Winner of its last four regular season matches dating back to last season, the Seattle Sounders FC gets a visit from a club which is beginning to regain its footing, the New York Red Bulls. Sounders FC and the Red Bulls, each victorious in their opening MLS game, meet on Saturday night on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field at 7:30 p.m. PT.
Seattle (1-0-0), which defeated Philadelphia Union, 2-0, in MLS First Kick 2010, seeks to mimic the 3-0-0 start of its inaugural season with another win this week. Three of the ensuing four matches will be played on the road.
New York (1-0-0) beat Chicago, 1-0, last Saturday for its first opening-day win since 2004, and did so before a near capacity crowd at its beautiful new stadium, Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
Saturday’s game will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel. It can also be heard locally on News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM with Arlo White calling the play. It is available in Spanish on 1210 AM Ke Buena with Rene Aleman, Noe Menendez and Victor Hernandez.
In some ways the two sides have switched roles since their first face-off about a year ago. On March 19, 2009, Seattle was the untested, enigmatic team while New York was settled and coming off an appearance in MLS Cup 2008. Sounders FC prevailed, 3-0, and went on to make the playoffs and win the U.S. Open Cup.
The Red Bulls plummeted to the bottom of the table, finishing with only five wins in 2009. They have since hired a new coach, overhauled their roster and moved from cavernous Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands to the new state-of-the-art, soccer-specific facility.
Seattle’s regular season win streak dates back to October 3, 2009 and a 1-0 win at Columbus. Victories over Kansas City and Dallas followed at the end of the season.
Sounders FC travels to Sandy, Utah, on April 10 for defending MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake’s home opener at 6 p.m. PT.
Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)
Saturday, April 3, 7:30 p.m. – New York Red Bulls, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle
Saturday, April 10, 6 p.m. – at Real Salt Lake, Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
Saturday, April 17, 12 p.m. – Kansas City Wizards, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle
Thursday, April 22, 5 p.m. – at FC Dallas, Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas
Sunday, April 25, 11 a.m. – at Toronto FC, BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario
Montero on the March
If only the MLS season started a few weeks earlier. Fredy Montero and Sounders FC are unstoppable in March. Montero has scored in each of Seattle’s three matches played in the month for a total of four goals and two assists and the Sounders FC is 3-0-0 with a goal differential of 7-0. Montero’s goal in the home opener win over Philadelphia was his first goal since a long distance blast from the right wing at New England on September 26, 2009. Seattle was 2-2-0 in MLS and 3-2-0 in all competitions played in April last year.
Clean Sheets at Qwest
After blanking Philadelphia last week, Seattle has now posted shutouts in four of the last five home matches, including the MLS Cup Playoffs. It has allowed only two goals in the last seven home dates. Only one visitor has managed to score more than one goal on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.
Fredy Sees Red (Bull)
Fredy Montero scored three goals in Seattle’s two meetings with New York last year, puncturing the Red Bulls defense 12 minutes into the 2009 opener and later adding a third Sounders FC strike in the second half. He had assisted on the second Seattle goal. At Giants Stadium in June, Montero made a superb individual effort, stripping a NY defender and blasting the ball past the upper far post in a 1-1 road draw.
Goals from the Corner
Seattle led MLS with seven goals scored from corner kicks in 2009. On opening night, it opened its account on 2010. On the game’s first goal, Freddie Ljungberg, who served the corners on each of the goals last season, forced Union keeper Chris Seitz to punch clear. The ball fell to Osvaldo Alonso, who drove the ball toward the left post. Fredy Montero’s header redirected the ball into the net.
Records Made to be Broken
Saturday’s game will be the 20th consecutive sellout for Sounders FC. Last Thursday’s crowd of 36,241 set a new Sounders FC attendance record for an MLS regular season or playoff contest. The previous mark of 35,807 was set at the Western Conference semifinal last October.
A year ago, Seattle smashed the season attendance record, averaging 30,897 and selling out all 16 regular season games and playoffs. Two international friendlies attracted crowds of more than 65,000.
In 2010 seating capacity has been expanded to approximately 35,500 and more than 31,600 season tickets have been sold. Only scattered singles are available for the first 10 home dates.
