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Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City: Highlights, stats and quotes

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“I cannot explain it. All the pressure. I’ve been feeling like a big mountain on top of me all season. Finally with the goal the mountain has gone away and that pressure has been relieved.” - Nelson Valdez

Sometimes (it seems like hardly ever this season) the calls go your way. In an extremely tight game, with few clear chances, sometimes a great goalkeeping performance (7 saves) and a couple of favorable calls means you win. That’s the playoffs. There will be no easy victories.

That was Valdez’ second playoff goal. Only Osvaldo Alonso, Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey have scored multiple postseason goals.

On to Dallas!

MATCH SUMMARY

Seattle Sounders FC 1 - Sporting KC 0

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Venue: Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field

Referee: Ismail Elfath

Assistants: Peter Manikowski, Corey Parker

Fourth Official: Ricardo Salazar

Attendance: 36,151

Weather: Showers and 54 degrees

SCORING SUMMARY

SEA - Nelson Valdez (Joevin Jones) 88'

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 32'

SKC - Seth Sinovic (caution) 63'

SKC - Benny Feilhaber (caution) 71'

SKC - Roger Espinoza (caution) 90'+3'

LINEUPS & STATS

Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Román Torres, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones; Osvaldo Alonso - captain, Erik Friberg (Nelson Valdez 79'), Cristian Roldan, Alvaro Fernandez (Brad Evans 86'), Nico Lodeiro; Jordan Morris

Substitutes not used: Tyler Miller, Zach Scott, Oniel Fisher, Herculez Gomez, Aaron Kovar

Total shots: 10 (Lodeiro/Torres, 3)

Shots on goal: 1 (Valdez, 1)

Fouls: 12 (Torres, 3)

Offside: 2 (Fernandez/Morris, 1)

Corner-kicks: 4 (Lodeiro, 4)

Saves: 7 (Frei, 7)

Sporting KC - Tim Melia; Saad Abdul-Salaam, Seth Sinovic (Jimmy Medranda 90'), Matt Besler, Kevin Ellis, Paulo Nagamura (Jacob Peterson 90'+2'), Soni Mustivar, Benny Feilhaber; Graham Zusi, Roger Espinoza - captain, Dom Dwyer

Substitutes not used: Alec Kann, Ike Opara, Nuno Andre Coelho, Lawrence Olum, Connor Hallisey

Total shots: 12 (Zusi, 3)

Shots on goal: 7 (Feilhaber/Nagamura, 2)

Fouls: 18 (Dwyer, 4)

Offside: 2 (Dwyer/Besler, 1)

Corner-kicks: 5 (Zusi, 3)

Saves: 0

POST-MATCH QUOTES

SOUNDERS FC INTERIM HEAD COACH BRIAN SCHMETZER

On keeping emotions in check:

“No one – well I can’t say no one – but I can’t think of a better person to be rewarded for this moment [than Nelson Valdez] because he has worked so hard all year long. I know there have been people out there who have said things, and I get it. We are all pros; we understand the business that we’re in. But for him to come through in such a critical moment is well-deserved, he carried the team on his back here and I am so happy for Nelson Valdez.”

On Stefan Frei:

“[Seven saves] is a number, but let’s talk about the quality of his saves. Let’s talk about that. He kept us in the game. Peter [Vermes] had his team ready to go, and Stefan was the one who kept us in the game in the first half, for sure.”

On the physicality of the game:

“Well the game against RSL was intense, but playoffs are just a little bit different. It’s one level higher and they came out to play, we were ready to play. Some good moments in the game soccer-wise, if you’re a soccer purist. There were some good attacking moments, some good defending, some resilient defending, some resilient play – overall, I think the level of the game was indicative of a true playoff match.”

On the confidence of the group:

“It really makes my job a little bit easier. They truly do believe – I don’t have to say anything. Ante [Razov], Djimi [Traore], we don’t have to say anything. Our job for Sunday is to make sure we have a good gameplan for Dallas. That squad – they were so happy for Nelson, they were so happy for Stef – that they are carrying themselves. We as coaches could say anything, but they would still go out and try to win games.”

