The Seattle Sounders were doubly interested observers Thursday when the Portland Timbers faced Sporting Kansas City in an MLS Western Conference play-in game.
Not only were the Sounders entertained by the Timbers’ 2-2 win on penalty kicks (7-6), but the result also determined their next playoff opponent. The result sends the Sounders into a home-and-away, aggregate-score conference semifinal series with top-seeded FC Dallas. The first match will be played at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at CenturyLink Field before resolving Nov. 8 in Frisco, Texas. A Portland loss would have paired the Sounders with Vancouver.
“I don’t think there was a lot of difference between Dallas and Vancouver,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’re both teams with similar traits. They both play a 4-3-2-1 (formation). They both rely on fast wingers. They both look to counterattack. So I think it was very similar. It just means we’ve got a farther flight, where we’ve got to fly instead of busing.”
Without a strong rooting interest in terms of their own playoff path, the Sounders were free to simply soak in the wild game that played out in Oregon.
“MLS every season ... that I’ve been in has gotten more and more exciting,” midfielder Andy Rose said. “… Very exciting for the fans. It didn’t really matter who we got: I think either way it’s a tough matchup, and one that we’ll be ready for.”
The Timbers scored first, but SKC tied late in regulation. Then Kansas City jumped ahead in extra time, before Portland equalized just before the final whistle.
That sent the match to a penalty kick marathon with Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey finally clinching it in the 11th frame: hitting his own kick and then saving that of SKC keeper Jon Kempin.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Seattle veteran Chad Barrett said. “… Everybody says it was the best PK shootout in MLS history. I think it was the most intense, but I think it was the worst PK shootout: They kept missing. You could see the nerves. That’s what playoff soccer does.”
This will be the second consecutive season when the Sounders and Dallas meet in the Western Conference semifinals. Last season, Seattle advanced on away goals.
MLS every season ... that I’ve been in has gotten more and more exciting.
Sounders midfielder Andy Rose
The teams also played twice during the 2015 regular season. Seattle went 1-0-1, with a scoreless draw in Frisco, Texas, in March and a 3-0 win at CenturyLink Field in June.
“They want to set the record straight,” Barrett said. “They’re probably a little bit bitter from doing so well this year and not winning the Supporters’ Shield. They definitely want to come out flying. They’ve probably got fresh legs, so it’s going to be hard fought. I think it’s a really good thing that we have a home game instead of playing away.”
The Sounders will likely be without key starters. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (groin) missed the 3-2 knockout match against Los Angeles on Wednesday, while defenders Brad Evans and Leo Gonzalez exited that match with injuries. Schmid had little clarification on their status.
“At this point of the year in the playoffs, you can’t really look at timelines,” he said. “Guys are going to say, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go,’ or ‘I’m not ready to go.’ ”
The club will conclude preparations for Dallas on Saturday.
Sunday: No. 1 FC Dallas at No. 4 Seattle Sounders, 6:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, FS1, 97.3-FM