The Seattle Sounders closed out their 2017 regular season with a dominant 3-0 win at CenturyLink Field over the Colorado Rapids to clinch the second seed in the Western Conference and an all-important first round bye. Both sides saw players given straight red cards after video reviews and each side was awarded a penalty in the match, just one of several thrilling contests across Major League Soccer’s 2017 edition of Decision Day. Eleven matches produced 46 total goals, the league’s greatest ever in a single day.
While the Sounders will get extra rest with the first round bye, they’ll be without Clint Dempsey who will be serving a red card suspension after a video review determined Dempsey made violent contact with hands to the face of Mike de Fonte 24 minutes in. The Sounders forward was clearly agitated with the call and with Colorado players as he had to be restrained by his teammates and nearly decided to kick the ball into the stands as he left the pitch.
Thankfully for the Sounders they had already taken a 1-0 lead thanks to a goal from Will Bruin in the 9th minute of the match. The play developed beautifully for Seattle as they were able to quickly switch the field with a pinpoint accurate pass from Dempsey to a wide open Kelvin Leerdam inside the right edge of the 18-yard-box. Leerdam had the patience to wait for his forwards to crash the front of goal before calmly playing the ball to Bruin for a tap in.
Five minutes later it looked like Bruin would tack on his second as Seattle continued to pick apart the Rapids defense but his one-on-one shot against goalkeeper Tim Howard clanged off the post and away from danger.
Any late arrivals to the match would have had a difficult time realizing Sounders were playing down a man as the home team continued to be aggressive and create chances while still denying Colorado chances of their own.
In fact it wasn’t until the 40th minute that the Rapids registered a shot on goal and in hindsight it was an opportunity they should have converted.
Stefan Aigner beat an offside trap and found a perfect cross right to his chest. He controlled it well and took the shot on the volley but Stefan Frei smothered the shot, denying any rebound opportunities and keeping Sounders up 1-0. The chance marked Colorado’s best look of the match from the run of play, with Aigner a bit unlucky to not realize just how much space he was in. Frei commented after the match that he was perhaps fortunate Aigner hadn’t waited for the ball to fall to his feet with a much easier chance awaiting him.
In the 52nd minute Colorado were given a golden chance to equalize as the referee called a handball in the box on Harry Shipp. Dominique Badji stepped up to the spot to take the penalty kick but clanged it off the left post as Frei dove the correct direction and Leerdam cleared the ball for a corner. After maintaining such dominance even through Dempsey’s dismissal, the spot kick could have been a major blow for Seattle as the convergence of the events might have left them down a man and in need of a goal to earn their first round bye. As a result Badji’s miss was met with the loudest roar of the day at CenturyLink Field and few of the 44,370 people in attendance believed the Rapids would be able to overcome Sounders’ new-found momentum.
The Rapids then gave up their man advantage in the 60th minute as Seattle continued to pick apart the defense, this time with Joevin Jones putting a cross through the box to a crashing Bruin who was pulled down from behind by Axel Sjoberg. The referee pointed to the spot and issued Sjoberg a yellow card before going to video review and changing the yellow to a straight red. Nicolas Lodeiro stepped up to the spot and converted the penalty to give Seattle a 2-0 lead.
With both teams now playing with 10 players, the match really opened up for the Sounders as they continued to attack Colorado and find space behind defenders. All lingering anxiety from the red card and penalty kick called against the hosts felt long-banished. With stoppage time winding down, Seattle found a third goal to pad their lead and close out the match.
Two Rapid defenders lept to head a bouncing ball over Lamar Neagle and lost track of it after deflecting it right to Lodeiro. The captain took one touch before striking a shot past Howard for his second goal in what would be the final play of the match.
Seattle now await the result of the Knockout Round to determine where they will travel for the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals before returning home for the second leg on November 2nd.
Seattle: Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Torres (Alfaro 91’), Leerdam; Lodeiro, Roldan; Jones, Dempsey, Shipp (Neagle 67’); Bruin (Wingo 85’)
Colorado: Howard; da Fonte (Gordon 57’), Sjoberg, Ford, Miller; Saeid, Boateng (Burling 68’); Hairston, Aigner, Serna (Gatt 60’); Badji
Seattle: Bruin 9’ (Leerdam, Dempsey), Lodeiro 64’ (PK), Lodeiro 90’+4’
Seattle: Dempsey 24’ (ejection), Torres 29’ (caution), Roldan 50’ (caution), Jones 90’+1’ (caution), Lodeiro 90’+4’ (caution)
Colorado: Aigner 32’ (caution), Ford 61’ (caution), Sjoberg 62’ (ejection), Gordon 90’+2’ (caution)