Just like the Alka-Seltzer commercial used to say, "Oh, what a relief it is," Seattle Sounders FC finally scored a goal against Real Salt Lake and finally won a Major League Soccer playoff series.
Mario Martinez's sensational left-footed goal in the 81st minute propelled the Sounders to the Western Conference Finals. Seattle now takes on the defending MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy in a two-match aggregate series. The first leg is 6 p.m. Sunday in Carson, Calif.
Seattle midfielder Brad Evans started the series of passes which led to Martinez's game-winning score. Evans summed up the elation of the entire Sounders organization with these thoughts during the postgame show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.
"It's a great feeling, a monkey off our backs," he said. "I'm happy for the franchise from the top down. You saw the emotion with ownership attending the game in Salt Lake City. There's still business to take care of."
The Sounders whipped Los Angeles 4-0 and 2-0 in regular-season matches at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Both victories came when the Galaxy was missing some of its stars and searching for chemistry.
With Landon Donovan and David Beckham back on the field, Los Angeles beat visiting Seattle 1-nil in the regular-season finale. The Galaxy then won a play-in game over Vancouver and upset the top team in the West, San Jose Earthquakes.
Evans knows the Sounders will get the champs' best shot in this series.
"We watched L.A. play San Jose. They finished their chances, that's for sure, and are playing really, really well right now," he said. "We'll look at the film of things we did well against them last time we played and talk about things we need to fix. We're going into another good crowd and another good team, and that's what the playoffs is all about."
With a short time to prepare for the opening match, the Sounders flew directly from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. The hope is captain and right midfielder Mauro Rosales will fully recover from his hamstring injury to make the starting 11.
The second leg of the Western Conference Finals are 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18. If the Sounders beat the Galaxy, and Houston captures the Eastern Conference title, Seattle would host MLS Cup Dec. 1.
If D.C. United wins the East flag, the championship match would be played in the nation's capitol.