no idea there was any interest in “plastic pitches” whatsoever.

          link to dailymail.co.uk

          • The Imperative Voice says:

            There are teams in Russia and Scandinavia that play on plastic. Used to be quite a few teams in Scotland and (shock! no!) England. In fact there was a kerfuffle in one of the last two cycles with England upset they had to play Russia away on turf (that they felt was sub-standard). The issue here tends to get discussed in terms of a psychological complex soccer has with football, but in cold or rainy regions it is often perceived as an appropriate response to their conditions.

        • Gary Page says:

          Regarding the bounce of the ball, that’s why Keane’s goal against the Sounders last weekend was so great. Even though Keane isn’t used to it, he used the turf to advantage to bounce the ball high into the net.

    • Gary Page says:

      In the first half the speed of play and intensity were remarkable. I think both teams kind of ran themselves out and the game slowed way down and there were many more sloppy p@sses in the second half as a result.

  6. Sounders Ron says:

    His shirt was actually a tribute to the recently-deceased wife of a Sounders equipment manager..

  7. David M says:

    I turned the game on, saw the horrible looking plastic they were playing on, and turned it off.

    • James says:

      And a true fan you are.

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      I hated playing on turf myself, but it doesn’t factor in that the football stadium allows football size crowds? Seattle is nearing peak-Cosmos levels. Which underlines to me that there are many paths to US soccer truth…..the best attended, loudest stadium is not a trendy SSS.

    • Matt says:

      Then you are going to mix a heck of a playoff series between Portland and Seattle, because they both are turf.

  8. Helium-3 says:

    Is there a rift between Dempsey and GAM? It was odd that Dempsey didn’t come over to GAM to celebrate the 2nd goal while almost everyone did. Maybe my eyes are deceiving me…

    • Herbert Maldonado @MLS_Biblical says:

      I think he was upset with his performance… At this point I think even he would expect to be playing better but then again, playing on turf sucks.

  9. Nick says:

    For me, this season made it abundantly clear that EJ is probably the most verbally abuse guy in the league towards officials. At what point will someone tell him to shut up and play the game. Dude could be sitting 5 yards offside and still want to debate/berate the ref.

    • Steevens says:

      Keane takes that award by a mile

    • The Imperative Voice says:

      He apparently shut up enough to score……which undercuts both the general attitude and specific ref-baiting arguments, at least to an extent. As with Balotelli, if you do your job they often let it go on balance, occasionally bench you or sit you out of practice. But if you mess up they’ll cashier you in an instant.

  10. David says:

    One of Seattle’s priorities has to be finding a new goalkeeper. Gspurning is awful. Even before he got sent off, he was dropping the ball regularly and this isn’t new. If he returns for the second leg in Portland, the Timbers should put cross after cross in and get a big center forward like Ryan Johnson right in on him.

    • Gary Page says:

      His handling the ball outside of the box has got to be about the dumbest mistake I have ever seen a GK make because he was so far outside and under no real pressure.

  11. RB says:

    Thanks for the nicely well-balanced report, especially considering the 2 teams involved and the way coverage on them more typically tends to go (not here but just in general).

    • Beto says:

      +1, the league promoted this as Seattle’s playoff game. Some other team was hired to show up and play the Sounders before the big match up vs Portland!

      In the it was a fair result congrats to Seatown

  12. Brain Guy says:

    Memo to Rapids: Giving an opponent TEN YARDS of space in your own penalty area is not a recipe for success.

    Hey, Seattle — “only” 32,204? You’re slipping.

  13. Todd says:

    Portland – Seattle playoffs will be epic. Should make for must see TV. I can’t wait to see the Tifo displays from the Timbers Army and Emerald City Supports.

    • Ian says:

      Can’t wait. This is the match-up NBC was hoping for all along, obviously.

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      It basically took three fourths of the posts for someone to quit whining and look forward to a soccer game….and a soccer blog.

      It is going to be epic, all of us fans at the game were very excited. Obviously Portland’s midfield wil be much better than that, but the the games at Century Link (on the turf for all you whiners) were very close, very hard fought, and were a little ugly at times, but now it is for all the marbles.