Evans Got Game (Winners)
Brad Evans has got a knack for scoring big goals. Evans, who scored the first goal in the 2-0 win over Union, now has six game-winners among his eight career goals (including playoffs). All four of his Sounders FC scores have come at home, beginning with a goal in the 2009 opener. He flicked in the deciding score in a 2-1 win over FC Dallas in the season finale.
When Scoring Early
Just as it did in the inaugural campaign, the Sounders FC needed only a dozen minutes to score the first goal of the season. In its brief history, Seattle has demonstrated a penchant for making the most of early strikes. Eight of the team’s 13 all-time wins have featured goals in the first 27 minutes, and they have scored in the first half in 12 wins.
Blaise Nkufo and Twente Eschede maintained its lead atop the Dutch Eredivisie with a 3-0 home win over Sparta Rotterdam last Saturday. Twente leads Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven by five with five rounds remaining. Nkufo’s team was ousted from the Dutch cup at the semifinal stage, 2-1, by Feyenoord on March 24. Nkufo, who signed with Sounders FC on March 4, will join the team in July after completing play with the Swiss National Team at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Nkufo is Twente’s career scoring leader with 112 league goals, including 10 this season.
James Riley is available for selection on Saturday, having served his one-game suspension during the opener. Riley started 27 times at right back in 2009, supplying a career-high four assists. Against Philadelphia he served a suspension for his red card in the dying seconds of the 2009 playoff second leg loss to Houston. Riley was the team co-leader among field players in starts (27) and minutes (2334) last season.
Jaqua Placed on IR
Prior to its first game Seattle placed midfielder/forward Nate Jaqua on injured reserve due to pubic symphysis injury. As a result, Jaqua is required to miss the first six games of the season. He is eligible to return to league play for the May 2 game versus Columbus Crew on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. Jaqua, 29, is entering his ninth season in MLS. Last season for Seattle, Jaqua started 27 of 28 appearances and posted career highs with nine goals and seven assists.
Seattle leads the series 1-0-1, having defeated New York, 3-0, at home on March 19, 2009 and drawing 1-1 away on June 20, 2009.
In MLS First Kick 2009, Fredy Montero scored twice and assisted on a third goal. Montero put Seattle in front in the 12th minute on a 16-yard roller to the left corner following a feed from Sebastien Le Toux. Brad Evans made it 2-0 in the 25th minute, running on to a ball from Montero and poking it under NYRB keeper Danny Cepero. A steal by Montero in the 75th minute led to the third goal, as he faked a defender then blasted to the upper right corner past Cepero.
In the second meeting, played in the rain at Giants Stadium, Montero scored in his third straight match, equalizing three minutes in to first-half stoppage time. He headed off the crossbar in the 33rd minute and shot off the left post in the 85th. Sounders FC finished with a 16-11 advantage in shots.
New York snapped a five-game losing streak. The Red Bulls opened the scoring in the 40th minute when Juan Pablo Angel scored unassisted after Tyrone Marshall’s attempted clearance caromed off teammate Patrick Ianni. Seattle played without Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who went home to celebrate the birth of his first child.
Seattle-New York Connections
Taylor Graham, Seattle central defender, played for New York in 2006-07, seeing action in 15 games. Defender Jeff Parke, currently a training invitee with Sounders FC, played his first five MLS seasons for New York. He was taken by Seattle in the 2008 expansion draft but played last season for Vancouver of USL-1. Roy Miller and Seattle left back Leo Gonzalez have been teammates on the Costa Rica National Team.
Chris Henderson, the Sounders FC technical director, finished his 11-year MLS career with the Red Bulls in 2006. Jeff Agoos, the New York director of scouting and player recruitment, is the older brother of Seattle University men’s soccer coach Brad Agoos.
If there’s any trend in the transition of MLS expansion teams to their second season, it’s that the slow starters generally begin to gather momentum in year two while the fast starters hold their own.
Previous Expansion Starts
Team First Season Second Season
Chicago (1998): 20-12-0/Won MLS Cup, U.S. Open Cup 18-14-0
Miami (1998): 15-17-0/1st round playoffs 13-19-0
Salt Lake (2005): 5-22-5/5th, West 10-13-9
Chivas USA (2005): 4-22-6/6th, West 10-9-13
Toronto (2007): 6-17-7/7th, East 9-13-8
San Jose (2008): 8-13-9/7th, West 7-14-9
Seattle (2009): 12-7-11/Won U.S. Open Cup, 1st round playoffs ???
