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Nelson Valdez sends Seattle past Sporting Kansas City in MLS playoffs

Seattle Sounders forward Nicolas Lodeiro  shoots on goal against Sporting Kansas City on Thursday. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Seattle Sounders forward Nicolas Lodeiro shoots on goal against Sporting Kansas City on Thursday. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

SEATTLE – Nelson Valdez scored his first MLS goal in nearly a calendar year on a header in the 88th minute to give the Seattle Sounders a 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Thursday night in the knockout round of the MLS Western Conference playoffs.

With Seattle pressing for a winner in the closing minutes of regulation, Joevin Jones’ cross found Valdez at the near post and his quick header easily beat goalkeeper Tim Melia.

It was Valdez’s first MLS goal since Oct. 28, 2015, against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the knockout round of last year’s playoffs. Valdez has had numerous chances during the season but finally got one in the net, even though it appeared on replay he may have been offside on the winning goal.

Seattle will face FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. Game 1 of the two-leg series is Sunday in Seattle.

It was the only goal scored by Seattle in three matches against Sporting KC this season and another crushing loss for Kansas City in this round of the postseason.

Nearly a year to the day, Sporting KC was back in the knockout round of the MLS playoffs, again in the Pacific Northwest and trying to erase the memory of the memorable shootout loss to Portland that went through 11 rounds of penalty kicks before the Timbers finally won, the first step on their way to an MLS Cup title.

Kansas City had the majority of the possession and chances in the first half, pushing for an early lead and only being kept off the scoreboard thanks to Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Paulo Nagamura had two early chances that were punched away by Frei, the second save rebounded out for an attempt from Graham Zusi that beat Frei to the far post but ricocheted off the outside of the post and went out for a goal kick.

Kansas City appeared to take the lead in the 53rd minute when Matt Besler’s diving header off Benny Feilhaber’s free kick beat Frei. But Besler was flagged for being offside and replays showed he was barely ahead of the Seattle defenders before the ball was played.

Feilhaber was the best player on the field most of the night, causing headaches for Seattle wherever he roamed. He dribbled through most of Seattle’s defense in the 80th minute, only to be denied at the very end by another key save from Frei.


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