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Daily coverage of Seattle Sounders FC, MLS and world soccer.

May 31, 2010 at 3:29 PM

Sounders FC release weekly mass of team news and notes

Perhaps a home remedy will reinvigorate the Seattle Sounders FC and send the club into the FIFA World Cup break feeling robust once again. Sounders FC plays its next two matches at home, beginning Saturday night against the New England Revolution on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. First kick is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.

Seattle (3-5-3, 12 points) is looking for its first win at home since April 17. It has claimed only four points out of the last six starts. Sounders FC stands sixth in the Western Conference standings and 10th overall in MLS.

New England (3-6-2, 11 points) beat nine-man New York at home last week to snap a seven-game run without a win. The Revs are the only opponent yet to yield a point to Seattle, having won both meetings in 2009.

Each of the three Sounders FC victories has come against the East, where New England sits in fourth. The Revs are 1-4-0 on the road. Seattle is 3-2-1 against the East and 0-3-2 versus the West, and 2-3-1 at home.

Between the boxes, Sounders FC has more than held its own. But possession and chances have resulted in just nine goals to date. Seattle has been shut-out in four of the last six games and has not put one in the home netting in 266 minutes.

Colorado blanked Sounders FC, 1-0, last Saturday for the second straight defeat. Seattle has never lost three in a row. Seattle had erupted for a 3-0 win over Argentina’s Boca Juniors in a midweek home friendly.

For tickets to Sounders FC home matches, call 1-877-MLS-GOAL or visit www.SoundersFC.com.

This week’s game will be televised locally on KONG 6/16. Arlo White’s call of the action will also be heard on News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM. Rene Aleman, Noe Menendez and Victor Hernandez are the broadcast team for the Spanish radio coverage on 1210 AM Homero.

The final game prior to the MLS 14-day World Cup break will be June 10, when Sounders FC hosts D.C. United at 7 p.m. PT. That fixture will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Seattle resumes play on June 27 at Philadelphia.

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

Saturday, June 5, 7:30 p.m. – New England Revolution, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Thursday, June 10, 7 p.m. – D.C. United, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Sunday, June 27, 2 p.m. – at Philadelphia Union, PPL Park, Chester, Penn.

Sunday, July 4, 8 p.m. – at L.A. Galaxy, Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.

Sunday, July 11, 7:30 p.m. – FC Dallas, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

You Gotta Believe

Whereas the inaugural season was full of blue skies from the outset, the sophomore campaign for Sounders FC has begun under mostly cloudy conditions. For the first time the team’s record is two wins under .500. However, there is every reason to believe the sun will break through. It terms of quality play, Seattle has more than held its own. It leads MLS in corner kicks and is fourth in shots attempted (it is 10th in shots directly on goal). Reinforcements are also on the way, with Nate Jaqua’s anticipated return from injury and Blaise Nkufo’s arrival after the World Cup.

It’s About Time

If Sounders FC is experiencing a role reversal to start its second season, then maybe that will translate into a reversal of fortune against New England. In its sensational first year, Seattle lost season series to only two clubs, the Revolution and Chivas USA, and it took a point off the latter. The Revs were one of two visitors to win in Seattle last season, and the difference-maker in the series was midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who scored all three New England goals.

In the Hunt

Despite some hard luck setbacks, Seattle has kept its competitive sharpness. Eight of the last 10 matches have been decided by a single goal, and Sounders FC is only four points out of the eighth playoff spot. A year ago, it finished with the fourth-highest point total in MLS and became the first expansion team to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs since 1998. Seattle will begin its defense of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship in late June and opens CONCACAF Champions League play in late July.

Here’s to Health

Injuries have certainly played a part in the slow start. Of the 11 projected starters for 2010, Nate Jaqua, the No. 2 scorer last season, has yet to play a single minute due to lower abdominal surgery, and central defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is now sidelined indefinitely with a torn ACL. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (quad) has missed the last three matches. Among those expected to fill the various holes, Peter Vagenas (four games), Pat Noonan (3) and Michael Fucito (7) have each missed significant time due to injury.

