Sounders leapfrog back into MLS playoff picture
DON RUIZ; Staff writer
SANTA CLARA, CALIF. – This time no translation was needed.
Sounders FC forward Fredy Montero was asked about the importance of his club’s 1-0 win over San Jose on Saturday, and he responded: “Mucho.”
Seattle’s third straight win, combined with a series of other results around Major League Soccer sent the Sounders (7-8-4) past three clubs and into sixth place in the league – back in playoff position.
“The thing about this league is you have so much parity that when you’re on a run like we are right now you find yourself shooting up the table regardless of what your position is,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “The thing that we needed to do was get on a good run, and the good run is here. Long may it continue for the rest of the season.”
The Sounders’ goal came very much within the run of play. Seattle had come out aggressive from the start and had by far the best chances early.
The one that paid off came in the 26th minute when Montero ran onto a Sanna Nyassi cross and headed it in from about 4 yards.
With that goal, Montero ran his streak to eight straight MLS games with either a goal or an assist. And he has either scored or assisted in 12 of his last 15 games.
“It’s everybody, not just (me),” Montero said through an interpreter. “It’s everybody working together, everybody on the field like it was tonight. Everyone is working together and everyone stepping up their game collectively.”
By the end of the game, Seattle had seven shots on goal, while the Earthquakes had only two that Keller had to handle.
“I’m disappointed,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “I thought it was definitely our worst performance this season. … From the whistle, it just didn’t seem like we had any idea or any scrap in us.”
Helping Seattle’s cause were the club’s two designated players: Blaise Nkufo, who played 86 minutes, his longest appearance with his new club; and Alvaro Fernandez, who came in for the final 21 minutes just one day after being added to the roster.
“I thought Blaise had a very good game,” Schmid said. “I thought his holdup play for us was very good. I thought he was unfortunate not to get a goal, especially on the second-half shot (that San Jose keeper Jon Busch knocked away). … Fernandez, I thought was solid when he came in. He’s not a ‘Wow’ player, where he’s going to knock your socks off. But he can play anywhere in midfield. … He connects passes. He also gets back and defends. He’s very much a two-way player.”
Seattle’s reward was a leap in the league standings past the Earthquakes (6-5-5), Colorado and Toronto.
The game was played before a Buck Shaw Stadium crowd of 10,351, including one section dominated by Sounders supporters.
After the game, they watched as Seattle accepted this season’s Heritage Cup, a two-game competition between the only MLS clubs who retain the historic nicknames of their NASL predecessors.
The trophy seemed to please the Sounders even though none seemed to know the formula that handed them the hardware – the season series was a split, each team winning on the road by 1-0 scores.
“I’m not quite sure how we won it,” Schmid said. “I thought we each won a game and the total score was 1-1. I thought we deserved it last year, so I guess we’ll take it this year.”
Seattle won on the tiebreaker favoring the higher-ranked team in the MLS standings.
And nice as that was, far bigger goals loom.
The Sounders fly today from California to El Salvador where on Tuesday they will meet Metapn in the deciding game of their aggregate-score preliminary round of CONCACAF Champions League. Seattle won the opener, 1-0, last week at Qwest Field.
Seattle returns to MLS play Sunday against Houston at Qwest Field.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer