Sounders survive goalie's red card, top Rapids

Josh Liebeskind, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SEATTLE -- A split-second decision nearly cost the Seattle Sounders a win in the MLS playoffs' Western Conference knockout playoff round Wednesday.
The Sounders were attempting to maintain a late one-goal lead when goalkeeper Michael Gspurning made a split-second decision that put the game on the brink of a tie.
Gspurning's hand ball outside of the box in the 85th minute resulted in a red card for the Seattle keeper and a free kick for the Colorado Rapids.
Backup keeper Marcus Hahnemann wasn't immediately tested, as the free kick harmlessly bounced away from the net, and the undermanned Sounders added an insurance goal to hold off the Colorado Rapids for a 2-0 win in front of 32,204 at CenturyLink Field.
"Sometimes goalkeepers have to make decisions in split seconds," Gspurning said. "I just wanted to be ready if the ball is bouncing low. We talked about this in halftime, that they'll chip the balls over the defense. I wanted to be ready and make the step forward, and then it bounced a little higher than expected.
"I thought, 'OK, I'm not too far from the box, so I should make quick steps back and catch it.' But yeah, I think I missed one step back."
Gspurning will not be available for the Sounders' Western Conference semifinal game Saturday against the Portland Timbers due to the red card. Hahnemann, who started four games this season, will take Gspurning's place in goal for the first leg of the home-and-home series against the Timbers.
"Very disappointing, but I'm happy for the team," Gspurning said. "I'm happy for the team that we're through. (That is what it is) all about. I know that Marcus will be ready. That's all that matters. Soccer is a team sport, not just for the 11 guys, it's more or less the whole squad."
Brad Evans scored in the 28th minute, giving the Sounders the goal they needed to advance to face archrival Portland. Although Seattle had eight first-half shots, Evans made the only breakthrough. The midfielder found himself alone at the top right corner of the box after corralling a weak clearance, and finished strongly past a diving Clint Irwin. The Sounders are 6-1-1 this year when Evans either scores or has an assist.
Eddie Johnson added an insurance goal three minutes into stoppage time.
Johnson put the ball through a defender's legs and finished past Irwin to ice the game after the Rapids had multiple last-minute attempts. Clint Dempsey played the ball to Johnson for his first assist as a Sounder.
The win snaps a seven-game streak without a victory for the Sounders, who last came out on top on Sept. 13. Seattle is 3-0-1 in its past four home playoff games.
"It's a win. It's been a long time since we've won a game, we get reminded of that all the time," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "So for us to win a game is just a good feeling. But it's always been our belief that when we get our people on the field, we're a team that can win games."
The Rapids exit the playoffs without being able to win their first postseason game since clinching the 2010 MLS Cup. Colorado is now 0-6-1 in games at Seattle all-time, and it has not won a road playoff game since 2006.
"This stadium, against one of the toughest teams in the league, with this atmosphere, to perform the way that they did today, with that energy and that level of commitment with the game, I'm proud of what the boys have done," Rapids coach Oscar Pareja said. "I feel bad for them because I know they wanted to advance, but that's the game."
Meanwhile, the Sounders will continue their quest for their first MLS Cup, a feat that won't be easy with their third game in the seven days coming Saturday.
"Some will call it a rhythm, some will call it you're playing three games in seven days," Schmid said. "It all depends how you choose to look at it. Right now, it's mind over matter. You just got to go out there and play. That's the way it is. There's no tomorrow. You got to go out there and play."
NOTES: The only time in franchise history the Rapids did not lose in Seattle was a 1-1 draw earlier this season. ... Marc Burch replaced Seattle defender DeAndre Yedlin to start the second half. Yedlin stayed on the ground for a few moments after he was involved in a collision near the end of the first half. ... Sounders forward Obafemi Martins was inactive due to a lingering groin injury. Martins, who scored eight goals during in 2013, missed a fourth consecutive game due to injury twice, his second such streak this season. ... Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers, a Rookie of the Year candidate, was not available due to concussion symptoms that have plagued him since an Oct. 5 match against the Sounders.

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