That Finishing Touch

Offensively, the lack of a consistent finishing touch has frustrated all involved. In the five losses-all shutouts-Sounders FC has finished each match with an advantage in shots or corner kicks or both, and has accumulated superior overall totals in shots (64-41) and corners (42-18). After scoring seven times in the first five games there have been only two goals in the last six. Seattle’s 0.67 goals per home game is the lowest in MLS. Overall, the scoreless run is at 185 minutes.

Pressure on Defense

With goals coming at a premium, the defense is being asked to play to zero for a result. All three wins have been shutouts, continuing a trend begun in the first season, when seven of 12 wins came with clean sheets. Seattle has only allowed more than two goals on two occasions, and has yielded more than one goal in consecutive games only once in 47 competitive (regular season, playoff and cup) matches to date. Since April 10, Seattle has not held a halftime lead.

Rebuilding the Fortress

One of the cornerstones of Seattle’s inaugural season success was its ability to accumulate points at home. Sounders FC lost only twice and finished with a goal differential of 21-10. Following a 2-0 win over Philadelphia on opening night, it has given up seven goals and gone 1-3-1. In six home dates Seattle has attempted 77 shots and earned 49 corners, but its last goal scored at home came in the 4th minute of the 1-1 draw with Columbus on May 1.

Changes in the XI

With Jhon Kennedy Hurtado lost to a torn ACL in the final moments of the San Jose game, there were certain to be changes in Sigi Schmid’s lineup at Colorado. Jeff Parke took Hurtado’s position in central defense, earning his first MLS start for the club. Up front, Pat Noonan made his first start since April 17 and Brad Evans was back in midfield.

The Nyassi Twins

Will Saturday’s match mark the first time that the Nyassi twins, New England’s Sainey Nyassi and Seattle’s Sanna Nyassi, share space on the pitch in MLS? In the first meeting of the Revs and Sounders FC on August 20, 2009, the brothers missed that opportunity by two minutes. Sainey started and played 67 minutes before coming off; Sanna entered the match as a Seattle substitute in the 69th minute. Sanna did not play in the second meeting at Foxborough. Both brothers played for Gambia’s Ports Authority as well as the youth and senior national teams. Sainey signed with the Revs at age 18 and is now in his fourth season. Sanna signed with Sounders FC at 19, spending the latter portion of the 2008 season with the USL-1 Sounders.

Sophomore Expectations

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.

All-Star Voting Underway

Fan voting for the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star First XI is underway. Fans may vote online at http://www.mlssoccer.com/all-star. For the first time in League history, fans may also vote by texting a last name from the ballot to “22442.” Additionally, fans can text an MLS club name to “22442” to vote for all nominees from that team. Fan voting will comprise one quarter of the total vote for the First XI selections, with MLS players, coaches & GM’s, and media each accounting for one of the other three quarters.

The MLS All-Stars will take on Manchester United in the 2010 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at Reliant Stadium, in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday, July 28 (live on ESPN2 and TeleFutura at 8:30 p.m. ET).

Celtic Tickets Go On Sale Tuesday, June 1

Tickets go on sale Tuesday, June 1, for the summer friendly between Sounders FC and Scotland’s Celtic on July 18 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. It will be Seattle’s second friendly and, along with last week’s Boca Juniors friendly, is part of the 18-match season-ticket holder package. A third match will be announced soon. Tickets will be available at www.SoundersFC.com, all Ticketmaster outlets, the Qwest Field Box Office, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Celtic is making its fourth trip to Seattle and its third to Qwest Field. Winners of a record 34 Scottish cups and 42 league championships, the “Bhoys” from Glasgow boast a huge worldwide fan base. They are instantly recognizable for their green-and-white hooped jerseys. Celtic was the first British club to win a European championship in 1967. It met the NASL Sounders in 1981, and returned to face Manchester United in 2003 and Chelsea in 2004.

Sounders FC Drive for Nothing But Nets Enters Home Stretch

A six-week fundraising campaign to help raise money and awareness for the United Nations Foundation’s Nothing But Nets campaign is now entering the home stretch. Sounders FC owner Drew Carey and midfielder Sanna Nyassi are serving as honorary co-chairs of the fundraising initiative that began on May 1 and runs through June 10.

Long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets are one of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. A $10 donation allows Nothing But Nets to purchase a net, deliver it to a family, and educate on its use. Fans who donate $30 or more will receive a limited edition Drew Carey bobblehead. For more information visit www.SoundersFC.com.