Sounders FC / MLS Top Attendances On Xbox Pitch At Qwest Field
The top 10 attendances are as follows:
66,848 August 5, 2009 Seattle v Barcelona (friendly)
65,289 July 18, 2009 Seattle v Chelsea (friendly)
46,011 November 22, 2009 MLS Cup (Real Salt Lake v L.A.)
36,241 March 25, 2010 Seattle v Philadelphia
35,807 October 29, 2009 Seattle v Houston (MLS playoffs)
33,108 October 24, 2009 Seattle v FC Dallas
32,776 August 20, 2009 Seattle v New England
32,740 September 19, 2009 Seattle v Chivas USA
32,680 August 29, 2009 Seattle v Toronto FC
32,608 March 19, 2009 Seattle v New York
Red Bulls Notables
After going 5-19-6, New York brought in several new players, plus a new coach in Hans Backe. For the past two years, Backe was assistant manager at Manchester City, the Mexico National Team and Notts County, all under fellow Swedish countryman Sven-Göran Eriksson (now coach of the Ivory Coast National Team). Juan Pablo Angel, the Colombian forward, is now in his fourth season with the Red Bulls. Angel has scored 45 goals in 73 matches, including the first goal in New York’s 1-1 home draw with Seattle last June. Winless (0-20-7) in their last 27 regular season road games, the Red Bulls are searching for their first away win since May 10, 2008. They scored only three road goals in 2009. Joel Lindpere scored the only goal in last week’s win over the Fire. Sounders FC will visit Red Bull Arena for the first time on May 15.
Playing at Home
Sounders FC is 8-2-6 in home regular season games all-time and is 8-0-3 when scoring at least one goal on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. Fredy Montero has scored eight goals and seven assists in 15 regular season games at home. Kasey Keller has allowed only nine goals in 20 career starts at Qwest Field (MLS regular season and playoffs, plus three USMNT internationals), with a GAA of 0.47 and 13 shutouts. Keller, who has the longest active starting streak at 26 games, now has 11 career MLS shutouts.
Limited Number of Season Tickets Available
A limited number of season tickets remain available for 2010. Stadium capacity was increased to approximately 35,500 for all league matches this season. Single-game tickets are on sale, however only scattered singles are available for the first 10 home matches.
Registration Open for Camps
A total of 56 weekly sessions are offered for the 2010 Sounders FC Camps Program, with sites in Alaska and Idaho as well as Washington. There are also Spring Break Camps scheduled for the weeks of March 29 through April 2 and April 5 through April 9. For a complete list of camp dates, sites and further information, go to SoundersFC.com.
Roger Levesque made his first home start for Sounders FC. Levesque’s first MLS career starts last season both came on the road, at Houston and Columbus…Michael Fucito made his MLS debut against Philadelphia, coming on as a substitute in the 76th minute. Fucito turned 24 on March 29…Saturday will mark the 52-week anniversary of the first Sounders FC road game, a 2-0 win over Toronto FC on April 4, 2009. Seattle was the first expansion team to start an MLS season 3-0-0…On April 3, 1987, FC Seattle defeated the L.A. Heat, 2-0, in a Western Soccer League game at Memorial Stadium…Joining the team for a trial this week is MLS veteran forward Pat Noonan, who was recently waived by Colorado. Noonan, who has 40 goals in his seven seasons, was a teammate of James Riley while with New England (2003-07) and played for Sigi Schmid in Columbus in 2008…The reserves beat Oregon State, 3-1, at Starfire last Friday. David Estrada scored the second and third goals after Stephen King fired home the opener. Sanna Nyassi, Michael Fucito and Tyson Wahl had assists.
The following players are currently training with Sounders FC: Goalkeepers (4): Terry Boss, Derby Carillo*, Chris Eylander*, Kasey Keller; Defenders (10): Taylor Graham, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Tyrone Marshall, Jeff Parke*, James Riley, Zach Scott, Tyson Wahl, Jamel Wallace#; Midfielders (8): Osvaldo Alonso, David Estrada#, Brad Evans, Stephen King, Freddie Ljungberg, Sanna Nyassi, Nathan Sturgis, Peter Vagenas; Forwards (7): Michael Fucito*, Nate Jaqua, Roger Levesque, Miguel Montano*, Fredy Montero, Pat Noonan*, Steve Zakuani.
#SuperDraft selection, *invitee