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13 minutes of “pure craziness” as Sounders clinch playoff bye

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For the players and fans, it was a wild finish to the 2018 season

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Sunday’s edition of Decision Day will stick in the memory of Seattle Sounders fans for a long time. The win against San Jose, combined with timely goals from Colorado to cap off an unlikely comeback against FC Dallas set the stage for the type of drama that Major League Soccer no doubt hoped for when it decided to play every match on the final day simultaneously.

The effect was profound. The creeping whisper in the crowd that 8-19-7 Colorado had pulled off an unlikely equalizer against Dallas, followed mere moments later by the eruption when Cristian Roldan, playing out of position at right back, hit Raul Ruidiaz inside the six-yard box to make it 1-1.

After the match, players were asked if they were aware of what was going on in Commerce City.

“Nothing,” Nicolas Lodeiro said.

“Zero,” Osvaldo Alonso said.

The coaches, too were unsure of how much information to pass along as play resumed.

“That was intense,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said of the final 13 minutes. “We (coaches) were aware of what was happening, but how do you get that information to the players? It was at one point, ‘Ozzie, let’s go forward.’ It was: ‘Ozzie, let’s stay back and not take a goal.’ There was so much going on and that’s one of the dramas. Whoever thought of this Decision Day, it’s great. It’s great for all the fans, it gives us a bit of a faster heartbeat, but that’s what we want to do. We want to entertain people and fans around this country.”

Eventually, though, Gonzalo Pineda got a hold of Osvaldo Alonso. It was no longer 1-1 in Colorado. Tommy Smith had scored to make it 2-1. Word spread quickly.

“We tied it 1-1 and Gonzo told me that Colorado was winning 2-1 and we got the idea,” Lodeiro said. “We kept pushing and we scored in the last minute to finish second.”

While a draw would have still locked up the number two spot in the west, the Sounders wanted to reverse a recent trend of late concessions and chose to press for the kill.

“When we were able to tie, then Ozzie passed to us the news that Dallas was down, so it made everything tighter,” Ruidiaz said through an interpreter. “The rest was pure craziness.”

Pure craziness. The phrase certainly describes the scenes that occurred when Ruidiaz slotted home the game winner in the third and final minute of stoppage time after a series of quick build-up passes.

Confetti. Waving flags. Ruidiaz throwing his shirt away and jumping into a mosh pit of teammates at the advertising boards.

When the dust settled, Seattle emerged victorious, bound for the playoffs for a 10th consecutive time. The high note of finishing with a win and a bye in the first round of the MLS playoffs, however, was an important point for a team looking to end the regular season on an emphatic note.

“This team did not want to draw — they obviously didn’t want to draw the last game of the year in front of their home fans that they were trying to impress. They wanted to end this season on a positive note. For their mentality, for their ‘never-say-die’ mentality, that’s why this team is capable of a championship.”