Monday, July 26, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Seattle earns first win vs. Western Conference foe

Sunday marked several milestones in Seattle sports. Not only is it rare for three teams in different sports to play on the same day, but for the first time in recent memory every Seattle team, the Mariners, Sounders, and Storm was victorious.

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After the M’s topped the Red Sox and the Storm tied a WNBA record with their 20 wins in 22 games, the Sounders (6-8-4, 22 points) capped the night with a 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids (6-5-5, 23 points), their first against a Western Conference team in 2010. The three points earned puts Seattle just one point behind San Jose (6-4-5, 23 points) and Colorado who are tied for fourth place in the conference.

The Sounders made it known early on in the match that they meant to win the game. A low cross in front of the Rapids’ goal in the second minute nearly put the home team up 1-0, but it bounced harmlessly off the pitch. Luckily, the missed opportunity did little to deaden the Rave Green attack.

In the eighth minute Fredy Montero maneuvered through the Rapids’ defense, but found himself shielded from the goal and lost possession. Miraculously, Steve Zakuani gathered the loose ball and without hesitation, the Generation Adidas player fired a 15-yard shot that ricocheted off the left post and was deflected by the Rapids’ keeper Matt Pickens into the back of the goal.

“There was a bit of ping-pong in the box and the ball fell to me and it was just about getting a quick release and I did,” said Zakuani after the game.

“Maybe I got a bit lucky that it came off his back but I'll take it however it comes.”

Less than a minute later, Colorado’s Omar
Cummings evened the score at 1-1 with a graceful, arching shot from the near corner of the Sounders’ goal box. The shot just slipped by the fingertips of a diving Kasey Keller, earning Cummings his fifth goal of the season.

In the 17th minute Seattle regained the lead after some very sloppy play in midfield by both teams. Montero once again put the Rapids’ defense on their heels, passing to Sanna Nyassi on the right side of the box who then slid the ball through a crease to Zakuani. The Point-blank shot was uncontested by Pickens and earned Zakuani the top spot on the Sounders’ goal-scoring list with his seventh goal of the season.

After the match Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid heaped praise on his young attacking players.

“I think it's Zakuani's first multiple goal game in the league, so that was good. The second goal in particular was a great ball by Montero to play Sanna in. Sanna made a great run and deserved the assist there as well. Fredy kept the ball alive on the first goal, kept digging in, digging in, kept it alive and eventually it was Zakuani and he finished it. That's what you need. We need to score goals that are nice pieces of work, but we also need to score goals where we just scrap for 'em and that's something we haven't always been getting either."

From then on, all Seattle had to do was hold Colorado at bay. Kasey Keller made three impressive saves to keep his team ahead while the Sounders’ defense did their part to stave off the physical play of Conner Casey.

Almost lost in the post-game celebration was the MLS debut of Blaise Nkufo. The recently-signed forward failed to score in his first league appearance, but his presence was felt by the players around him as well as the coaches.

“He did everything I needed from him or wanted from him and gave everything he had,” said Schmid.

”I think we subbed him at the right time. He's just going to get better as he gets fitter, as he gets stronger. In terms of his fitness, as the understanding of the teams grows it will get better. He was right behind [Steve] Zakuani on the second goal, so if Zakuani doesn't get it, Blaise has it."

Montero echoed his coach’s praise of Nkufo.

“Being a strong player he plays very strongly and that way we can cross balls and serve balls and we know that he will be ready for a header or just play with his back to the defender."

Seattle’s next match is Wednesday at Qwest Field where the Sounders will host Metapan in the opening match of a two game play-in series leading up to the CONCACAF tournament.


SEA -- Steve Zakuani 6 (unassisted) 8
COL -- Omar Cummings 5 (Pablo Mastroeni 1) 9
SEA -- Steve Zakuani 7 (Sanna Nyassi 2, Fredy Montero 8) 17

Colorado Rapids -- Matt Pickens, Julien Baudet, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Danny Earls (Kosuke Kimura 65), Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni, Mehdi Ballouchy (Quincy Amarikwa 77), Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith (Claudio Lopez 65), Conor Casey.

Substitutes Not Used: Colin Clark, Wells Thompson, Scott Palguta, Ian Joyce.

TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Conor Casey 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1); FOULS: 12 (Conor Casey 3); OFFSIDES: 2 (Conor Casey 1, Omar Cummings 1); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Jamie Smith 4); SAVES: 3 (Matt Pickens 3)

Seattle Sounders -- Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott, Sanna Nyassi (Roger Levesque 81), Nathan Sturgis (Mike Seamon 74), Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 70).

Substitutes Not Used: Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Miguel Montano, Terry Boss.

TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Fredy Montero 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Fredy Montero 2, Steve Zakuani 2); FOULS: 12 (Fredy Montero 5); OFFSIDES: 3 (Steve Zakuani 2); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Nathan Sturgis 2); SAVES: 3 (Kasey Keller 3)

Misconduct Summary:
SEA -- Zach Scott (caution; Tactical Foul) 28
COL -- Jamie Smith (caution; Reckless Tackle) 58
SEA -- Osvaldo Alonso (caution; Reckless Tackle) 90

Referee: Yader Reyes
Referee's Assistants: -Kermit Quisenberry; Chris Strickland
4th Official: Landis Wiley
Attendance: 36,333
Time of Game: 1:56
Weather: Clear-and-75-degrees

Reach Galen Helmgren at