Sounders top St. Louis, secure second seed in West
Posted on: 22 Oct, 2023 at 03:57 AM
Credit: Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports
Albert Rusnak scored his fifth goal of the season early to help the visiting Seattle Sounders secure a 2-0 victory over St. Louis City on Saturday night and the second Western Conference seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Reed Baker-Whiting and Leo Chu helped force an own-goal that doubled Seattle's lead before halftime as the Sounders (14-9-11, 53 points) completed the regular season on a nine-match unbeaten run.
With LAFC settling for a 1-1 draw at the Vancouver Whitecaps in their own regular-season finale, the Sounders climbed above the Black-and-Gold in the final West regular-season standings. Seattle will face seventh-seeded FC Dallas in a best-of-three first-round series.
Stefan Frei made five saves to set a Seattle club record with 14 clean sheets, besting his own mark from the 2017 campaign while becoming only the third goalkeeper to hold St. Louis (17-12-5, 56 points) scoreless at home in its expansion season.
City entered the night already guaranteed the top seed in the West, but have lost two in a row heading into their first postseason. They also missed the chance to set an MLS record for most points earned in an expansion season with a victory.
They'll face the winner of a play-in game between eighth-seed Sporting Kansas City and ninth-seed San Jose Earthquakes in their own first-round series.
Rusnak gave Seattle the lead somewhat against the early run of play in the 23rd minute after an attack down the right.
During that move, defender Tim Parker tried to tackle the ball off Jordan Morris, but the deflection found Cristian Roldan, who continued his run down the wing and crossed toward the penalty spot.
Rusnak met it in stride and drove a low, first-time finish beyond Roman Burki's diving attempt and inside the left post.
The lead grew to 2-0 in the 38th through another challenge by Parker that went wrong. This time, the attack came down the left with Baker-Whiting playing a give-and-go with Chu, then attempting to cross the ball from near the byline.
Parker slid in an attempt to clear the danger, instead redirecting it between a wrong-footed Burki and his near post.
--Field Level Media