With an opportunity to bring its record level going into the World Cup break, Seattle Sounders FC hosts D.C. United on Thursday night before the 24th consecutive sellout crowd and a national television audience. It will serve as the planet's final fixture prior to the curtain going up on the FIFA quadrennial extravaganza in South Africa on Friday. ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes will air the match, which is set for 7 p.m. PT on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.
Sounders FC, coming off its most impressive performance so far, is bidding to win two in a row for the first time in 2010. Seattle (4-5-3, 15 points) is 4-2-1 against teams in the MLS Eastern Conference. A win would vault it from a tie for sixth in the West to fourth.
Matching its record margin for a victory and breaking a standard for shots, Sounders FC scored three first-half goals in downing New England, 3-0, at home last week. It was the first win in three games and the first at home since April 17.
D.C. United (2-8-1, 7 points) resides in the East basement and is tied with Philadelphia for the lowest point total. After starting 0-5-0 under new coach Curt Onalfo, United has begun to settle in and has collected four points from its last two outings. D.C. drew 0-0 with MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake at home last week.
In 2009, Sounders FC was unbeaten (2-0-1) in three meetings with D.C. United, with both wins coming on the road at RFK Stadium. The two sides finished 3-3 after a late two-goal comeback by United in Seattle. Sounders FC won the second meeting, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, 2-1, and won again by an identical score in MLS play 10 days later.
Seattle set an MLS season attendance record in 2009 and is on pace to smash that mark. Last week's crowd of 36,344 joyful supporters was the largest yet for a home MLS date. After this week, the next scheduled home fixture is July 11 versus FC Dallas.
Glenn Davis and Kyle Martino will call Thursday's match on ESPN2. Locally the match can be heard on ESPN Deportes Radio and, in English, on News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM with Thom Beuning calling the action and Peter Fewing providing analysis.
The Seattle-D.C. United match's final whistle will signal the start of two-week break for MLS. Sounders FC will return to action on June 27 at Philadelphia Union in another ESPN2 telecast. The first match at Union's new PPL Park in Chester, Penn., begins at 2 p.m. PT.
About D.C. UnitedD.C. United is yet to earn a point on the road this season (0-4-0). The club ranks last among MLS teams in scoring offense (0.64 goals per game) and is 15th in the league with 20 goals allowed (1.82 per game). It held the second-best scoring team, Real Salt Lake, scoreless on Saturday for its first shutout of the season. Although Jamie Moreno is first all-time in MLS with 132 career goals, he only has one this season. Forward Danny Allsopp leads the team with two goals and four other United players have scored once. Defender Dejan Jakovic made an early return to play the full 90 on Saturday. Jakovic suffered a broken clavicle earlier in the season but recovered weeks ahead of schedule. Three youngsters figure prominently in the D.C. lineup. Midfielder Rodney Wallace, 21, has started all 11 games and has a team-high two assists. Defender Jordan Graye, 23, has started all seven appearances this season, including playing the full 90 last Saturday. And teenage goalkeeper Bill Hamid, 19, has started all four appearances, making 12 saves on 18 shots (1.25 GAA). Head coach Curt Onalfo was the first visiting coach to win at Qwest Field when his Kansas City Wizards won, 1-0, on April 11, 2009. Onalfo was dismissed by the Wizards before the teams met again later in the season.
Easy on the CardsOther than its Electricity third kit, Sounders FC has not been overly associated with bright colors this season. Seattle has seen far fewer cards, either yellow or red, from the officials. By going three consecutive matches without a caution, Tyrone Marshall's yellow card total has now been rolled back to three, avoiding the team's first suspension of 2010. In the first 13 matches of 2009 there were six suspensions, including five due to red cards. This season Sounders FC has been issued 19 cautions, compared to 29 at the same stage a year ago.
All-Star Voting UnderwayFan voting for the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star First XI is underway. Fans may vote online at http://www.mlssoccer.com/all-star. For the first time in League history, fans may also vote by texting a last name from the ballot to "22442." Additionally, fans can text an MLS club name to "22442" to vote for all nominees from that team. Fan voting will comprise one quarter of the total vote for the First XI selections, with MLS players, coaches & GM's, and media each accounting for one of the other three quarters.
The MLS All-Stars will take on Manchester United in the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Reliant Stadium, in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday, July 28 (live on ESPN2 and TeleFutura at 8:30 p.m. ET).
Celtic on Sale Tickets are now on sale for the summer friendly between Sounders FC and Scotland's Celtic on July 18 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. It will be Seattle's second friendly and, along with last week's Boca Juniors friendly, is part of the 18-match season-ticket holder package. A third match will be announced soon. Tickets will be available at www.soundersfc.com, all Ticketmaster outlets, the Qwest Field Box Office, or by calling 800-745-3000.
Celtic is making its fourth trip to Seattle and its third to Qwest Field. Winners of a record 34 Scottish cups and 42 league championships, the "Bhoys" from Glasgow boast a huge worldwide fan base. They are instantly recognizable for their green-and-white hooped jerseys. Celtic was the first British club to win a European championship in 1967. It met the NASL Sounders in 1981, and returned to face Manchester United in 2003 and Chelsea in 2004.
Sounders FC Drive for Nothing But Nets Enters Final WeekA six-week fundraising campaign to help raise money and awareness for the United Nations Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign is now entering the final few days. Sounders FC owner Drew Carey and midfielder Sanna Nyassi are serving as honorary co-chairs of the fundraising initiative that began on May 1 and runs through June 10.
Long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets are one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. A $10 donation allows Nothing But Nets to purchase a net, deliver it to a family, and educate on its use. Fans who donate $30 or more will receive a limited edition Drew Carey bobblehead. For more information visit www.soundersfc.com.
Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Inspired by sports columnist Rick Reilly, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the campaign that was created by the United Nations Foundation in 2006. It costs just $10 to provide a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net to prevent this deadly disease. Visit www.NothingButNets.net to send a net and save a life. To date, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $30 million and distributed over 3 million nets to protect children and families in Africa. One bed net can protect a family of four for up to five years.
Nkufo UpdateBlaise Nkufo started both of the pre-World Cup friendlies last week for the Swiss National Team. Nkufo assisted on Switzerland's goal in a 1-1 draw with defending champion Italy. FIFA World Cup play begins on June 16 versus Spain in Durban, South Africa. The other two Group H matches are June 21 versus Chile and June 25 against Honduras. Nkufo completed his seven-year run with FC Twente on May 2 by helping the Enschede club win its first Dutch Eredivisie championship. He is Twente's all-time scoring leader with 114 goals in the Eredivisie, including 12 this past season. He signed with the Sounders FC on March 4, and will join the team in July following the World Cup. Nkufo scored five goals for the Swiss during World Cup qualification.