      Fun stuff

      • Rory says:

        I wish Portland would lower the baseball stand fan stand at midfield. So weird seeing that on TV, it’s almost like a hockey arena.

  14. Ian says:

    It was a craptastic display by both teams, but both goals were quality – EJ’s especially.

  15. AcidBurn says:

    Yeah, only 32K for Seattle? For a must-win playoff game? Pffft. Weak sauce. I thought Seattle was the shining light in a dark wasteland of mediocre MLS attendance.

    • Travis says:

      I think that it is pretty good considering the game was not confirmed until Sunday night, even with a large fan base selling a mid week game in 2 1/2 days is difficult.

    • bb says:

      So where exactly in the U.S. do you think you can get a better crowd under the circumstances?

    • Fahq says:

      Houston couldn’t have had more than a few thousand at their game tonight. The very bottom rows were empty around most of the field.

  16. Ivan says:

    The plastic turf on that stadium makes those games unwatachable. I’m sorry, I’ve tried. I saw probably about 60 minutes of yesterday’s game. That bouncy surface impacts the quality of football and forces teams to adapt kick-and-run style…just awful!

    Sounders, Timbers, they must get rid of that monstrocity they play football on.

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      I will not be seeing this post from you on Sunday then ?

      Please go whine about something worth whining about. You know the National Debt is $17 trillion ?

  17. Travis says:

    Congrats on the season Colorado, that team could really be a force next year. One thing I did notice was that it was an odd game from the ref cause when watching the first half I thought every officiating decision went Seattle’s way and then three huge decisions in the second half all went Colorados way. Erwin could easily have been sent off (I know there was a defender about even but if Erwin doesnt foul Dempsey he is clear on an open goal), Seattle were denied a legitimate penalty shout and Gspurning was sent off (deservedly, although Buddle acting like his face had been punched when his shoulder was tapped was lame). Best performance Seattle has put in for a while and Dempsey had a strong first half, not as much in the second. Hopefully Yedlin will be back otherwise they will have lost a major part of their team.

    • timothy says:

      All, they can be a force if pareja drops the atrocity that is Attiba Harris. The announcers rightfully trashed his play all night long. He has shown over and over again all season long that he doesn’t have the talent to play in this league. I can’t for the life of me understand why he deserves to be on the team, much less actually start in playoff games

      • homerica7 says:

        Harris only started because Dillion Powers was out, and Sanchez wasn’t fully fit to start. That is pretty much the only reason, as Harris hasn’t played much in the later part of the season. Those two guys make a big difference for the Rapids. Also I’m not sure why Pareja decided to change the back line and bring in Mera, who has also barely played at the end of the season. I know Wynne has a terrible touch, and he probably wanted more skill in the back due to the turf, but Mera had a poor game, and I don’t get why you change the back four you have been using come playoffs if there is no injuries in the back.

    • Rory says:

      Really? You thought Irwin could have been sent off? I agree with the announcers who said on replay it wasnt even a foul let alone a yellow let alone a red.

      I felt all the calls went Seattle’s way except the unintentional handball in the box which gets called both ways depending on the ref.

      Rapids really could have used Powers and Sanchez from the beginning… But why on earth did Mera play? I know Wynne was poor on Sunday but to turn to a player that you didn’t trust for the last three months???

      • bb says:

        how is that not a foul? because he’s wearing gloves? if any player on the field takes down a streaking forward without getting the ball like that it’s always a foul, usually a yellow, and possibly a red. The keeper was out of the box, was late to the challenge, was the last defender, and it was an obvious goal scoring opportunity. I know that’s not an official written down rule, but everyone knows it by seeing previous calls by precedent. I won’t argue he should have seen red, but he could have. Yellow is what i expected, but to say that it doesn’t even merit a foul call is crazy.

        • EMO says:

          I will – it’s absolutely a red card in any other league. If Irwin doesn’t stop him, Dempsey has a clear shot from the side into an open net. Moor being even with the play doesn’t help him get in position to make the save. It’s a DOGSO plain and simple.

      • Beto says:

        Óskar’s lineup changes didnt really help. Mera was okay, would have been okay in a regseason game, but Seattle was clearly going after him and got what they wanted in the end, Wynne would have been better. Harris was useless and Torres getting pulled into the mid is not good.

