It took mere milliseconds for Sounders fans to turn their attention to Saturday's conference semifinal between them and the Portland Timbers at the conclusion of Wednesday's play-in game, but there's still plenty to learn from the night's play. The Sounders, coming off an absolutely disastrous finish to the regular season, put together an excellent compete performance to not just beat a good Colorado Rapids team.
Seattle was on top from the opening whistle and were unlucky to miss multiple goals before Brad Evans scored the eventual winner in the 28th minute. The Sounders' Michael Gspurning got himself sent off for handling the ball outside the box for absolutely no good reason at all, but Eddie Johnson sealed the win for the 10-man Sounders with a late goal of his own, guiding his team to a 2-0 win and a November 7th date with the Timbers.
Five questions answered
Before each game in the MLS Cup Playoffs, we ask five questions. Here's how we thought the game answered them.
1. Can Seattle get back on track?
Yes, and apparently without much of a problem. They looked nothing like a team that had just gone on one of the worst runs of form in their MLS history.
2. Does experience matter?
It's tough to tell whether or not experience was a huge factor in the game. The likes of Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado seemed more ready for the game than anyone on the young Rapids, but so did rookie DeAndre Yedlin. Maybe they rubbed off on him?
3. How will Silviu Petrescu affect things?
He certainly affected the game, though his style of officiating didn't seem to affect one team more than the other. He let a lot of physical play go, but he let it go both ways. Alonso, one of the most physical players in the league, wasn't as mean as he usually is because he didn't have to be. Petrescu missed a handball by the Rapids that should have resulted in a Sounders penalty, but that would not have affected the outcome of the game.
4. Is Clint Dempsey ready to shine?
Sort of? He had the assist on Johnson's goal and turned in a very solid performance, but he still didn't look like the Clint Dempsey that we've seen take over games for Fulham and the United States National Team. He was solid, but he is being paid to be spectacular.
5. Who wins the battle of Chris Klute vs. DeAndre Yedlin?
During the first half, Yedlin by a mile. He looked like a man possessed and was arguably the Sounders' best player until he picked up an injury going into a challenge with Deshorn Brown, forcing Yedlin to exit at halftime. He dominated the right flank on both ends in an extremely impressive performance.
What didn't we expect?
Seattle coming out so ready to play - Did most people expect Seattle to win at home with Colorado missing Dillon Powers due to a concussion? Of course, but after the Rapids' 5-1 win earlier in the month, no one expected wire-to-wire domination. The Rapids never looked like threatening. They were poor, but their struggles probably had more to do with Seattle playing one of their best games of the season than it did them being particularly bad.
The big takeaway
The Rapids really need Powers - Anyone who saw Dillon Powers at Notre Dame could have guessed that he'd become a solid pro, but it's pretty rare to have players who stay in college for four years become impact stars as rookies. Powers was arguably the Rapids' best player this season and they were completely lost without him on Wednesday night. Adam Moffat -- a solid but generally unspectacular journeyman -- looked dominant for the Sounders while the Rapids failed to string three passes together at a time. Powers would have made this a different game.
Man of the match
Brad Evans - Not only did he score the winner with an excellent half-volley off of an impressive chest trap, he was great in multiple roles. He helped the Sounders keep possession and offered a versatile attacking option in the first half, then played a nearly flawless 45 minutes at right back in the second half, filling in for Yedlin.
The Sounders get to play in the playoff tie of Don Garber's dreams while the Rapids face an uncertain future. Colorado has some excellent young franchise cornerstone players in Deshorn Brown, Dillon Powers, Chris Klute and Shane O'Neill to go along with designated player Gabriel Torres, but who will their coach be next season? Oscar Pareja could be angling for the head coach job at FC Dallas, the organization he was with as a player and assistant for over a decade. Losing him would be a massive setback for Colorado, but if he leaves, there is plenty for a new coach to work with.