By Mark Nelson Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Winless in Major League Soccer play against Chivas USA, Seattle Sounders FC finally broke down the wall on Friday night.
Seattle, which had yet to win — let alone score a goal against Chivas USA in league play dating back to last year — continued its blistering run through the second half of the season with a 2-1 win against its Western Conference rivals in the final regular-season home game in front of 36,356 fans on Friday night at Qwest Field.
Sounders FC (14-9-6) beat Chivas USA 3-1 in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match earlier this year, but had failed to solve the Californians in four previous league matches.
“We didn’t want them to be our ‘boogey-team’ and be the team that would always be on that side of the ledger for us,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “From that standpoint, that was something the guys definitely wanted to go out and change.”
First-half goals from forward Steve Zakuani and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso helped Sounders FC push its record over the last 14 MLS matches to 10-1-3, including a seven-game unbeaten streak at home.
Jeff Parke intercepted a pass before finding Zakuani making a run through the center of the Chivas USA (8-16-4) defense. Zakuani dribbled through a group of Chivas defenders before beating goalkeeper Zach Thornton and scoring into an open net for a 1-0 lead in the 9th minute.
“We won’t be back here until the playoffs, so we wanted to go out with a bang,” Zakuani said. “We’re just trying to repay the fans (for their loyalty).”
Along with being Seattle’s first goal against Chivas USA in league play, the tally was Zakuani’s 10th of the season, tying him for the team lead with Fredy Montero.
Osvaldo Alonso doubled Seattle’s lead in the 25th minute with his first goal of the season on a one-timer from Zakuani.
“We got goals at good times and winning is a good result,” Zakuani said.
Montero set up Zakuani on the left side of the Chivas USA penalty box with a short pass that the 22-year-old Zakuani took to the end line before finding Alonso waiting near the penalty mark.
“We wanted to keep our rhythm going into (the game) although we’ve clinched a playoff spot,” defender James Riley said. “The main focus is to keep guys in rhythm, a lot of guys are getting minutes so it’s just good overall.”
Nathan Sturgis missed a clean opportunity for Seattle in the 62nd minute on a rebound after Thornton made a terrific save on a Zakuani header. Sturgis shot from about 8 yards in front of the goal swerved wide to the left.
Chivas USA halved Seattle’s lead in the 92nd minute when Rodolfo Espinoza curled in a deep cross that found unmarked forward Jesus Padilla for a late goal.
Seattle keeper Kasey Keller finished with three saves.
Seattle defender Patrick Ianni was subbed off in the 51st minute with a right ankle sprain. Ianni appeared to have injured the ankle jumping to defend a deep pass in the 3rd minute, but he played through the injury.
Montero will miss the final league match of the season — Oct. 23 at Houston — because of yellow-card accumulation. Montero was issued a yellow card in the 84th minute of Friday’s win.
For the second season in a row, Seattle — which celebrated Fan Appreciation Night on Friday — claimed the league-high in average attendance. Friday’s final regular season home match set the Sounders FC season average at 36,173 — easily the highest turnout in the league. The Los Angeles Galaxy (20,735) and Toronto FC (20,622) are second and third, respectively.
“It’s a good send-off, for sure,” Riley said.
Zakuani added: “Now, the real season begins.”