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

June 28, 2010 at 11:56 PM

Sounders FC weekly release and team news and notes

With fond memories of its last visit to both cities, Seattle Sounders FC travels to Portland and Los Angeles this week in search of victories to kick-start the 2010 season. On Wednesday night, Sounders FC opens defense of its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship at PGE Park, home of the Portland Timbers. The third round match against the U.S. Soccer Division 2 side begins at 7:30 p.m. PT and will be televised on FSN. Major League Soccer play resumes on Sunday against runaway league leader L.A. Galaxy. The Independence Day game at the Home Depot Center marks the halfway point of the season and starts at 7:30 p.m. PT.

Seattle is in the midst of three consecutive road matches over an 8-day period. Sounders FC began the stretch with a 3-1 loss at Philadelphia Union on June 27.

The Rave Green, with one win in the last five outings, used both the Rose City and L.A. as launching pads in 2009. Seattle’s run of four consecutive Open Cup victories commenced with a 2-1 result before a big crowd in Portland, and its turnaround from a three-game winless skid in MLS play to a playoff berth began with a 2-0 win on the Galaxy’s home ground.

If Sounders FC prevails at Portland, it would host either the Galaxy on July 7 or AC St. Louis on July 6 in an Open Cup quarterfinal to be played at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash. St. Louis visits L.A. on Tuesday night in another third round match.

Seattle (4-7-3, 15 points), three games under .500 for the first time, is seventh in the Western Conference and still searching for its first victory over a West side. The Galaxy tops the entire table, off to a blazing start (10-1-3, 33 points) and nine points clear of Real Salt Lake in the West. However, L.A. has drawn and lost its last two games without scoring a goal.

The series with the Galaxy is tied at 1-1-1. L.A. defeated Seattle, 4-0, at home on May 8 behind the three assists and one goal from Landon Donovan.

Sunday’s game will be televised on KONG 6/16 and heard on News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM with Arlo White calling the play. In Spanish the match can be seen on THIS-TV with Jaime Mendez and Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar and it will also be heard on 1210 AM Homero with Rene Aleman, Noe Menendez and Victor Hernandez.

Seattle returns to the Xbox Pitch on Qwest Field on July 11 to host FC Dallas at 7:30 .p.m. PT

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

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

Wednesday, June 30, 7:30 p.m. – at Portland, PGE Park, Portland (U.S. Open Cup Third Round)

Sunday, July 4, 7:30 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

Thursday, July 15, 4:30 p.m. – at D.C. United, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

Sunday, July 18, 12 p.m. – Celtic FC, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Time for Electricity

There’s nothing like a timely shock to the system to get things moving in the right direction. Sounders FC will wear its Electricity kit for the first time in competitive match on Wednesday night in Portland. Seattle wore the bright ensemble well for a 3-0 win over Argentina’s Boca Juniors in a friendly on May 26.

Cup Runneth Over

It could be argued that the 2009 Open Cup run produced a carryover effect to the MLS campaign last season. Beginning with a 1-0 play-in victory over Colorado, Seattle went on a tear of six wins and four draws in 11 outings over all competitions for two months, from May 26 through July 25. That included the play-in, as well as three victories over Portland, Kansas City and Houston in the tournament proper. A triumph over D.C. United in the Cup Final on September 2 re-ignited Sounders FC. Following that win it went 4-1-1 in MLS to secure a postseason spot.

Montero in June

Fredy Montero finished the month of June with two goals and two assists in three matches. Montero scored against both New England and D.C. United. He assisted on Pat Noonan’s goal at Philadelphia. In June of 2009 Montero had four goals and four assists in five games.

Looking for Heroes

Seattle is experiencing the driest five-match run to date, with just three points in the last five matches it’s a cast call for heroes. With a possibility of seven MLS, cup and friendly games in 21 days between last Sunday and July 18, Sigi Schmid is likely to rotate his lineup, meaning the spark may come from someone not ordinarily in the first XI. A year ago, the Open Cup run starred the likes of Sebastien Le Toux, Stephen King, Roger Levesque and Sanna Nyassi. Levesque parlayed his successful audition into a more prominent roll down the stretch of MLS, scoring goals in back-to-back road wins in October.

Stop the Leak

Sounders FC is seeking to regain its defensive form of 2009 when it shared the top goals-against average in MLS at 0.97. It has yielded 20 goals this season, but more alarmingly six in the past two matches and 10 at home. Sunday’s match will mark the halfway point in MLS for 2010. A year ago Seattle had allowed only 15 goals midway through the season and surrendered only 10 in 15 dates at home.

The Injury Factor

Seattle has yet to put its projected first XI on the pitch in 2010. Injuries have sidelined key players such as Nate Jaqua (the first 13 matches), Osvaldo Alonso (the past six matches), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (the past five) and Brad Evans missed last week’s match after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee. At Philadelphia, Peter Vagenas returned to start in midfield for the first time in five games, replacing Evans. Only four players have appeared in each of the 14 matches. Kasey Keller is the only player to start each fixture and he is the leader in minutes (1215). Defender Tyrone Marshall tops all outfield players (1170). Already Sigi Schmid has used 26 different players in MLS matches, compared to 22 in all of the inaugural season.

Nkufo Update

Blaise Nkufo and the Swiss National Team bowed out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup after drawing with Honduras, 0-0, in the final match of group play on June 25. Switzerland pulled off the first big upset of the World Cup, shocking Spain with a 1-0 win in its opening match on June 16. Switzerland lost its second game, 1-0, playing down a man to Chile for the final 59 minutes. 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 be eligible to join the roster on July 15.

