Sounders return to USL-1 Final
Islanders rally twice, but Seattle prevails in penalties

Seattle Sounders News Release -

Sunday, September 23, 2007

SEATTLE, WA -- Chris Eylander saved two of Puerto Rico’s four tries in the penalty kick shootout to help the Sounders win the tiebreaker, 4-2, in front of 3,107 fans at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila after a 3-3 series aggregate final. Seattle will host the Championship game next Saturday.

Eylander is mobbed after second PK save (George Holland)Eylander came up empty when the all-league teams were announced last week. But he came up big on Sunday night to help the Seattle Sounders get back into the USL First Division championship game.

Puerto Rico won the regulation 90-minute second leg on Sunday, 1-0, to tie the aggregate score at 2-2 following the Sounders’ 2-1 victory in Bayamon in Game 1 on Friday.

That forced 30 minutes of series overtime. It ended deadlocked at 1-1, as the Islanders answered the Sounders’ 10th-minute goal with one of their own late in the 27th minute.

The Sounders, who lost the title game 2-0 at Montreal in 2004, but beat Richmond in penalty kicks at Seattle in 2005, will take on the Atlanta Silverbacks for the crown on Saturday at Starfire. Atlanta also had to go to penalty kicks on Sunday at Portland. The Silverbacks beat the Timbers in the tiebreaker 3-1, after the teams played 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, leaving their aggregate deadlocked at 1-1.

Tickets for the finals will go on sale this morning through the Sounders. Prices are $25 for grandstand seating and $20 for bleachers. The game time had not yet been determined as of Sunday night.

The Sounders will be going for their fourth league title. Seattle won back-to-back championships in what then was known as the A-League in 1995 and 1996 before taking it all again in 2005.

The Sounders, who won the coin toss and elected to go first, in the tiebreaker converted all four of their penalty kicks. Greg Howes, a late second-half sub who scored Seattle‘s overtiime goal, drilled his into the upper left corner, and Eylander responded moments later by diving to his left to save Taiwo Atieno's try.

The teams matched efforts in the next two rounds. Leighton O’Brien scored for Seattle, then Gregory Simmonds answered for Puerto Rico. Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar made it 3-1 for Seattle, and Victor Herrera, who scored the late overtime goal that brought on the penalty kicks, answered for the Islanders.

Andre Schmid went to the back right corner for a 4-2 Sounders lead, leaving them with two chances to clinch it with an Eylander save or a conversion on their next try.

Seattle never needed that final kick. With Lars Lyssand on the penalty spot, Eylander -- who led the league in wins with 14 and saves with 109, but still was denied an all-league position -- dove to his right and went to the ground to stop the shot.

The Sounders were less than 10 minutes away from taking care of business in regulation time, as they were deadlocked 0-0 with the Islanders but still had that 2-1 aggregate lead.

But on a counterattack, Puerto Rico‘s. Noah Delgado, who subbed into the game in the 55th minute, went down the right wing side. Almost on the goal line, he cross the ball on the ground into the box, where Alberto Delgado, a 69th-minute sub, one-timed it past Eylander into the back right corner at 80:07.

That made necessary the 30 minuets of series overtime. The Sounders needed less than 10 minutes of the first 15-minute session to get on the board .

Kenji Treschuk, who scored the game-winning goal Friday at Puerto Rico, gained control of the ball between the center line and the goal line on the left side. He pushed it ahead to Roger Levesque, who was on the attacking left side of the penalty area. Levesque crossed it into the box, and Howes ran onto it at the top of the 6-yard box and drilled it into the left corner.

With a little more than three minutes left in overtime, Puerto Rico’s Herrera had a free kick about 35 yards up from the goal line on the right side. He floated it into traffic on Eylander’s front porch, and the ball dropped into the left side at 26:48 of OT.

The Sounders and Islanders both had near-misses earlier in the second half.

In the 56th minute, Seattle’s Kevin Sakuda had the ball just outside the 6-yard box on the left side. He sent a shot toward the top shelf, only to see it slapped away at the last possible instant by Puerto Rico goalkeeper Josh Saunders.

About four minutes later, the Islander had a chance. A loose ball on Eylander’s front porch wound up at the feet of Atiano Taiwo. Eylander reacted just in time to nock it away.

While both teams created some opportunities during a somewhat rough-and-tumble first half, neither the Sounders nor the Islanders dominated the run of play for long stretches of time. (Puerto Rico had a 12-7 advantage in shots.)

Midway through the 14th minute, Sebastien LeToux went down the right-wing side and crossed the ball into the box, where Roger Levesue was waiting. Levesque wasn’t able to position to get off a shot himself, but he got the ball out to Leighton O’Brien at the top of the arc for a shot that went over the top.

The Sounders had a corner kick from the attacking right side near the end of the 37th minute. Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar found Taylor Graham with the kick, but Graham’s header from near the top left corner of the box hit the ground and bounced over the top.

Puerto Rico manufactured two dangerous shots inside the last five minute of the half, both of them hard blasts for forward Willia Sims. His first try was a 16-yard shallow-angle shot from the inside the box on the right side, but it zipped just beyond the far post.

Then, 90 seconds later, Sims ripped a 30-yarder from the right side that also went wide of the left post.

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