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Sounders reflect on “crazy” playoff match

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The players know Thursday was special, even in the wake of a bitter defeat.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — It may have ended in a loss, but the fact that something very special happened at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night was not lost on the Seattle Sounders. The five-goal, penalty kick-decided Western Conference semifinal against the Portland Timbers may go on to be remembered as one of the best matches in league history.

“That was a crazy game,” Sounders forward Will Bruin said after the match. “It’s going to sting for a while for me, personally, but that’s how it goes in the playoffs. Sometimes you get punished on mistakes. For their goal in overtime, I lost the ball. That’s how they got the ball and put a cross in and scored. I’m going to take this one extra hard.”

Brian Schmetzer said after the match that the loss was one of the toughest of his career. Keeper Stefan Frei felt that the intense sentiment from the rivalry helped the match feel so special.

“We understand that the rivalry is a real thing,” Frei said. “That’s why there’s a lot of heart, soul and love poured into this game on both sides. It was a pleasure to be a part of that. This is going to go down as one of the feistiest and best games to watch in our rivalry and history, so there’s definitely respect there. It sucks to come out on the bottom in the end, but I’m proud of our guys.”

While the loss on penalties stings, the match still had triumphant moments for the Sounders, who scored an electric goal in the 68th minute and then rallied late for Raul Ruidíaz to punch in yet another late goal in the third minute of stoppage time to send the match to extra time. After conceding a goal early in extra time, the Sounders again equalized when Nicolas Lodeiro converted a penalty.

“For me personally, it makes it even worse because we fought so hard in front of our fans,” Bruin said. “We had great support tonight and we wanted to give them something to end the night off happy with. I’m sure it was, for the most part, an entertaining game for them, but it’s not the result we wanted.”

The agony of defeat will linger for a long time for players, fans and coaches. With time, though, the memory of a wild night in SoDo may one day be remembered for everything that represents the best of playoff soccer.

“Even when they scored their (first) goal, the resilience and the character come through that we just keep on going,” Frei said. “I couldn’t have asked anything more from my teammates. Everyone put in everything they could. It was a do-or-die game and I think we all treated it that way. When you lose and make an exit under those circumstances, I don’t want to say you can accept it, but it’s the one way you can say ‘OK, it was what it was.’ I’m exceptionally proud of my teammates. We’re going to need to take some time off and then come back next year and try to win some more trophies.”