Sounders win it 1-0 on a patient double-move Blaise Nkufo goal in the 89th minute.
And after the goal, current Sounder DP Blaise Nkufo and former Sounder DP Freddy Ljungberg agreed there was some luck involved.
“In this league, defenders are physical and sometimes if you use your head you can score goals,” Nkufo said. “I stopped the ball, and I had the goal open, and then a little bit lucky with the deflection.”
As it happens, that’s also the word Ljungberg used as well.
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“We dominate the game totally and they get a lucky counter-attack in the end,” he said. “If you look at us today, you see Seattle high on the table. If you look at how the game was played we were by far the better team. They won a goal that happened because as the table stands we had to push forward and had to hunt the game.”
He's right about the league standings. Seattle jumps to 11-9-6 on the season, Chicago drops to a left-for-dead 6-10-8.
Here was Sigi Schmid's take:
“Tonight was one of those games where you have to roll up your sleeves and just battle and figh. We knew Chicago was going to come out with great intensity. It was for them basically a playoff game, so we had to be sure we matched their effort, and I thought we did a good job of that. I thought we created some chances off of the counter, which we were looking to do.”
The Sounders will fly home Sunday morning and then on Monday begin preparations for their return to CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday, when Marathon visits Qwest Field. Seattle returns to MLS play Saturday, when Toronto visits.
“With only five games left – four games now – we have to pick up as many points as we can to ensure that we get ourselves into the playoffs,” Kasey Keller said. “These last two away wins at Columbus and Chicago are just huge because Kansas City keeps winning, San Jose keeps winning, so we know that we have to follow suit.”
Stoppage time: Zakuani out, Marshall in.
89th minute: Nkufo puts Seattle up 1-0. Long pass from Zakuani, then Nkufo double-faked Chicago defender C.J. Brown, and then fired, with the ball going into the net off of Browns foot.
This is, of course, Nkufo's fourth goal in two games.
Four minutes of stoppage time just announced.
82nd minute: Levesque in, Nyassi out.
78th minute: Sturgis out, Fernandez in.
69th minute: Pake going off at least briefly, holding a towel to his nose. Not great replay in this press box, so I didn't exactly see what happened in the collision along the end line.
And now -- 70th minute -- Alonzo knocked down, this one drawing a yellow to Marco Pappa.
(And Parke back, btw.)
65th minute: Carr out, McBride in for Fire.
63rd minute: Sounders having a nice little run of chances -- the latest a Montero header from 5 yards -- but nothing in yet. Zakuani and Nyassi also have had their shots.
Second half: ... has begun, apparently without lineup changes.
And Ianni is not only once again wearing a blood-free No. 4 jersey, but also a white bandage wrapped around his head.
Halftime: The Sounders must be thrilled to be heading to the locker with a scoreless game, as they just survived a dangerous couple of minutes of stoppage time. The prime threat with a point-blank Marco Poppa shot, and that Keller got to at the far post.
For the half, the Sounders took five shots to Chicago's three. Both teams put two on goal. Seattle has had six corners to the Fire's three.
First 35 minutes: Lots of unforced errors and misplaced passes so far.
Riley's passing seems notably heavy, as might be expected after the layoff. And the Sounders haven't been able to get Nkufo involved.
17th minute: Ljungberg clips Ianni from behind. Ianni goes down. Ljungberg offers hand to help him up. Ianni declines it.
(Ianni, btw, is playing with a numberless jersey ... presumably because the No. 4 jersey he started with now has blood from the earlier incident.)
11th minute: Patrick Ianni has at least temporarily left the pitch, holding a towel to his head, with Sounders complaining that he took an elbow on a corner kick. (Update: He returned quickly.)
Third minute: Long pass down the side to Ljungberg, who was beaten -- and pretty well beaten up -- by Gonzalez. The ball went out of bounds. The call went to Seattle. And Ljungberg seemed reminded once again that these aren't Premier League officials.
Kickoff: We're underway. Chicago in red/red, Sounders in the blue/green, which seemed to work pretty well last weekend in Columbus.
Pregame: The Fire has a dalmatian mascot -- that is, a guy in a dalmatian suit -- named Sparky. They also do a flames and fireworks thing from the pitch during introductions... and lots of flame imagery on the reader boards around the pitch.
However, about five minutes before kickoff, the sideline seating has lots of empty patches. However, the two end zones -- one featuring a party deck, the other designated for the supporters groups -- are hopping.
Speaking of supporters, I am told that about 170 Sounders fans made the trip. They are notable by their chanting from the southeast corner, although their rave green is mostly hidden under jackets on this chilly night.
Lineups: Seattle: GK Keller; D Riley, Ianni, Parke, Gonzalez; M Nysassi, Alonso, Sturgis, Zakuani. F Montero, Nkufo. Reserves: Boss, Marshall, Scott, Fernandez, Seamon, Fucito, Levesque.
For Chicago: GK Johnson, D Ristic, Brown, Watson-Siriboe, Segares; M Nyarko, Thorrington, Pause, Pappa; F Carr, Ljungberg. Reserves: Dykstra, Robinson, Umanzor, Bone, Husidic, John, McBride.
90 minutes till kickoff: Modest rains seem to have passed for now and the clouds seem to be parting, although there are some dark ones left up there. In general, looks like a fine night for a big game.
The Spanish message in lights you may notice from the photo above is in honor of tonight's Hispanic Heritage Night at Toyota Park.
We'll keep this post open all night for pregame, in-game and postgame updates and, of course, for your comments.
Kickoff is 5 p.m. on KONG and the usual radio outlets.