A season that saw the Seattle Sounders 10 points out of playoff position at one point will end with their eighth straight postseason appearance and at least one home game in the knockout round. Alvaro Fernandez and Cristian Roldan each scored first-half goals as the Sounders topped Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Sunday.
The Sounders will host Sporting Kansas City in the first round, while RSL visit the LA Galaxy after the Portland Timbers fell 4-1 to the Vancouver Whitecaps and will miss the playoffs a year after winning the MLS Cup.
The Sounders looked intent on leaving nothing to chance.
On a crucial day for the Sounders’ playoff hopes, Brian Schmetzer fielded a team almost identical to last week’s against Dallas, except for the return of Osvaldo Alonso — who was suspended for the match against FC Dallas. RSL had a few changes to their lineup, with some seemingly first choice players like Yura Movsisyan and Burrito Martinez left on the bench.
The Sounders kicked off the match in style with excellent team play that saw backheel passes from both Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan, with Morris’ going to an unmarked Fernandez on the far post. Flaco left no doubt and tapped the ball in to make it 1-0 Seattle after just 3 minutes.
The celebrations were short, though, as RSL pushed down the other side of the field on the restart, and poor defense gave Luke Mulholland a shot at close range. His shot deflected off of Joevin Jones’ instep and out of Frei’s reach to tie it up at 1-1 in the 5th minute.
The match continued to open up for both teams, but the Sounders were the next to find the net in the 31st after Roldan volleyed in the follow-up off a Roman Torres header via a Sounders corner.
The second half started with far less action, though the Sounders came mighty close with attacks that were snuffed out by RSL — including a credible-looking penalty on Roldan. The Sounders brought on Nelson Valdez just prior to the 70th minute, in the hopes of seeing out their 2-1 lead.
The only thing keeping the Sounders from a truly perfect finish was the inability to get Zach Scott onto the field in his final regular seasom match. Scott checked in with about two minutes left in stoppage time, though no stop in play came and referee Baldomero Toledo blew the whistle after Stefan Frei grabbed a last-second cross into the box.