The game has gone final at 4-0, with multiple Sounders records along the way. I'll be back with more of those, plus quotes from what should be a very happy locker room.
The win was important for the Sounders in several ways. It bought them breathing room in the playoff race. It moved them back over .500 in MLS at 10-9-6. It moved them back to a positive goal differential, after having begun the game at minus-three. It got coach Sigi Schmid a win against his previous club. And the game also included the first-ever professional goal by Nathan Sturgis, who nailed a penalty kick.
On another night, any of those issues might have gotten the attention.
But when designated player Blaise Nkufo becomes the first Sounder ever to record a hat trick – in a single night becoming the team’s third-leading scorer on the season – well, that’s where the spotlight shines.
NKUFOOn his first MLS goal: Of course it's a great feeling scoring my first goal in MLS and for the Sounders, but I think the most important thing tonight was the three points. We were not so confident after a few games and we needed the three points tonight.
On if a weight was lifted: As a striker you have to believe you can score goals. I knew it would be difficult in this league for me, but I still believe and for me the team is most important. We needed to win tonight.On if he was hard on himself for not scoring: At my age I'm not really focused about scoring goals. I'm here to help the team. I'd hoped we could've had better control of the game. Even though we scored the first two goals, they were in control. One of my goals is to help the team play better football.
On his health: I missed two games and still have pain in my knee, but I'm happy to be on the field and helping the team.
A few other reactions:
SIGI SCHMID overview:“The Crew is a good team. They may be a team right now that’s trying to find their way a little bit, but they’re normally going to get some plays. … There was a period of time after we scored the goal where they completely dominated us.”
STURGIS on his first professional goal:“When I saw him point to the penalty box, I went to the ball and wanted to take it. We’ve kind of struggled with PKs in the past. So there was kind of an open tryout to be honest, with our team. We’ve been hitting some in practice, and I’ve been hitting them pretty well. It felt good to finally get one in a game.”
(Schmid goes with a set pecking order on penalty kicks, and in this game Sturgis and Fredy Montero were 1-2. He stuck to that even though revising the plan could have gotten Nkufo his hat trick. As it turned out, Nkufo got it anyway.)
Sounders move to 10-9-6 on the season. Crew falls to 13-7-5.
The Sounders return to CONCACAF Champions League play Wednesday when they visit Monterrey (Mexico). They return to MLS play at week from today at Chicago. And they also will see the Crew again on Oct. 5 at Qwest Field in the U.S. Open Cup final.
SEA - Blaise Nkufo 4'
SEA - Blaise Nkufo 39'
SEA - Nathan Sturgis (Penalty Kick) 42'
SEA - Blaise Nkufo (Steve Zakuani) 75'
Columbus Crew - William Hesmer, Andy Iro, Danny O'Rourke, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk, Emmanuel Ekpo (Andres Mendoza 72), Brian Carroll, Kevin Burns (Emilio Renteria 64), Eddie Gaven, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Steven Lenhart.
Substitutes Not Used: Andy Gruenebaum, Eric Brunner, Shaun Francis, Adam Moffat, Jason Garey.
TOTAL SHOTS: 14; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 16; OFFSIDE: 1; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 4.
Seattle Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez 66), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani (Roger Levesque 88), Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 79).
Substitutes Not Used: Terry Boss, Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Michael Seamon, Nate Jaqua.
TOTAL SHOTS: 16; SHOTS ON GOAL: 8; FOULS: 12; OFFSIDE: 1; CORNER KICKS: 5; SAVES: 5.
SEA - Zach Scott (caution; Reckless Tackle) 77'
SEA - Jeff Parke (caution; Reckless Tackle) 90'
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: Joe Fletcher; Brian Poeschel-
4th Official: Chris Penso
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Partly cloudy and 80 degrees
88th minute: Zakuani out, Levesque in.
79th minute: Jaqua in, Nkufo out.
75th minute: Nkufo gets his third goal of the night, taking a pass from Zakuani that was nicely dummied by Montero.
Seattle has never held a four-goal lead before. And the latest goal also moves Seattle back into positive goal-differential for the season: Plus 1.
Much of the crowd is heading to the exits.
Seattle appears about to go 5-0-1 in MLS games with Nkufo starting.
66th minute: Sounders sub Fernandez for Nyassi.
Note: The Crew has never come back from a deficit larger than two goals.
54th minute: Nice one-handed save by Keller on a Schelotto shot on goal. Then Gaven sent the rebound over the bar.
Second half: Play has resumed. No lineup changes for Sounders.
Halftime: Sounders up, 3-0. And it was a half of firsts: First Nkufo goal. First Nkufo multi-goal game. First Sturgis goal in MLS. First Sounders PK converted in MLS play. Ties earlier goal in Sounders history. Ties most goals in a half in Sounders history.
Sounders had 9 shots to Columbus' seven; seven on goal to Columbus' one.
41st minute: Nyassi pulled down in the box. Nathan Sturgis hits PK, his first career goal. Seattle up, 3-0.
39th minute: Nkufo strikes again, taking the ball on the left side, carrying in, and beating Hesmer to the far side. Sounders, 2-0
28th minute: Lotta starpower going at it, as Fredy Montero and Schelotto tangled up, and are continuing to talk about it. Both players lead their teams in goals, assists, shots, shots on goal and fouls suffered.
Through 15 minutes: Columbus getting around and through Seattle defense pretty regularly. This does not look like a game destined to end, 1-0.
Fourth minute: Sounders jump ahead as Sturgis puts a corner into the middle of the box, where it is batted around, saved twice and then finally knocked home by Nkufo, for his first MLS goal. This ties Steve Zakuani's for earliest Sounders goal ever ... that previous one also set against Columbus. Seattle, 1-0.
Kickoff: We're under way. Sounders in blue/green, Crew in yellow/yellow.
Lineups: Sounders: GK, Keller; D Scott, Parke, Ianni, Gonzalez; M Zakuani, Sturgis, Alonso, Nyassi; F Montero, Nkufo. Reserves: Boss, Marshall, Wahl, Fernandez, Seamon, Jaqua, Levesque.
For Columbus: GK Hesmer; D Hejduk, Marshall, Iro, O'Rourke; M Ekpo, Burns, Carroll, Gaven; F Schelotto, Lenhart. Reserves: Gruenebaum, Brunner, Francis, Moffat, Garey, Mendoza, Renteria.
Scoreboard watching: One MLS game has gone final today, and it works in the Sounders' favor: Real Salt Lake 1, Chicago 0. Sounders will be in the Windy City -- or at least the Windy Suburbs -- a week from today for their rematch with Freddie and the Fire.
Pregame: It's a warm and cloudy day in Columbus, where at 4:30 p.m. the Sounders and Crew will meet.
There are a couple of promotions for what is being called "Silence the Sounders" night: Megaphones will be given away, and beer will go for $1.
I asked Sounders -- and former Columbus -- coach Sigi Schmid if the club did one-dollar beer promotions when he was here.
"When I was there they only did the one-dollar brat," he said. "We always tried to get them into the locker room and they’d never bring any down. I think they’ve had one-dollar beer nights before… not as often. But I think it’s certainly a way to encourage people to come. I think they figure by the evening time, all the Ohio State fans will have had their fill of beer, so they probably won’t have to dish out so much."
The Buckeyes mauled Ohio this afternoon, 43-7.