Nothing But Nets is a global, grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Inspired by sports columnist Rick Reilly, hundreds of thousands of people have joined the campaign that was created by the United Nations Foundation in 2006. It costs just $10 to provide a long-lasting insecticide-treated bed net to prevent this deadly disease. Visit www.NothingButNets.net to send a net and save a life. To date, Nothing But Nets has raised more than $30 million and distributed over 3 million nets to protect children and families in Africa. One bed net can protect a family of four for up to five years.

Among the Leaders

Freddie Ljungberg is 1st in MLS in corner kicks with 55. Ljungberg and Fredy Montero are second and third in fouls suffered with 24 and 23, respectively. Kasey Keller leads MLS goalkeepers in minutes played with 945 and is tied for fourth in shutouts with three. Montero is tied for ninth in assists with three, and 15th in goals scored with three. Montero is tied for third in shots taken with 29. Brad Evans is tied for second in game-winning assists with two.

Nkufo Update

Blaise Nkufo and the Swiss National Team will play Costa Rica in a friendly on Tuesday in Sion, Switzerland. The send-off match is against Italy on Saturday in Geneva. FIFA World Cup play begins on June 16 versus Spain in Durban, South Africa. Nkufo completed his seven-year run with FC Twente on May 2 by helping the Enschede club win its first Dutch Eredivisie championship. He is Twente’s all-time scoring leader with 114 goals in the Eredivisie, including 12 this past season. He signed with the Sounders FC on March 4, and will join the team in July following the World Cup. Nkufo scored five goals for the Swiss during World Cup qualification.

Champions League Draw

Sounders FC will face CD Metapan of El Salvador in the Preliminary Round of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League. It was determined last week that the first leg would be played in Seattle between July 27 and July 29. The second leg will be played in Metapan between August 3 and August 5.

Sounders FC will play its home match on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. Competition dates and ticket information will be announced soon.

The winner advances to the six-round Group Stage, which begins August 17-19. If Sounders FC advances to the Group Stage, it would join Monterrey (Mexico), Saprissa (Costa Rica) and either Tauro (Panama) or Marathon (Honduras) in Group C.

Seattle earned a berth in the Champions League Preliminary round by virtue of winning the 2009 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Metapan was confirmed as the Sounders FC opponent after FIFA lifted its suspension of El Salvador. The country had been suspended due to governmental interference in the federation affairs. Metapan clinched El Salvador’s second berth with a 3-1 win over Aguila in the Clausura final on May 23. CD FAS qualified for El Salvador’s first berth. Last year Metapan made the Group Stage where it finished fourth.

The Los Angeles Galaxy, last season’s MLS Cup finalist, will also participate in the Preliminary Round. Supporters’ Shield winner Columbus Crew and MLS Cup victor Real Salt Lake have berths in the Group Stage.

The CONCACAF Champions League is open to the leading teams from federations throughout North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Pachuca of Mexico won the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League last month. It finished tied, 2-2 on aggregate, with Cruz Azul, but prevailed on away goals. Pachuca will represent CONCACAF in the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in December.

About Metapan

CD Metapan won the 2010 Clausura for its fourth title in the last seven seasons (there are two seasons per year in El Salvador’s Primera Division). All of the championships have come under coach Edwin Portillo, who also played 10 years for Los Caleros.

Metapan was 5-2-8 in league play and then advanced over Firpo (4-3 on aggregate) and Aguila in the playoffs. Marc Blanco scored two first-half goals in the final with Aguila. Elias Montes scored the deciding goal in the 81st minute of the second leg semi at Firpo. Metapan was 3-0-5 at home and drew 2-2 with Firpo in the semifinal first leg at home, the 8,000-seat Estadio Jorge Calero Suarez.

Metapan is located in the northwest corner of El Salvador. Ten clubs comprise the Primera Division which holds two tournaments per year: Clausura from January through May and Apertura from August to December.

Note: Time Change for July 25

Seattle Sounders FC vs. Colorado Rapids on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field first kick on July 25 has been changed to 7:30 p.m. PT. The match will be nationally televised on Fox Soccer Channel.