On the changes between the two halves:

“In the second half we tried to find more space to make sure we could get the ball past their first line of defense. Once we were able to get past their first line of defense, the game opened up for us. On both sides, [Graham] Zusi did the same thing – so they were just kind of waiting, they would have [Dom] Dwyer in the middle. As soon as a short ball came wide, they pressed.”

On why Valdez is so popular in the locker room:

“His character, his never-say-die attitude. He is a winner. He has played in World Cups. The players respect him; the coaches respect him. I could go on – he is just a really, really good human being.”

On the physicality of the playoffs:

“We would like to get Nico [Lodeiro] involved, we would like to get Jordy [Morris] in spaces, we’d love to get Tyrone [Mears] and Joevin [Jones] up and down the line – but teams are making it difficult for us because it’s the playoffs. For us, it’s just making sure we defend well and taking chances when we have them. That’s the storyline for tonight. We defended well, starting with our goalkeeper, and we took our one clear chance.”

SOUNDERS FC FORWARD NELSON VALDEZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)

On the feeling after scoring the game winner:

“I cannot explain my feelings now. I want to just say thank you for my family first, my teammates and my club. This team believed in me. I work, everyone who knows me knows how hard it was for me this year. I try every day to make it the best. I am so happy for the goal and the team.”

On emotions after the goal:

“I cannot explain it. All the pressure. I’ve been feeling like a big mountain on top of me all season. Finally with the goal the mountain has gone away and that pressure has been relieved.”

On the impact of a win or go home game:

“This is why the team bet on me and this is why I’m here on the team. I’m here to support them every minute, any time. That’s why I work so hard and that’s why things happened for me.”

SOUNDERS FC FORWARD JORDAN MORRIS

On Nelson Valdez’s impact on Morris’ game:

“I love playing with Nelson because it makes it easier on me sometimes when I’m up there by myself it can get tough. Especially in scrappy games like that, he’s more of a natural back to goal. It gives me more of the ability to find spaces in behind because he does a good job of holding the ball up. When he comes on he makes my job a little eaiser.”

On the emotions of the season:

“It’s been super up-and-down but I think it just shows the resilence of the team and how hard we fight and we were believing the whole season that we were going to make the playoffs and now that we’re here we want to win the whole thing. It was a good first step obviously but that’s just kind of the belief of the team and Schmetzer talked about that before the game, just having that belief. We have got to keep it going.”

How does this game rank in terms of defenses you’ve played this season:

“It’s up there, I think they are organized. I’ve played against some stronger defenders, bigger dudes but those guys are both really good center backs, really organized, fast guys and they made it tough for sure. Their whole team made it tough, their style of play made it tough. Credit to them.”

SOUNDERS FC MIDFIELDER CRISTIAN ROLDAN

On the amount of fouls called this game:

“You take that into account for sure but at the end of the day it’s a playoff game. There were so many fouls, it was very hard to get a rhytm for either team. They fouled a ton and we did too. At the end of the day it’s that one chance that we got. Nelson took care of it and you know big guys step up in big moments and he’s defintiley that guy for us.”

On the performance of Sporting Kansas City:

“Yeah they didn’t come here to sit back. They made it difficult for us, to be honest. They are a team that had tactics coming into the game. They pressed high, made us kick the ball up and they made it difficult for us, to be honest. Like I said earlier, at the end of the day you bury that one chance. Lucky or not that’s what changes games. We are happy to take the victory.”

SOUNDERS FC GOALKEEPER STEFAN FREI

On what the team is hoping for in their first game against Dallas:

“We have to make sure we get a good result at home in the first game. A good clean sheet would be nice and obviously a couple of goals, but that would set us up nicely for the second game. Right now we have to take care of some bumps and bruises because that makes games difficult very very quickly.”

