After a quick breather it's back to business for Seattle Sounders FC, and beginning with Saturday's big game with Real Salt Lake it will be a very busy four weeks ahead.
The Rave Green are coming off their longest competitive break of the 2011 campaign when they host RSL on the Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field. First kick is 1 p.m. PT and KING 5 will televise it live. It's the first of nine matches across three competitions in 29 days through October 8.
Next week starts with a long midweek trip to Costa Rica to face CS Herediano on September 14 as CONCACAF Champions League play resumes. Three days later, on September 17, Seattle has a home date with D.C. United.
Sounders FC enjoyed a five-day break from training following their 1-0 victory over FC Dallas in the semifinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on August 30. That completed a near-perfect August. Seattle won seven and drew one match for the month. Along the way they moved into second place in the Supporters' Shield race, went to the top of their group in Champions League and secured a place in the Open Cup final for the third successive season.
Winning every which way they can, Sounders FC have strung together five victories in a row in all competitions. Twice during the run they have exploded for four or more goals; three others were shutouts.
Real Salt Lake represents a real threat to Seattle's hopes of securing a high seed and home-field advantage in the MLS Western Conference semifinals. Currently the Rave Green (13-5-9, 48 points) are second to L.A. in both the West and overall table. With two games in hand RSL (12-7-6, 42 points) can conceivably catch them.
The first meeting with RSL proved to be the turning point to the season. After splitting a three-game May home stand, Sounders FC were struggling going into Utah on May 28. Yet using a man-advantage the visitors scored twice in the final 18 minutes to snap Salt Lake's MLS-record 29-match home unbeaten streak, 2-1, and since then they have gone 9-1-4 in league and 15-2-4 altogether.
Like Seattle, Real Salt Lake has been hit by injuries to key performers. The 2010-11 Champions League runners-up had lost four out of five going into the final week of August. Since then they have won two in a row, including last week's 2-1 home win over Philadelphia, but have won just once in the last nine on the road.
Meanwhile, Seattle is once again building a fortress in the Emerald City. The win over Dallas made it 11 home matches without a loss, including 4-0-2 and 18 goals scored in the last six in MLS. Sounders FC lead the series 3-1-2 (2-1-2 in league) but were forced to settle for a scoreless draw versus RSL a year ago at home.
Saturday's match can also be beard on 97.3 KIRO FM and La Gran D 99.3 FM. Next week's Champions League match at Herediano begins at 7 p.m. PT and will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer.
For tickets to future Sounders FC home matches go to www.SoundersFC.com or call 800-745-3000.Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)
Saturday, September 10, 1 p.m. - Real Salt Lake, Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field, SeattleWednesday, September, 14, 7 p.m. - at CS Herediano, Estadio Rosabal Cordero, Heredia, Costa Rica Saturday, September 17, 6 p.m. - D.C. United, Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field, SeattleWednesday, September 20, 7 p.m. - CS Herediano, Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field, SeattleSaturday, September 24, 7:30 p.m. - Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Empire Field, Vancouver, B.C.Tuesday, September 27, 7 p.m. - CSD Comunicaciones, Estadio Cemetos Progreso, Guatemala City
Making History, AgainJust by advancing to the Open Cup final, Sounders FC have made history. But there's always the opportunity to add-on. Seattle becomes the first MLS club to earn berths in three consecutive tournament championship games, yet winning would elevate the two-time defending champions higher still. It's been 42 years since a club won three Open Cups in a row. New York Greek-Americans completed the feat in 1967-69. Last year the Rave Green became the first repeat winner since 1982-83 when the New York Pancyprian Freedoms won back-to-back.
Historians make a case for two other clubs doing it earlier. The Fall River (Mass.) Marksmen won back-to-back titles in 1930-31, then moved to nearby New Bedford and became the Whalers before winning again in 1932. And a new sponsor was the only change during the three-peat run of St. Louis Stix, Baer & Fuller and St. Louis Central Breweries from 1933-35.
