Sunday, September 26, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Blaise nets timely goal to defeat Chicago

Seattle Sounders FC 1 at Chicago Fire 0 - September 25, 2010

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Blaise Nkufo scored the game-winning goal in the 88th minute as the Seattle Sounders FC beat the Chicago Fire, 1-0, in front of a crowd of 17,477 at Toyota Park on Saturday night.

Pending the outcome of the Colorado-Real Salt Lake match later on Saturday, Sounders FC (11-9-6, 39 points) is tied for fourth in the Western Conference and sixth overall in MLS.

Kansas City (33 points) and Toronto (31 points) fell further behind in the wild card hunt with losses on Saturday.

The Fire (6-10-8, 26 points) is winless in its last five games (0-3-2).

In the 88th minute, Nkufo took a ball from Steve Zakuani and sped towards the end line. After beating the defense, Nkufo's shot deflected off a Fire defender and beat keeper Sean Johnson at the far post.

It was Nkufo's second game-winning goal in the last two games. He has four goals for Sounders FC.

Seattle had several other scoring opportunities, including a header by Osvaldo Alonso from a Nathan Sturgis corner in the 9th minute that flashed just wide of the post.

Patrick Ianni suffered a head wound on the play. He was out of the match for six minutes getting treatment and he played the second half with his head bandaged.

With Johnson out to collect a loose ball in the 56th minute, Zakuani gained possession and quickly fired wide left from 25 on an open net.

Fredy Montero nearly scored in the 63rd minute when James Riley found him in the box. Montero's shot from 8 yards went straight into the arms of Johnson.

Kasey Keller made five saves to earn his 11th shutout, which is one more than last year's total. He stopped a curling free kick from Freddie Ljungberg in the 52nd minute. Keller knocked away another shot from Ljungberg in the 76th minute, pushing it wide of the right post.

The Fire produced a pair of close chances in the scoreless first half. Marco Pappa figured in both of Chicago's threats. After breaking into the right side of the box, Pappa forced Keller to a diving stop at the right post in the fourth minute. In the first minute of first-half stoppage time his drive from 10 yards was again parried by the Seattle keeper.

James Riley returned to start at right back after missing the previous two MLS matches with an ankle sprain.

Seattle has lost just once in its last 11 matches (7-1-3) and is one win shy of surpassing its 2009 total with four games remaining.

Seattle improves to 5-5-3 on the road and has beat the Fire twice this year on late goals, including Montero's stoppage time header on August 28.

Sounders FC returns home to host Marathón in a CONCACAF Champions League match on September 29 at 7 p.m. PT. Seattle then faces Toronto FC in a league match on October 2 at 12:30 p.m. PT and hosts the Columbus Crew in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open cup final on October 5 at 7 p.m. PT. All three matches will be played on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

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