On whether or not the team has taken on an underdog mentality:

“I don’t know if you can as the Sounders. I think that the respect and the reputation we have in the league is that we tend to be one of the teams that is on the top and that is competing for trophies, getting into the playoffs regularly and it’s been a very difficult season but with that being said we are in the playoffs. I don’t think we are the underdogs I would say we are probably getting confident or starting to peak at the right time. History has shown that is what you need to make a long push in the playoffs. That being said we have to take it one game at a time.”

On the confidence it gives being able to block shots early:

“It gets you in the game. You tend to want to get into the game a bit easier with maybe a couple of back passes or something like that. But it’s the nature of the position, you have to be ready. That’s why you warm up so you can make the saves and help us get the shutout and the guys in from of me did a tremendous job.”

SOUNDERS DEFENDER ROMÁN TORRES (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)

On how you feel for Valdez scoring the game winner:

“I belive that Nelson really deserved it. He works well and it a player that is always training to the max. Today he was prepared the demonstrated that.”

On the battle with Dwyer tonight:

“We knew that we were going to face a very strong Kansas team with good players, fast players. We knew we needed to come very concentrated and in some moments we lacked that concentration, but thank God we managed to get out of the way.”

On the matchup with Dallas:

“It will be a very important game. We will play home and we need to get that advantage and we need to prepare and recover and get very concentrated and get ready for the Sunday game.”

SPORTING KANSAS CITY HEAD COACH PETER VERMES

On the match:

“I hope that you don’t omit anything that I say here. I mean that. So I’m going to start out first by saying this: I want to congratulate Seattle for moving on. Unfortunately the game was one in which we scored and our guy was onsides, they scored and their guy was offsides. Unfortunately [Osvaldo] Alonso for them should’ve been thrown out of the game, which would’ve changed the game. There were three plays within the game that would’ve completely changed the match. Where I would start is two and a half weeks ago, we played in Salt Lake and that same center referee did that game, as well. In the 86th minute we had a penalty kick – 100 percent a penalty kick. Not just my assessment, but the assessment of PRO, Peter Walton, as well – 100 percent a penalty kick and he doesn’t call it. If we score that goal and go on to win that game, we get three points, we’re not sitting here today, we’re sitting in Kansas City playing this game. So it’s coincidental to me that the referee tonight makes another…I can’t even understand how you don’t give Alonso the second yellow card, which puts him out of the game. They’re then playing a man down and now we’re in a position to obviously control the game even more so than we did. I’m a guy that tries to do my best when evaluating a match. The statistics don’t lie in this game. We dominated the game from beginning to end. Like I said, they scored their goal on an offsides play, referee misses it and it changes the outcome of the game. I will tell you, in my opinion, and for our organization, I think that PRO and Major League Soccer owe our club an absolute apology because this game was taken away from us today. Our players gave everything they had. We came into a class organization, great fan base, unbelievable environment…we controlled the game. It is what it is. We didn’t come in and bunker in and try to sit back and try to muck up the game. We came to play and demonstrated that on the field, but unfortunately because of decisions that were made by the referees…it’s amazing, all four of them. The center and the fourth make the decision in not giving the second yellow, at a minimum, to Alonso, which would’ve put him out of the game. Then the two [assistant referees], one on each side – one called us offsides and the other called them onsides. I don’t know what else to say except that I’m extremely proud of my team and the way that they played. They gave everything. The unfortunate thing is we walk away with an incredibly bad taste in our mouth from the perspective of we didn’t lose the game – we got the game taken away from us. And I’ll say it again: I believe PRO and the league owe our club an apology.”

On if the fourth official gave an explanation for Benny Feilhaber’s yellow card:

“It’s easy because he went up to the referee and he couldn’t believe he didn’t throw out Alonso so he probably got it for dissent. From my vantage point, I’m 99 percent sure that’s why he got it.”

On replay showing Alonso getting a piece of the ball:

“If anything, you want to call a tactical foul because he’s on a break. During the season this year…look, I think Alonso is a fantastic player. Seattle is a very good team – this has nothing to do with that. I congratulate them. They’re moving on. They’re on a little bit of a run here obviously. It has nothing to do with that – it has to do with the performance of the referees. It completely affected the outcome of the game. Anyone who knows the game, understands that. They understand how much it can affect the game. For me, you can call it whatever you want. It’s a tackle. You can call it from the side, you can call it from behind, it’s a tactical foul…I don’t really care, but it’s easily deserving of a second yellow in the open field like that.”