Fans Could Follow SuitSounders FC fans have already made their mark in the Open Cup annals by turning out in record number for the 2010 final. The crowd of 31,311 shattered the attendance record for a final. The largest previous attendance in the 97 years of the tournament was 21,583 for the 1929 game in Brooklyn.
Tickets will go on sale on Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. PT for the October 4 match between Seattle and the Chicago Fire. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.Tickets start at $17 and will be available at www.SoundersFC.com, by calling 800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster outlets and the CenturyLink Field Box office.
Seattle has set new MLS season attendance records in each of the first two seasons and is on pace to break the new mark of 36,173. Through 13 home dates the average is 37,062 and there have been 45 consecutive sellouts.
A September to RememberSounders FC are only three years of age yet their past exhibits a penchant for rising as the autumn portion of the regular season approaches. This September presents opportunities to begin consolidating the gains of August. Over the next two weeks Seattle can clinch a third straight MLS playoff berth, and by the end of the month the Champions League group stage will reach the penultimate round. Of the seven remaining MLS opponents, only two currently own winning records.
In the first three years of the CCL, no team with 11 points in the group stage has failed to advance into the knockout phase. So far the Rave Green have the maximum six points from the first two rounds, and their next two matches are against the club at the bottom of group D.
September's final week will also mark the start of the club's longest road trip. Beginning with their bus ride to Vancouver, Sounders FC will be away for nine days for a trip which continues to Guatemala and then New England.
Montero at 60While Lamar Neagle and Mauro Rosales led the scoring charge through much of August, it was Fredy Montero who provided the exclamation point for the month. Montero's artfully crafted goal against FC Dallas was the difference in the semifinal win. Moments after a near-miss on a bicycle kick he cut across the middle. Putting on the brakes, he brought one defender to his knees then shifted to his left foot to calmly curl his shot from the top of the box around Kevin Hartman's outstretched hands. Montero has now scored or assisted on 60 goals (33-27) in 102 competitive appearances. His eight goals (six in MLS) this season equal the sum for Alvaro Fernandez, who assisted on his goal last week.
Sounders Eye 50Sounders FC could soon be joining an exclusive group. Since 2000 (when tiebreakers were abolished), 25 teams have reached 50 points or more in 30 or fewer games. Seattle is at 48 points with 27 matches played to date. Sigi Schmid-coached teams have hit the 50-point plateau three times (LA in 2000 and 2002; Columbus in 2008).
Shopping for a Six PackWith a win over Real Salt Lake, the Rave Green's record for consecutive wins over all competitions would be equaled. There was a six-game run last September and October. They are one win away from breaking the overall season win record (19, set in 2010) and one shy of tying their MLS season-high for wins (14, also last year). Sounders FC are eight games over .500 in league for the first time and have gone 13-3-7 since April 2. They are unbeaten in their last six home league matches (4-0-2) and 11 home dates (9-0-2) in all competitions. A year ago after 27 MLS matches the team was 12-9-6 and 9-7-11 in 2009.
Kept Fresh for Maximum ProduceNo matter which XI Sigi Schmid fielded in the hyperactive August, everyone wore the crest with honor. Of the 26 players who were available all of last month, 21 started and another three either saw action as a reserve or was selected by Schmid to be suited-up and available. Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez and defender Zach Scott were the only individuals to see action in each match. Each started six times and came on as a substitute twice more. However, Jeff Parke played the most minutes, playing a total of 645 minutes in seven appearances. Overall, Osvaldo Alonso has appeared in a team-high 32 of 33 matches and 2845 minutes.
Series NotesSounders FC is 2-1-2 all-time against Salt Lake, having blanked RSL in their previous two visits to the Emerald City. As Salt Lake will look to net its first goal in Seattle, the Rave Green will look to win another season series after the first meeting ended 2-1 on May 28, snapping RSL's MLS-record 29-match home unbeaten run. The two teams also met in February preseason play in Casa Grande, Arizona. Fredy Montero converted a penalty kick with one minute remaining in the 110-minute training game to earn a 3-3 draw. Lamar Neagle and O'Brian White scored and Collen Warner recorded a brace for Salt Lake.
