Sounders tie Whitecaps, clinch playoff berth

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Seattle Sounders needed a single point in the standings to clinch a fourth-straight MLS playoff appearance, and they got it Saturday with a scoreless draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

But while the Sounders were pleased to check off that annual goal, they also were disappointed about failing to claim two points that could prove crucial in Western Conference seeding and the Cascadia Cup race.

“We’ve done a lot of work all season, so it’s great to have (a playoff berth) officially secured,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “But like I said, our goal is still to get second place, so we’re disappointed in not getting three points today.”

While this was a game that lacked goals, it didn’t lack chances.

The best of those may have come in the final seconds of stoppage time, when a ball scooted across the Sounders’ goalmouth, finally reaching Vancouver forward Camilo at the far post. He knocked his shot back wide of the goal.

“The heartbeat was a little bit high at this moment,” Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “… I just tried to be as big as possible.”

Camilo was one of two first-half substitutions Vancouver was forced into after forward Darren Mattocks and midfielder John Thorrington went out with injuries.

In that first half, Seattle had the better chances as the Whitecaps tried to adjust to those unplanned changes.

However, Vancouver settled on a new approach in the second half, and then it was the Sounders’ turn to adjust.

“They became a lot more direct in the second half,” Schmid said. “They were looking for second balls. They really moved into more of a 4-3-3 by pushing Camilo outside and having Kenny Miller run outside. … What it really came down to is we didn’t do a good job of getting to second balls and they kept the pressure on us.”

The sellout crowd of 21,000 at BC Place watched Vancouver outshoot Seattle, 16-13. However, the Sounders put four shots on target, compared to three for the Whitecaps.

Seattle was shut out in league play for the first time since July 4. It also was the first time the Sounders had held their opponent scoreless since Aug. 18 — the last meeting with the Whitecaps.

“You’re on the road, and you have a shutout: That’s always positive,” Gspurning said. “If you tell us before that we have a shutout we all would be sure that we win this game because we always make one. But it didn’t happen today. We have to accept this.”

Vancouver moved to 10-12-9, remained two points ahead of Dallas for the fifth and final playoff spot in the West.

Meanwhile, Seattle (13-7-10) lost a couple of points to second-place Real Salt Lake, which beat Chivas USA on Saturday. Third-place Los Angeles also could gain ground in a match at Colorado tonight.

However, the Sounders and Whitecaps each picked up a point on Portland in Cascadia competition. There, the Timbers have eight points (2-0-2), Seattle goes to six points (1-1-3), while Vancouver moved to three points (0-2-3), but was eliminated. The Timbers visit CenturyLink Field at 6 p.m. Oct. 7.

The draw also assures that the Sounders will not be able to improve or match their record of last season — the first time that’s happened over their four seasons. However, Schmid did not want to ignore the accomplishment a fourth playoff appearance.

“I think it’s tremendous,” he said. “… There have been a lot of expansion sisters come in, and I think our record stands alone, what we’ve been able to accomplish so far. It’s a tribute to the organization all the way down. We’ve got a lot of stability and as a result of that there is a consistency and a belief that we’ve been able to instill in our club. We’ve still got big goals this year.

“The No. 1 goal was to make it back into the playoffs, and now we can talk about the other goals from there.”

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