Nelson Valdez’s dramatic late header settled a heated affair at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night, sending the Seattle Sounders through from the final Western Conference Knockout Round game with a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.
Sporting had the better of the opening minutes in what would prove to be a high-intensity 90 minutes, with tempers flaring on both sides on multiple occasions throughout the contest. Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei was called into action twice within the first 10 minutes and continued to be vital for the Sounders throughout the game, making seven saves as the visiting team continued to create the better chances.
Frei's opposite number, Tim Melia, experienced a quiet evening, as the Sounders failed to register a shot on target until Valdez's winning goal. That decisive moment came about as the ball came out wide to Joevin Jones on the left and the Trinidadian international whipped in a cross to the near post, finding a streaking Valdez for his first goal of the year. It was a controversial strike as Sporting Kansas City would argue after the match that Valdez was offside on the goal.
Seattle, the No. 4 seed in the West, will now turn their attention to a Western Conference Semifinal series with No. 1-seeded FC Dallas, a re-match of their series last year that was settled by a penalty kick shootout.
A TALE OF TWO BENNYS:
It proved to be quite the eventful evening for Sporting playmaker
, who was
and created chances at will for Sporting. He provided this moment of magic that was a Frei kick save away from going down as one of the great playoff goals of all time:
However, his temper also revealed itself, as he earned a yellow card for protests during the match and then continued to argue with the referee after the final whistle. The outburst comes in what could be his final match with the club given his contract is set to run out this offseason.