Eight of the ten goals scored by both teams have come in the final 45 minutes, including all three goals in the final 20 minutes of the May 28 contest. Six different Sounders have scored against RSL and Osvaldo Alonso is the only player to record two assists in a single match (3/28/09). Seattle has been shutout twice in five meetings but has tallied two goals on three occasions.
About Salt LakeReal Salt Lake is fourth in the West and overall with 42 points from 25 matches. With two games in hand, RSL still has an opportunity to challenge for one of the top playoff spots in the West. Salt Lake had lost four of five before earning consecutive victories, most recently a 2-1 triumph over Philadelphia Union. RSL rank above Seattle in several statistical categories, most notably shots (347; 5th), shots on goal (127; 2nd) and corner kicks (147; T-2nd). Salt Lake holds the second-best goals against average in MLS (0.84) but they are slightly behind Seattle in goals per game (1.40; 6th). The club is right behind L.A. Galaxy (14), Sounders FC (13) and FC Dallas (13) with 12 wins on the season.
RSL NotablesReal Salt Lake has dealt with injuries to key performers and absences of international players. Despite those challenges, RSL has managed to stay on pace with the best in the league. Kyle Beckerman, who was named to the USMNT traveling roster for their friendly in Brussels on Tuesday, will likely rejoin the team for Saturday's match. Beckerman recorded a goal and assist against Philadelphia last weekend. He has scored three goals this season and added eight assists (T-4th in MLS). Paulo Araujo Jr. (two goals, three assists) and Fabian Espindola (seven goals, two assists) started the last game up front. Alvaro Saborio co-leads the team with seven goals but did not see action last weekend. Salt Lake is still without the services of Javier Morales, who sustained an injury on May 7, though he has begun training again. The backline has remained fairly consistent with the likes of Nat Borchers, Jamison Olave, Tony Beltran and Robbie Russell helping to create one of the league's stingiest defenses. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando has a goals against average of 0.88 (2nd) and has posted 11 shutouts (2nd).
The RSL ConnectionBoth Leo Gonzalez (61 appearances) and Alvaro Saborio (64) began playing for the Costa Rica National Team in 2002. Midfielder Collen Warner went to the University of Portland where he played all four seasons for the Pilots. Sigi Schmid coached midfielder Ned Grabavoy for one season at Los Angeles (2004).
Throw-insGoalkeeper Terry Boss posted a clean sheet for Puerto Rico in last Friday's 0-0 road draw at St. Kitts and Nevis. It was the first 2012 World Cup qualifying match for both teams. Puerto Rico hosts Canada on Tuesday...Midfielder Mauro Rosales was edged by D.C. United's Dwayne De Rosario for MLS August Player of the Month, by nine first-place votes to eight. Rosales scored three goals and three assists, playing all 360 minutes of four MLS matches last month...Seattle continues to lead MLS in goals scored (42), including a league-high 13 in the final 15 minutes. The defense is tied for fourth (29 goals allowed)...Sounders FC are one of three teams unbeaten (9-0-3) when scoring first this season and they also own the best record (4-5-3) when allowing the game's first goal...Lamar Neagle's third goal vs. Columbus was voted MLS Goal of the Week...Interbay Stadium, Seattle's first soccer-dedicated facility, opened on September 6, 1997 with the Seattle Pacific men defeating Sonoma State, 3-2...In a pair of dramatic NASL playoff games played two days and 2600 miles apart, the Sounders first came from behind on the road to beat the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 4-3 in overtime, on September 8, 1982 and then clinched the series with a 1-0 overtime win on September 10 to reach championship game...Goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra turned 39 on Sunday, September 4.