SEATTLE — It was a long climb — and isn’t finished yet — but the Seattle Sounders have finally found themselves in playoff position.
They have Chad Marshall’s head and Andreas Ivanschitz’s service to thank, as they combined for the game’s only goal in a somewhat ugly 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire. The win put the Sounders even with sixth-place Portland on points, but holding the tiebreaker (wins) and having a game in hand. The Sounders are also just two points behind fifth-place Sporting Kansas City and four points behind fourth place Real Salt Lake, with a game-in-hand on both.
Both teams started somewhat conservatively, as Chicago didn’t want to take any risks and Seattle struggled to find space. The away side probably had the best early chances, but the Sounders defense kept them from becoming truly dangerous. David Accam was especially dangerous, several times finding space inside the penalty area only to have a variety of defenders come up with big tackles and blocks.
In the 24th minute, the Sounders finally found the net when Marshall headed in an Ivanschitz corner kick. It was Marshall’s fourth goal and Ivanschitz’s team-leading eighth assist. Seattle almost struck again before the half through Jordan Morris, once on a ball over the top that Sean Johnson just beat him to and again on a tight angled shot that Johnson parried away.
The second half started about as slowly as the first, with neither team doing much early on. Accam found himself in dangerous areas again, most notably when he was nearly through on goal if it weren’t for a big tackle from Marshall.
The Sounders had a few near-chances, one when Ivanschitz beautifully flicked a throw-in with his heel into the path of Morris, and another when Morris beat a defender to a long through ball. Chicago’s defense stood strong with both, though, denying both of Morris’ opportunities. Joevin Jones later found a ton of space on the left flank, firing in an excellent cross found Nelson Valdez, but he was unable to control it. Valdez nearly found the net again, when he volleyed a bouncing ball in the box straight at Johnson, who parried it away.
In the dying minutes of the match, Frei made a crucial tipped save from a close range shot after the ball bounced around his box.
The one downer for the Sounders was that Nicolas Lodeiro picked up a yellow card when he blocked an attempted quick free kick by the Fire. It was Lodeiro’s fifth yellow and he’ll be forced to sit for Sunday’s match at Vancouver. He’s also expected to miss the Sounders’ home game against the Houston Dynamo on Oct. 12, as it’s a day after Uruguay’s World Cup qualifier.