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April 25, 2009 at 11:40 PM

Postgame notes and some quotes: Sounders FC 2, SJ Quakes 0

The two-game losing streak Seattle had is over. Sounders FC now has 12 standings points and is in second place behind Chivas USA, which has 16 after its win over FC Dallas tonight.

This sets up a match against the Chicago Fire next Saturday. Chicago tied with Columbus and has 10 points, as does Kansas City, in the MLS East. So Seattle is at present the No. 2 team overall in MLS.

As for tonight, Nathan Sturgis made his first start for Seattle and struggled at first, but his play steadied as the game went on. Here’s what coach Sigi Schmid had to say about Sturgis:

“Well, Nate, I think the element that Nate brings to the team is that he’s pretty good with the ball for a defender. He can play defensive midfield as well. When he was with me with the under-20s (national team), he actually played central defender also. But he’s a very good passer of the ball. He’s pretty good with both feet. One of the reasons we went with Nate tonight as well is he knew {San Jose’s] Arturo [Alvarez] from the time together on the under-20s. I think Arturo got him a couple times early. And then, with Nate remembering everything and overplaying him a little more, outside of set pieces, Alvarez really disappeared. There were a couple of runs that he had in the second half, but for the most part, after the first ten minutes, he quieted down.”

Now here’s more from Schmid. You’ll get a kick out of the last two questions.

(Opening statement) “Obviously, it’s nice to get back on the winning road, on the winning track. I thought our team played very well at times tonight, and we moved the ball around well. I thought we created a number of opportunities in the first half. Steve Zakuani gave us a good boost starting on the lefthand side. He was running at people. He was creating problems for people early on. We just need to get him 90-minutes-fit so he can continue to do that in the second half. I thought defensively, we came up with plays when we had to. They’re a pretty direct team, they got two big strikers. They try to throw a lot of things up in the air, but I thought Tyrone [Marshall] and Jhon Kennedy [Hurtado] did a great job in the back. And obviously, what can you say about Keller? He comes up with a big save when the game’s 1-0. He makes a huge save that keeps it 1-0 for us, and then we go down the field and score and make it 2-0. Those are things…the timing of that is not something that you can predict, but it’s definitely crucial for victory.”

(On the set piece that almost resulted in a goal and the team’s focus on set pieces in practice) “It’s probably as close as we’ve come this season to scoring a goal on a set piece. We still got to get a lot better on set pieces. The service, we still need to get a lot more consistent on that. Freddie Ljungberg’s groin is a little sore, so he didn’t get any set pieces the other day at practice. And [Fredy] Montero hit some, but we still got to get that consistent service. But we talked about making sure that we can maintain pressure on the opponent, and obviously we did that when Zakuani snuck in at the back post of the goal. So from that point, it was happy.”

(On who will play in the Open Cup game this week) “We’ll have to see. We’ll have to see how some guys are. Some guys are pretty banged up. Obviously, Osvaldo [Alonso] was carrying a knock into the game, and took a little bit of a knock at the end there. Tyrone [Marshall] took a pretty good knock in the first half but I knew he’d warrior through. So we just have to count our casualties tomorrow morning and see who’s ready to play. It’ll probably be a little bit of a mixed team. There’ll be some guys who will play, and there’ll be some guys who’ve been coming off the bench or who haven’t played much or been given the opportunity to play.”

(On whether Kasey Keller causes the team to play better) “You know, it’s not like it’s anything where you can say, ‘Okay, well his distribution is better.’ It’s just confidence. His team looks back there and says, ‘Keller’s in goal. They got to get a real good shot to score.’ Everybody’s a little more confident, and as a result, now maybe you [think], ‘Okay, I can go and support this player, because if it breaks down, well he can still come up with the save.’ So you feel a little freer in your mind to maybe support the attack or go forward. That’s what good goalkeepers provide you. This is going way back into my history, but when I became head coach at UCLA, having played at UCLA, we never had good goalkeepers except for one year, and when I was insistent, we tended to do real well. It was a promise I made to myself: Always have a good goal keeper. So we had a good run in goalkeepers at UCLA. Obviously, with Keller being here, that’s something that we’ll want to continue in Seattle as well. When you have a player that’s there with presence [where] you look back and feel confident, it just gives your team a confidence level that helps you play better. It’s more psychological than it is tactical or technical.”

(On how much Keller helps the team) “The other thing, not to be overlooked, because Kasey also speaks Spanish. That helps as well with Jhon Kennedy [Hurtado]. Even though Jhon Kennedy’s English is improving, the other day he mis-hit a ball in practice and he goes, ‘Oh my gosh.’ [Laughs.] Which I thought was interesting, to hear that expression to come. But certainly, certain things in the heat of the moment, when you can explain things to him in Spanish, that sort of makes things easier and I think Kasey helps us in that regard as well.”

(On Nate Jaqua playing so much) “Well, Nate’s a pretty physical player and he’s a pretty fit player. He’s one of our guys who’s got a higher level of fitness. That’s just always been his thing. He’s played a lot of minutes for sure. Our options up front…Certainly Sebastien’s [Le Toux] is an option up front. Another option for us up front is Jarrod Smith He’s eligible to play in the Open Cup game, but we still got to see where he’s at fitness-wise. His injuries are now behind him. Now he’s just got to get fit, because he’s another one who can play forward. Those are really the three guys.”

(On whether Steve Zakuani will play again next week “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t starting this week. Then you can have a check of the coach’s DNA and see if I’m the right guy. [Laughs.] I think he played well enough tonight. Certainly he deserves another start. I think with Steve, the little injuries and stuff in preseason slowed him down fitness-wise and in the end it’s still a matter of just getting fitter and fitter. For sure, he can play. And he’s also learning a little bit of a -not a different position, he’s played wide left before, but obviously in college, he was allowed a really free role. He played a lot more as a striker, so learning how to play wide left and do all the defending, sometimes that comes with that as something that’s a little different for him. If you look back on the games, obviously he had a very good game against Salt Lake…and he had a very quiet game in Toronto. Even though he scored the goal, and we all remember the goal, and we got excited about that…he really had a very quiet game against Marvell [Wynne]. It’s young players. If you throw them in too much too soon, sometimes they’ll lose their confidence, and I don’t want him to lose his confidence. But certainly based on what he did today, he’ll get another go next week. We feel good about that.”

(On whether playing at home is an advantage) “Without a doubt. I think our guys continue to respond to the crowd, and that’s tremendous. I think we got to sing ‘The Blue Skies of Seattle’ at the end of the game instead of at the beginning of the game, and sort of make it our slogan, like ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is for Liverpool. So maybe we need to – after victories – break out into song like that. But certainly, every time we step on the field, the atmosphere is electric and the crowd’s behind us. It’s the best home venue in the league. No offense, Toronto.”

Will you volunteer to song lead? “You don’t want to hear me sing. But I’ll sing along for sure.”


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