McClatchy News Services
CARSON, Calif. —Eight minutes from the end of their regular season, Seattle Sounders FC surrendered a goal that could change the course of its postseason.
Los Angeles substitute Mike Magee scored in the 83rd minute Sunday night to give the Galaxy a 1-0 win over Seattle before a sold-out crowd of 27,000 at Home Depot Center.
The Sounders couldn’t equalize, and ended their Major League Soccer regular season with a 15-8-11 record, one point and one place behind Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference.
“I think we are ready for the playoffs, tonight has to be a good motivator,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Sometimes when you get slapped a little bit towards the end of the season it can be a good thing because it reminds you of how that feels and it is a feeling that you don’t want to have come back. I think this team definitely has what it takes to make a run at the championship.”
The result gave RSL the No. 2 seed in the West. As a result, the clubs will begin their home-and-away aggregate-score series Friday at CenturyLink Field. The resolution match will be played Nov. 8 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
Playoff tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. today. Game times also will be announced today.
The loss also dropped Seattle to seventh-place in the league, greatly reducing their chances of hosting the MLS Cup, if they advance that far. And now getting to MLS Cup is the club’s only chance of qualifying for 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League.
But even all that might not have been the worst news of the night for the Sounders.
In the 43rd minute, the Sounders’ leading goals-scorer, Eddie Johnson, left the game with an apparent left hamstring injury. The club had no immediate word on his availability for Friday, saying a magnetic resonance imaging test will be done today.
“I felt a big cramp in my hamstring,” Johnson said. “I know what that feels like so I was smart, I came out. I didn’t try to force it, but there’s definitely something there. If I tried to play, I would have been restricted.”
The victory did not affect the playoff position of the Galaxy (16-12-6). Los Angeles was anchored in fourth place in the West and will meet No. 5 Vancouver in a single-eliminate play-in game at home Thursday.
Seattle and L.A. both had several good chances throughout their free-flowing game. Both teams launched 18 shots. Fredy Montero hit the post for a shot in the 33rd minute, and Robbie Keane threatened multiple times for the Galaxy.
L.A. goalkeeper Josh Saunders made four saves, while Seattle’s Michael Gspurning made three.
However, none of those chances were cashed in until Magee’s game-winner, which came about eight minutes after he checked into the match.
Magee rolled a pass to Robbie Keane and then bolted toward to top of the penalty area, where he received a return pass from Keane and beat Gspurning inside the far pole.
“A little bit of an error on our part on the goal,” Schmid said. “We didn’t shift over quick enough and were caught 3-vs.-2 on the other side of the field, and Magee finished it well. On the other end, we got denied two, three times by Saunders on some pretty big time saves.”
Gspurning ended the season with a 0.73 goals-against average, a club record and the best in MLS this season. He becomes the first goalkeeper from outside the CONCACAF region to lead the league in that category, and his total is third best in league history.
Other Sounders statistical leaders were Johnson with 14 goals, Mauro Rosales, who matched his club record 13 assists, and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, who played 2,688 minutes.