On starting strong:

“I think we wanted to make sure that we took some of their key players off the ball. Alonso you can’t leave on the ball. [Nicolás] Lodeiro you can’t leave on the ball very much. You have to make sure that goes to other guys because they’re serving and finding other players. A big key for us was just taking them off the ball as much as we could. I thought our guys had great energy and our combination play up through the middle was very good in the first half. In the second half, we started to open up the game and got a couple chances here and there. But again, we dominated the game.”

On playing through the referees’ decisions:

“Unfortunately we’ve been down this road all season long. We really have. It’s been one of those years where it’s been very difficult from that perspective. The guys understand that and are fighting to the end. I wouldn’t expect anything less of them. Like I said, I’m very proud of their performance. Their effort was incredible and executed our game plan extremely well. They were the dominant team tonight.”

On any difference between this Seattle team and the one he saw in July:

“You can play an MLS team four times in a year and you’re always going to see something different. It doesn’t matter – you’re just always going to see something different. Obviously they’ve made some changes to their team. They’ve added some players, they’ve done a couple different things, but they’ve also lost some guys. I think it’s changed the way they go about their game. Even back then I thought they were a good team. Sigi [Schmid] did a fantastic job with this club for the years that he was here and he started this club off on the right foot. It wasn’t like the team wasn’t there – I can’t tell you because I’m not in their camp. Look, they’re a good team and they were a good team back then when we played them. It was just one of those days.”

On what he said to his team after the game:

“The first thing is, they know. They were on the field. They’re experiencing it more than I am on the sideline. I told them, I’m proud of you guys. I’m proud of you from the point of view that we did everything we had to today, but unfortunately, this is one of those times where your effort doesn’t get rewarded because it actually gets taken away from you based on the fact that the people you’re hoping…it’s one thing if you make one call that is a game-changer, but when you make three, that’s just unacceptable at this level. We all put a lot of work into what we do so they understand that I said that to them – that you guys put all the effort into this game, but over the season, but to now have it taken away from you from this point of view…I’m just so disappointed for them. There’s not really much you can do. They know it and now it’s just about getting back and getting ready for next year. That’s really it.”

SPORTING KANSAS CITY MIDFIELDER BENNY FEILHABER

On the incident with Osvaldo Alonso:

“No I was wrong, it was obviously a correct call. You know, they got the throw-in so obviously [Osvaldo] Alonso kicked it right off me. [It was] a clean tackle, obviously, and I was definitely wrong in asking for a yellow card on that play.”

On his personal performance:

“I was happy with our team’s performance, but I think we can blame nobody but ourselves tonight for not getting the win. The linesmen were superb. They kept their flag up when [Matt] Besler was offside and kept their flag down when [Nelson] Valdez was clearly onside. So I think we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We didn’t put up a good performance. We needed to play better, so it’s disappointing from that aspect, but the better team won tonight.”

SPORTING KANSAS CITY MIDFIELDER ROGER ESPINOZA

On the match:

“I thought our team did really well. We worked really hard. I think we deserved to win the whole time. I’m proud of my teammates. But hey, there’s always next year.”

On the strong start by Sporting Kansas City and their game plan:

“We started the match really well and we finished the match really well. We should have won the game the whole time. We know for a certain reason we didn’t win the game.”

On the refereeing decisions:

“The referee makes decisions and you’ve just got to follow. There’s nothing you can do. I guess sometimes captain doesn’t matter on your team if you want to talk to the referee. But hey, I don’t make the decisions – it’s the league and the referee.”

On what was different about Sounders FC since they last played in July:

“It was all about us. We should have won the game [tonight]. There was nothing different. We should have won the game today. But stuff happens and that’s why we’re going home.”