      • RB says:

        I’m with Rory, at least on much of this. Irwin wasn’t so much late because Dempsey didn’t have real possession of the ball. Rather the 2 players ran at what looked to be a quite open ball, at the same time from opposite directions, Dempsey ended up barely getting to it first and kicking it sort of blindly ahead, and the players immediately collided as a natural result of both going for it. Yedlin did the same thing to Hendry Thomas in the first half and didn’t even get a yellow, so a yellow to Irwin was the most that could reasonably be called here. And unlike Thomas, who pulled up at the last minute to keep from steamrolling Yedlin, Dempsey deliberately jumped with his knees up right into Irwin.

        Someone said OP may have started Mera thinking of EJ’s abilities in the air. But I don’t know.

        • Gary Page says:

          I didn’t see that play at all like you did. Thought Dempsey clearly had control; and an open route to the goal. Irwin came sliding in and I thought Dempsey jumped up because he was trying to go over the sliding Irwin.

          • RB says:

            If you watch the replay, you can see that Neagle’s (I think it was) ball to Dempsey is a bit heavy, which is of course partly why Irwin comes out so quickly. The first time Dempsey touches the ball is immediately before they collide.

            • Mark says:

              I think the difference is how the two fouls occurred. Hendry plays the ball to the side and continues running straight into Yedlin. The argument that Petrescu would probably make is that all Thomas really did was kick the ball to the side and continue running forward, whereas Dempsey kicked the ball to the side, made a move to the side, and was then met by Irwin who had also made a move laterally.

              • RB says:

                Well that’s an interesting take on it, but I just rewatched it on the MLS site and there’s almost no lateral movement that I can see (in part because there isn’t time — they collide so soon after Dempsey pushes the ball forward).

                I could not find the Thomas–Yedlin play there to compare, though I don’t remember thinking that Yedlin did not just move into Thomas’ way…

      • Gary Page says:

        Don’t know what announcers you were listening to, but those on ESPN said it was a deserved yellow.

        • RB says:

          I personally don’t have any big problem with it being a yellow. It’s the claim that that should have been a straight red that got me to respond, not only in general but especially given the specific context of the calling of that game and that earlier collision that garnered no card.

          • Travis says:

            no i said that he could easily have been sent off, nowhere did i say it should have been a red. please dont completely try to change what i said. i dont have huge issues with the yellow, it was just a big call that went colorado’s way which is fine.

            • RB says:

              Well I don’t know what you’re on about there but I wasn’t changing anything you said as I wasn’t referring to you or your comments in the first place. Take a look up the screen at EMO’s.

              • Travis says:

                huh? How could i guess you were responding to EMO, his comment is nowhere near this chain

              • RB says:

                It certainly is, if you look. Currently appears just 2 before my first comments, and much closer to my comments than anything you have written.

              • Travis says:

                you responded to gary page, not EMO but whatever

              • RB says:

                No, in terms of the thread hierarchy, I responded to Rory’s comment that begins “Really?…”. EMO had already responded above that and again, it was his comments I had in mind, not yours.

      • Travis says:

        you dont think it was a foul at all? well then there is probably no need to continue this debate since the rules of the game escape you.

      • RB says:

        Rapids site is reporting that Sanchez played with a fractured bone in his right shoulder.

  18. Tony in Quakeland says:

    Sometimes the griping about Portland and Seattle reminds me of guys who get pissed off when their “cult” favorite band gets famous. They walk around grumbling that the early stuff was better and that the new fans don’t get them anyway.

    As for yesterday’s game, the first half was well played, the second half got chippy and wound up be vastly entertaining at least as spectacle.

    So… Dempsey who was overvalued by some fans when he played for Spurs is now being undervalued by some because he plays for Sounder…EJ’s tribute to the equipment manager’s deceased wife is assumed to be a ploy for more money and no one mentions his obvious emotion after scoring… Portland plays in a “monstrosity” even though it is the single best location of any MLS stadium anywhere…Anything else?

    • Pingunça says:

      The Turf man! how did you forget the turf….?

