If the Seattle Sounders played in almost any other league in the world, they might have celebrated with champagne on Saturday.
The Sounders beat the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-0, at CenturyLink Field in a match that clinched the 2014 Supporters’ Shield, indicative of the best regular-season record in Major League Soccer.
In most leagues, that’s as good as it gets. However, MLS has playoffs leading to the MLS Cup, the league’s most prestigious trophy and the one the Sounders will soon set their sights on. And that’s why there was no bubbly soaking the Sounders in their winning locker room
Still, players and coaches took a quieter satisfaction in their league-best 20-10-4 record.
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“To me, if you look around at other leagues, when you win the league it’s a big deal,” forward Clint Dempsey said. “And that’s how we’re going to treat it, as a big deal. No matter what the public thinks of it, we were the best team throughout the course of the season. … We’re going to celebrate it as a championship. We’ve gotten two now, and now we’re looking for the MLS Cup.”
Those 20 wins are the most in club history, and the most in MLS since the league scrapped shootouts in 2000. It also was just enough to secure the head-to-head stretch run with Los Angeles (17-7-10), which would have claimed its fifth Shield with a win on Saturday.
The Galaxy strung out the suspense, keeping the Sounders locked in a scoreless match until the 85th minute before Marco Pappa finished after a pass from Obafemi Martins. Pappa also added the final goal in stoppage time.
“The Supporters’ Shield is a reflection of what you’ve done, it’s work over a period of time,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s 34 weeks of training, it’s 34 weeks of games. Put all that together, and it shows that we were able to come out on top. … So I’m really proud of our group. I’m really proud of what they accomplished this year. And we want to carry this spirit into these next games here in the MLS playoffs.”
The Sounders will open their playoffs run in the Western Conference semifinals on a date to be announced Sunday and against the lowest-seeded surviving team.
Los Angeles played without goals leader Robbie Keane, who was a surprise scratch due to what the club called “a nagging injury,” and starter Omar Gonzalez, who was out due to yellow-card accumulation.
Still, the Galaxy had the better run of play most of the way, dominating possession and shots.
The Sounders didn’t manage their first shot until the 76th minute. They ended with four — all by Pappa, who came off the bench in the 73rd minute.
Pappa’s first goal came from about 10 yards after a Martins pass that split two Galaxy defenders. The second came in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Pappa stripped the ball from Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo outside the penalty area and then chipped it over retreating defender A.J. DeLaGarza.
“When I come from the bench I want to do my best to show my character and show that I want to play,” Pappa said. “I’m happy, not just for me, I’m more happy for the team that we win the Shield.
The game was played before a crowd of 57,673, about 5,000 short of what the club needed to set an MLS attendance record for a sixth straight season.
Pregame festivities began with the club raising a banner commemorating its fourth U.S. Open Cup trophy, won last month. By the end of the day, Sounders FC had a new trophy for its collection. And the club hopes to add another in December.
“We’re six years in, and now we’ve won four Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield,” Schmid said. “That’s five trophies in six years. Salt Lake hasn’t done that. Kansas City hasn’t done that. The other new franchises haven’t done that. I think it’s a reflection of our consistency. And I hope our fans appreciate that as to what we’re doing. … We get a day and a half to enjoy it. Our mantra this season was we’re going to try and be greedy.”