Sounders top Rapids to gain West semis
SEATTLE -- Brad Evans made sure not to get too far ahead of himself -- and moments later, it paid off.
Evans blasted in a hard shot late in the 28th minute Wednesday night, and Eddie Johnson added an insurance goal during second-half stoppage time to give the Seattle Sounders a 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids in the MLS Western Conference knockout playoff game.
The No. 4-seeded Sounders (16-12-7) limped into the postseason on a seven-game winless streak but advanced to face the No. 1 Portland Timbers in the two-leg, aggregate-goals West semifinals. The first game will be Saturday in Seattle.
The No. 5-seeded Rapids finished the season 14-12-9. Colorado lost its last four road games of the year, all by shutout.
Evans got his scoring chance when Colorado's German Mera headed a cross out of the penalty area. Evans settled it at the top right of the box, took two dribbles in and ripped a hard shot to the back left corner. It was his fifth goal of the season and his second career playoff goal.
"It was just the right place at the right time," Evans said. "In some cases, I tend to over-run things a little bit. But this time, I kind of held back and put the brakes on and waited for the play to develop a little bit. That's why I was able to get in a good position, and get a good touch and a good strike on goal."
Evans' previous postseason goal came in 2008, when he and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid helped Columbus win the MLS Cup before both migrated to the then-expansion Sounders in 2009.
Johnson sealed it midway through the third of five minutes of stoppage time when he deked around Mera and beat Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin to the back left corner for his 10th goal of the year.
The Sounders played the final three minutes of regulation and five minutes of stoppage time a man down after goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was red-carded for handling the ball outside the penalty area. Colorado's Drew Moor had sent a long ball toward the box, and Gspurning was at least a yard outside when he reached out and caught it.
"He wanted to come out and head the ball, and realized it bounced too high for him to head it," Schmid said. "He thought he had jumped back into the box, then caught the ball outside the box. The referee (Silviu Petrescu) decided it was a red card."
Gspurning, facing a one-game suspension, will be replaced by former U.S. national team and English Premier League star Marcus Hahnemann for Saturday's first leg against Portland. Hahnemann played the final few minutes Wednesday.
The Sounders had not won since a 2-0 shutout against Real Salt Lake in Seattle on Sept. 13, going 0-4-3 in their final seven regular-season games.
"For us to win a game is just a good feeling," Schmid said. "It's a win over a team that embarrassed us last time (5-1 in Colorado on Oct. 5). It's not just a win, it's the way we played. I thought we played well. It's not where we were hanging on and scrapping to get by. From that standpoint, it means a little more than just a win."
Colorado's best chance came late in the 57th minute when Deshorn Brown sent a shot from just inside the box on the left side curling toward the far post. Gspurning came out to knock it away and preserve the shutout.
"It was disappointing, but I'm certainly proud of the boys for leaving it all out on the field," Moor said. "I wish we would have started off a little brighter. (It was) a playoff game -- it's different. If we start the game the way we finish the second half, I think we give ourselves a little better chance."