About New England

Goalkeeper Matt Reis was placed on injured reserve after having off-season surgery and is yet to see action. Backup keeper Preston Burpo suffered a right leg fracture in Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Red Bulls, forcing the Revs to call on second-year goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth as a replacement. Shuttleworth made two saves to earn his first career victory in his MLS debut. Midfielder Shalrie Joseph had two assists in his first home appearance since April 10 and rookie Zack Schilawski scored the game-winning goal in the 80th minute to lift the New England Revolution to a 3-2 victory over New York. The win ended the Revolution’s (3-6-2, 11 points) seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) and was the club’s first victory since a 4-1 win over Toronto FC on April 10. Joseph has played the past two games but only three altogether this season. The Revs are the only other team in MLS to play home matches on artificial turf.

New England Series Recap

New England parlayed three goals by Shalrie Joseph into a pair of wins over Seattle in 2009.

Sounders FC 0, New England Revolution 1 – August 20, 2009 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Shalrie Joseph scored the game’s only goal as the Revolution blanked the Sounders FC in a nationally televised match, snapping Seattle’s eight-game home unbeaten streak. In the 21st minute of the match a combination play between New England’s Steve Ralston and Edgaras Jankauskas set up the goal. Joseph fended off Seattle’s Peter Vagenas and poked the ball past goalkeeper Kasey Keller from 6 yards. Nate Jaqua led Seattle with four shots, and his closest opportunity came in the 27th minute of the match. Taking a pass from defender Leo Gonzalez, Jaqua steered his 6-yard shot just wide of the near post. The best chance to equalize for the Sounders FC came in the 43rd minute. Fredy Montero was fouled by Ralston, then stepped up to take the resulting penalty kick. Montero’s shot ricocheted off the crossbar and the rebound was sent out of play for a goal kick. Seattle finished the match with 11 shots but was unable to get one on goal despite a 9-6 corner kick advantage. New England played without head Coach Steve Nicol, who was serving the second game of a two-game suspension. First assistant Paul Mariner was ejected from the match just before halftime.

Sounders FC 1, New England Revolution 2 – September 26, 2009 – Gillette Stadium

Shalrie Joseph scored two goals as the Revolution swept the initial season series. Seattle, trying to extend a three-game unbeaten run on the road, struck first. Following a near-miss by Nate Jaqua in the 3rd minute, Fredy Montero opened the scoring with a sensational unassisted goal in the 6th minute. Montero eluded two defenders on the right wing before unleashing a 30-yard blast which dipped under the bar for his 12th goal of the year. New England got back into the match in the 51st minute when Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez was called for a handball near the left edge of the box. Joseph converted the resulting penalty kick for his 7th goal of the year. Seattle mounted more offensive pressure as the final whistle neared, with Montero coming close on a bicycle kick with four minutes to go. But the Revs got the goal. A long ball from Jeff Larentowicz found Joseph alone in front for a free header past Kasey Keller in the 87th minute. It was Joseph’s third goal and second game-winner in two matches against the Sounders FC. It also marked the first time in 12 games that Seattle lost after scoring first.

Seattle/New England Connections

Forward Pat Noonan was a mainstay of New England for his first five seasons in MLS, leaving the team after the 2007 season as the club’s No. 4 goalscorer (37) and No. 3 in assists (29). Noonan has since played for Columbus and Colorado but he’s yet to hit the net against the Revs in three meetings. Right back James Riley played his first three professional seasons for the Revolution. He was drafted by New England in 2005 out of Wake Forest, where he was once a teammate of Pat Phelan. While with New England, Riley was a starter for the 2007 Open Cup champions and MLS Cup runners-up in both 2006 and 2007. He scored his only MLS goal against New York at Gillette Stadium in 2005. Darren Sawatzky, the Sounders FC director of youth development, played two seasons (1996-97) in Foxborough.

Sounders FC 0, Colorado Rapids 1 – May 29, 2010 – Recap

Seattle dropped its second in a row on the strength of a Conor Casey second-half goal for the Rapids in front of a crowd of 18,116 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Casey gave Colorado the lead in the 63rd minute. He took a feed from Omar Cummings on the right, fended off Jeff Parke and chipped over Kasey Keller into the left corner of the net for his fourth goal of the season and first from open play.

Held scoreless for the third match in a row, Seattle could not convert on nine shots (one on goal) and four corners. Keller made four saves on 10 total shots from Colorado. The Rapids took six corners.

