For much of Decision Day, the Seattle Sounders seemed to be on a collision course with the LA Galaxy, who entered the day two points clear of the playoff line.
The Galaxy managed to get an equalizer in the 75th minute, which seemingly solidified their position and meant that Real Salt Lake would need to beat Sporting KC on the road in order to jump them in the standings.
Unfortunately for the Galaxy, a rather wild sequence of events conspired to make that happen. First, Sporting KC were denied a penalty on what looked like a pretty blatant handball.
November 8, 2021
If that penalty were to have been awarded and converted, Sporting KC would have at least temporarily jumped all the way to first in the Western Conference and knocked the Sounders down to third.
But it wasn’t.
While anything less than a win wasn’t going to help Sporting KC, RSL still needed the win in order to qualify for the playoffs. And they needed a goal to get there. It came in the 95th minute when Demir Kreilach pounced on Justin Meram’s attempted overhead kick.
90'+5' GOAL!!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) November 8, 2021
DAMIR KREILACH SENDS #RSL TO THE POSTSEASON!#SKCvRSL // #DecisionDay pic.twitter.com/Cns97LSmX9
The turn in events left Chicharito — who scored in the season finale — teary-eyed in the postgame press-conference.
An emotional Chicharito, talking about the LA Galaxy missing the playoffs:— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) November 8, 2021
”It’s obvious we didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, even despite the things I’ve been hearing about VAR in the other game. All I have in my mind and my brain is that it hurts. I’m very hurt.” pic.twitter.com/vAOf4hklhz
More importantly, it set up a Sounders-RSL playoff matchup on Nov. 23 at 7:30 PM. The winner of that game will play the winner of Sporting KC-Vancouver Whitecaps on Nov. 28. The conference final will be played on either Dec. 4 or 5 with MLS Cup on Dec. 11.
The Sounders went 1-1-0 against RSL this season, with both teams winning their home games. It will also be the fourth time they’ve faced off the postseason, with the most recent meeting coming in the 2019 playoffs. The Sounders are 13-3-3 at home against RSL all-time, including a 2-0-1 in the postseason.
The game has plenty of off-field storylines, beyond their history. In late August Real Salt Lake head coach Freddy Juarez left RSL to join Seattle Sounders as an assistant coach. Juarez was announced as a Sounders assistant coach on Sept. 1. He’s the third member of senior leadership to leave Salt Lake for Seattle, joining President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey and Sporting Director Craig Waibel, who joined the Sounders on April 1.