Wednesday, August 4, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: “El Flaco” advances Seattle to CONCACAF group stage

It must have been the rain. Three hours before the Sounders were scheduled to face AD Isidro Metapán in El Salvador, the skies opened, soaking the national stadium in the capital San Salvador. In other words, ideal conditions for the Seattle-based team.

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After starting the Major League Soccer season trailing the conference-leading L.A. Galaxy by as many as 15 points, the Seattle Sounders came roaring back into relevance Tuesday night with a 2-1 aggregate defeat over Metapán, advancing the Rave Green to the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament and extending their all-competition win streak to seven games, including four MLS matches.

After defeating Metapán 1-0 before 17,228 fans in Seattle 5 days ago during the first leg of the two-game set, the Sounders traveled 2,800 miles to face the Central American team on their home turf. Estadio Cuscatlán looked like a ghost town, with fewer than 3,500 fans predicted to attend the match.

Metapán dominated the first half and seemed much more comfortable in familiar territory compared to the first leg in Seattle. Metapán went up 1-0 in the 18th minute when Rodolfo Suarez chipped a cross from the far end-line. Metapán forward Anel Canales shook his defender and aimed his header toward the near post, past Sounders’ goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

The first half ended with a draw, but one goal by the Sounders would almost ensure the over-all win in the series. (In CONCACAF, away goals are a tie-breaker; if the Sounders scored just once in El Salvador, Metapán would need to score two goals just to tie the series.) Despite giving up the early goal, Seattle kept up the pressure, pushing a little harder in the second half, to the tune of two yellow cards (Roger Levesque: Reckless Foul, 75’ and James Riley: Unsporting Behavior, 81’)

Keller made three saves in the first half before Sounders’ Head Coach Sigi Schimd made the match more physical in the 64th minute. Out came Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi in favor of the extra-tall duo of Nate Jaqua and Alvero “El Flaco” Fernandez, the newly-signed midfielder.

Fernandez, who made his MLS debut on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes, found the net in only his second match in a Sounders uniform. Osvaldo Alonso collected a loose ball in the center circle, fed to James Riley on the right wing who curled a cross into the box, finding “El Flaco” in the 74th minute.

The score could have been 2-1 at that point, but the goal earned by Roger Levesque in the 53rd minute was disallowed on a dubious offside call. Still, 2010 marks only the second time Sounders (both MLS and USL-1) have advanced to the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament. In 1996 the USL-1 Sounders finished last in their group, losing to eventual champion Cruz Azul.

Seattle joins Monterrey (Mexico), Saprissa (Costa Rica) and the winner of the Tauro (Panama) and Marathon (Honduras) play-in series. Marathon defeated Tauro, 3-0, on the road in the first leg and the two teams finish the set on Wednesday. In the group stage, each team plays a two-game, home-away set against the other three teams.

The Sounders (7-8-4, 25 points) are back at Qwest field this Sunday at 8 p.m. for a MLS match against the Houston Dynamo (5-8-5, 20 points). Should their luck fail and Colorado and San Jose triumph, Seattle risks dropping back to seventh place in the Western Conference and out of the eighth and final playoff spot. But, just two points ahead in third place sits FC Dallas (6-2-9, 27 points).

Unofficial Box Score:

Scoring Summary:

MET - Anel Canales (Rodolfo Suarez) 17
SEA - Alvaro Fernandez (James Riley) 73

AD Isidro Metapán -- Jose Gonzalez, Jose Alvarado, Erick Prado, Ernesto Aquino, Oscar Jimenez (Andres Flores 87), Hector Mejia, Emerson Umana (Mark Lester Blanco 72), Rodolfo Suarez, Anel Canales, Josue Flores, Milton Molina

Substitutes Not Used: Misael Alfaro, Moises Menendez, Jorge Luis Moran, Carlos Carrillo


Seattle Sounders FC -- Kasey Keller, James Riley, Tyrone Marshall, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez 64), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani (Nate Jaqua 64), Roger Levesque (Michael Seamon 84), Fredy Montero

Substitutes Not Used: Taylor Graham, Zach Scott, Terry Boss, Tyson Wahl


Misconduct Summary:
SEA - Sanna Nyassi (caution; Reckless Tackle) 22
MET - Ernesto Aquino (caution; Reckless Foul) 26
SEA - Roger Levesque (caution; Reckless Foul) 75
SEA - James Riley (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 81

Referee: Jose Pineda
Referee's Assistants: Rafael Beltran; Oscar Velasquez
4th Official: Marlon Mejia

Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Heavy Rain

Reach Galen Helmgren at