    • RB says:

      “it is the single best location of any MLS stadium anywhere”

      Usually the more extreme the claim, the more need there is to back it up with some type of specific evidence or explanation…

      • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

        My explanation backing up Tony’s comment…I have watched a game there and I have watched a LOT of soccer over the last 40 years.

        Tony, the whiners hate the turf….don’t forget the turf…they hate it so much and are so annoying that I am starting to move “from wish we (Seattle) had grass” to “make it like the old Kongdome turf” !!!!

      • Tony in Quakeland says:

        I get hating the turf, although it isn’t that bad in Portland.

        By the way, I am not from Portland, don’t live there. I have been to a lot of stadiums in lots of sports, I have been to lots of MLS stadiums. Portland’s location is INCREDIBLE. Walking distance of everything. Go to Stumptown, go to Powells, go eat and drink and walk to the game. It’s in a nieghborhood. People live in apartments near by. It has exactly the feeling that people love about old European stadiums. Calling it a monstrosity (an extreme claim if there ever was one) is a joke. It’s location and centrality to the lifeblood of the city is what every MLS stadium should aspire to have

        • Rory says:

          I don’t get to eat at the restaurants or hit up the bars when I watch the game on TV so i could care less. The stands are too high in the middle of the field so it looks a bit odd on TV and hurts the images. Crowd is fantastic, turf is bad (but not Seattle bad), and the coach is no longer an insufferable little troll so all in all not a bad game to watch, but not the best.

          • Tony in Quakeland says:

            To be fair, I said the location is the best. As for impact on televsion – give me a good crowd at DC and that looks awesome on the tube. San Jose probably looks the worst. Good discussion question – best and worst on the tube.

        • Joe Timbres says:

          I live in Portland, am an STH and the stadium, while definitely kooky because of the baseball retrofit, is phenomenal. It has an absolute old town BPL feel to it with location. I am stoked to make my way to SJ for the new stadium in a few years as I have been to only SEA and POR and VAN. One of the pains in the rear about living so far away from the rest of the league.

          Can’t wait for Saturday night!

  19. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    The whiners have gotten so annoying I am going to start a push to paint the turf Rave Green…like the Boise State football team plays on ( maybe the soccer team too, I don’t know )

    Stop whining RaveGreenTurf !
    Stop whining RaveGreenTurf !

    • petedx says:

      Are you attempting some sort of meta-ironic posting scheme? You are the biggest whiner on these boards if anyone has a valid opinion about an issue in the league. Simply telling someone to stop whining (when they are not doing so in the first place) is the worst attempt at having a real discussion.

      • Joe Timbres says:

        No, usually it’s people making ridiculous claims, “It’s a monstrocity(sic)” or “I tried watching, I just can’t” GASP! People on this board don’t want discourse, they want to be right. Did you just start coming here?

        • petedx says:

          No I have not just started coming here. And have had plenty meaningful conversations about various issues in the game, GASP! including turf.

  20. Marcelo Balboa's Mustache says:

    Anyone know why Pareja changed his back four? I thought Mera looked off all night, and they were less organized without O’Neil in the middle. Maybe Pareja blamed Wynne for the thumping in Vancouver? In any case I think it was a mistake. The defending on both goals, and several other plays looked poor compared to how tight they’ve been most of the season.

    • Marcelo Balboa's Mustache says:

      Nevermind. Found it: ” ‘We had two games in three days, turf, there are some players that suffer a little bit more than others,’ Pareja told reporters of the decision to bring Mera in for Wynne. ‘We wanted to bring some help in the air, a part of the games where the Sounders are strong, so we chose to play Germán in that part of the field.’ ”

      Still think it was dumb.

      • Jody says:

        Agreed. Mera looked terrible and oneil didn’t offer a lot going forward. That said, missing powers and Sanchez was the killer. I hope powers recovers – he’s been hurt for a while, now.

  21. Gary Page says:

    One thing that struck me which no one else commented on is some dubious choices Seattle made. Why was Dempsey taking corner kicks when he is very good in the air and you have Brad Evans on your team? Makes no sense to me. And then why did they have Birch taking that dangerously placed free kick? Dempsey showed at Fulham that he can be lethal from that distance.

    • Mark says:

      Because Burch might have the best set piece left foot in MLS besides Brad Davis? He hit the crossbar for goodness sake..