The lone shot on goal for Sounders FC came in the 39th minute off a shallow defensive clearance by Colorado. Patrick Ianni volleyed the ball from 30 yards, forcing Matt Pickens to parry it with a dive to his right.

In first-half stoppage time, Steve Zakuani released Freddie Ljungberg but Marvell Wynne chased back and pressured Ljungberg into shooting high from 15 yards. Zakuani cracked a 12-yard shot that Wynne blocked out for a corner in the 58th minute.

Keller’s first save of the game came in the 9th minute. Julien Baudet got his head on a Mehdi Ballouchy corner and the ball took one bounce in front of goal before Keller knocked it clear. Cummings got a free header off a corner a few minutes later but Keller pushed it wide. In the 73rd minute, Keller was left one-on-one with Ballouchy but dived to his left to save the shot.

Parke replaced the injured Jhon Kennedy Hurtado in the back four. It was Parke’s first MLS match since October 2008.

Sounders FC 3, Boca Juniors 0 – May 26, 2010 – Recap

Donning its Electricity third kit for the first time, Sounders FC earned its initial victory over an international opponent in a friendly played before 40,122, the largest crowd of the season.Roger Levesque staked Sounders FC to a lead shortly before halftime, and Pat Noonan and Michael Seamon scored in the second half.

Levesque opened up the scoring in the 42nd minute. Fredy Montero’s 25-yard free kick bounced off Boca keeper Javier Garcia’s hand, hit the post and Levesque chested the ball into the open net.Seattle’s second strike came in the 64th minute when Noonan took a pass from David Estrada into the right side of the box, cut back behind a defender and blasted the ball into the center of the net. Noonan had replaced Montero at halftime.

Seamon, the unsigned second-round draft pick out of Villanova, added the third goal in the 70th minute. His right-footed shot from long range beat Garcia to the left post.

Kasey Keller kept the visitors off the score sheet with a save on Lucas Viatri’s header in the 21st minute. Terry Boss relieved Keller for the second half.

Seattle finished with a 24-13 advantage in shots (9-3 on goal). Montero had five shots.

Sounders FC Top Attendances

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)

40,122 May 26, 2010 Seattle v Boca Juniors (friendly)

36,273 May 8, 2010 Seattle v Los Angeles

36,241 March 25, 2010 Seattle v Philadelphia

36,219 May 1, 2010 Seattle v Columbus

36,066 April 3, 2010 Seattle v New York

35,953 May 22, 2010 Seattle v San Jose

35,924 April 17, 2010 Seattle v Kansas City

35,807 October 29, 2009 Seattle v Houston (MLS playoffs)

*46,011 November 22, 2009 MLS Cup (Real Salt Lake v L.A.)

Training List

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, Freddie Ljungberg, Sanna Nyassi, Michael Seamon#, Nathan Sturgis, Peter Vagenas; Forwards (7): Michael Fucito, Nate Jaqua, Roger Levesque, Miguel Montano, Fredy Montero, Pat Noonan, Steve Zakuani.

#SuperDraft selection, *invitee

Throw-ins

Sanna Nyassi will sign autographs at the Pro Shop @ Pacific Place on Tuesday, June 1 from 6-7 p.m. Terry Boss will sign at the Pro Shop @ Qwest Field on June 8, from 6-7 p.m…Seattle is now 1-3-6 in the month of May. It was 2-1-2 in June last season…Sigi Schmid was the guest speaker at Sunday’s closing dinner for the America Youth Soccer Organization’s AGM in Denver. Schmid was a member of the first AYSO team in 1964…Taylor Graham turns 30 on Thursday, June 3…This week’s match date in Seattle soccer history: June 5, 1988 – En route to the FC Seattle’s first championship, Peter Hattrup and Grant Gibbs each score twice in a 5-0 home win over Los Angeles, the Storm’s fifth straight to start the season…Marcus Hahnemann, who tended goal for the USL Sounders from 1995-96, made the final cut for the U.S. National Team. This will be the second World Cup for Hahnemann, who also was chosen in 2006 for Germany…Tyrone Marshall is one caution-free game away from rolling back his season total from four to three. Players receive a one-game suspension after accumulating five yellows.

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