MLS: Whitecaps 1, Sounders 1
VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps clinched a playoff spot with a 1-1 draw against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.
It’s the first time since 2017 that the ‘Caps (12-9-13) will play in the post-season.
Fredy Montero opened the scoring for the Sounders (17-8-9), converting a penalty kick in the eighth minute.
Ryan Gauld replied for Vancouver in the 20th with a header from in tight.
Goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was once again a force in the ‘Caps net, making four saves. Stefan Frei did not register a stop for the Sounders.
Vancouver will face Sporting Kansas City in the Major League Soccer playoffs, which begin on Nov. 20.
Pushing and shoving ensued in injury time as Crepeau took issue when Montero caught him in the face with a boot as he made a massive save on his goal line. The 'keeper pulled at his former teammate's jersey before players from both sides got physical.
The Whitecaps appeared poised to go up 2-1 late in the game, with a trio of big plays.
First, Gauld made a massive run down the field to go one-and-one with Frei. Vancouver then had good chances on back-to-back corners, only to be thwarted by the Seattle defenders and netminder.
The 'Caps had another prime opportunity to take the lead in the 51st minute when Cristian Gutierrez sent a crisp cross into the area and Brian White got a head on it, putting the ball just wide of the far post.
Vancouver controlled 59.2 per cent of the possession across the first half but Seattle outshot the home side 7-3 and 4-1 in shots on target.
The Sounders took an early lead after Cristian Dajome was called for hand ball in the penalty area.
Montero took the ensuing penalty kick, firing a low shot into the bottom-right corner of the net to put Seattle up 1-0 in the eighth minute.
The fact that the goal came from the Colombian striker was particularly painful for Vancouver fans — Montero played three seasons for Vancouver (2017, '19 and '20) but opted to return to Seattle as a free agent in March.
The 'Caps refused to be deterred by the early strike and continued to press. The aggressive play finally paid off in the 20th minute.
Defender Ranko Veselinovic settled a ball at the top of the penalty area, then sent it in to White, who bumped it over to Gauld and the Scottish attacking midfielder headed it in past Frei for the equalizer.
White was knocked in the face on the play and lay on the field being looked at by trainers as his teammates celebrated. He eventually walked off the field, then got a fresh jersey and some medical attention on the sidelines before returning to the game as fans cheered.
The American striker has 12 goals and six assists since being dealt to Vancouver by the New York Red Bulls in June.
Seattle nearly went ahead again in the 26th minute when Brad Smith got past Vancouver midfielder Russell Teibert and slipped a pass to Montero. The Seattle striker got a sliding shot off but Crepeau kept the score locked at 1-1 with a diving save.
The 'Caps will be the lone Canadian team in the MLS playoffs this year. Toronto FC finished its campaign second-last in the Eastern Conference with a 6-18-10 record. CF Montreal (12-12-10) was eliminated from the playoff race Sunday with a 2-0 loss to Orlando SC.
NOTES: Seattle's leading scorer Raul Ruidiaz (hamstring) did not make the trip to Vancouver. The Sounders were also without midfielders Joao Paulo (hamstring) and Nicolas Loderio (knee inflammation). … Attendance was announced at 25,117, marking the largest crowd at a sporting event in Vancouver in more than two years. … Crepeau was announced as the Whitecaps player of the year. The 27-year-old Canadian 'keeper had a career-high six clean sheets in 27 regular-season starts.