Penalty Phase

Seattle has yet to convert a penalty kick in MLS. After misses by Fredy Montero and Freddie Ljungberg in 2009, Sounders FC earned its first try at the spot this season in Philadelphia. Pat Noonan’s attempt was saved by Chris Seitz. Opponents have converted four of six penalties to date.

On the Road Again

After six road games, Seattle has earned five points (1-3-2). Sounders FC tied at FC Dallas and at Real Salt Lake, with both games being decided in stoppage time. Seattle’s lone road win of the season came at New York when Fredy Montero entered the match in the 78th minute and scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute.

Rivalry Renewed

For the second year in a row, Sounders FC will travel to Portland for the third-round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The spirited rivalry dates back to 1975 when Seattle and Portland were members of the North American Soccer League. The two sides last met on March 11, 2010, in a Community Shield, a friendly played on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. The next time Seattle and Portland will meet in a competitive situation will be in 2011, when the Timbers join Vancouver as an MLS expansion franchise.

About Portland

Portland is currently on its longest winning streak of the season. Including last week’s Open Cup match, Portland has won three straight, which is not unfamiliar territory for the club. In 2009, the Timbers set a record with a 24-game unbeaten streak (14-0-10), once going five months without a loss. This season, Portland sits near the bottom of the USL Conference, 11 points behind leader Austin Aztex. The top goal scorer for the club is Ryan Pore with nine of the team’s 13 goals. He has taken 45 shots in league play, nearly three times that of any teammate. Keeper Steve Cronin has allowed 10 goals (0.78 GAA) and has recorded 30 saves en route to four shutouts. In its last league match on Sunday, Bright Dike scored his first league goal and Cronin recorded four saves in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay. Dike was also the hero of the second round Open Cup match at Kitsap on June 22. The Timbers defeated the Pumas, 4-1, behind three goals from Dike.

LA is Home (or close to it)

Several members of the Sounders FC team staff have ties to the Los Angeles area. Head Coach Sigi Schmid grew up in Torrance, played at UCLA (1972-75), and later served as assistant coach (1977-79) and head coach of the Bruins (1980-98). His professional coaching career began with the L.A. Galaxy (1999-2004) and he maintains a residence in Manhattan Beach.

Assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson played for the Galaxy (1997-2003) and Chivas USA (2005).

Assistant coach/scout Kurt Schmid attended UCLA, and he was an assistant coach the past two years at UC Irvine and also coached for West Coast FC. Technical director Chris Henderson played (1989-90) for Sigi Schmid at UCLA.

Several players have seen action for club, college or pro teams in the L.A. area. Defender Tyson Wahl is a native of Newport Beach. Midfielder Peter Vagenas attended St. Francis High School, lives in Pasadena and played at UCLA (1996-99). His first nine MLS seasons were spent with the Galaxy.

Midfielder Brad Evans played at UC Irvine (2003-06), defender Patrick Ianni played for UCLA (2003-05), and central defender Tyrone Marshall played for the Galaxy (2002-07). David Estrada, selected by the club with the 11th overall pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, is from Salinas and attended UCLA (2006-09).

Been There Before

This will be Seattle’s fourth visit to the Home Depot Center (HDC). In each of the first two visits the Sounders FC fell to Chivas USA but earned its first win at HDC against the Galaxy, a 2-0 victory on August 15. Peter Vagenas, who played nine seasons for the Galaxy, has played 72 times at HDC since it opened in 2003, scoring six of his 14 career goals there. Defender Tyrone Marshall has played 61 times at the HDC. Nate Jaqua has played 17 times at the HDC, including the 2003 MLS Cup Final when his Chicago Fire fell to San Jose, 4-2. Sigi Schmid is 18-10-7 at the HDC. Schmid, Ezra Hendrickson and Brad Evans were with Columbus when the Crew defeated New York, 3-1, to lift the 2008 MLS Cup at Carson.

Sigi’s Galaxy

After 19 years at UCLA (1980-98), current Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid began his MLS coaching career with Los Angeles in 1999, serving as head coach for six seasons (1999-2004). Schmid’s L.A. Galaxy teams won four major competitions: 2002 MLS Cup, 2002 MLS Supporters’ Shield, 2001 U.S. Open Cup and the 2001 CONCACAF Champions Cup. He was voted the MLS Coach of the Year in his first season, 1999. Altogether, his Galaxy teams were 79-53-32 and reached the MLS Cup final four times and won three division crowns.

Sigi’s Present Beats Past

So far, so good for Sigi Schmid in his meetings with his past clubs. With Seattle, Schmid is 2-1-3 in six meetings with Columbus and Los Angeles, the sides he guided to MLS Cup championships in 2002 and 2008, respectively. The two wins each came last season thanks to road shutouts. Schmid was 79-53-32 in five-plus seasons in L.A. and 34-33-25 in three years with the Crew. He is the MLS all-time leader with 129 victories.

Mileage Report

For the second year in a row, no MLS team will travel more miles (49,740) than Sounders FC. With a trip to Philadelphia this season (instead of a second trip to Chivas USA a year ago), Seattle will log 2,842 more miles in 2010. Now the only team from the Pacific Northwest, Sounders FC will travel far fewer miles in 2011 with the addition of Portland (173 miles south) and Vancouver (141 miles north). Following a 4,760 mile round trip to Philadelphia and a bus ride to and from Portland, Sounders FC will travel 954 miles south to Los Angeles.

Jaqua Removed from IR

Forward Nate Jaqua has been removed from the club’s Disabled List on June 24 and made his season debut just three days later, logging 18 minutes as a reserve at Philadelphia. Jaqua, 29, was placed on the Disabled List on March 24 and later underwent surgery to repair a lower abdominal fascial tear and was unavailable for the first 13 league matches this season. A nine-year MLS veteran, Jaqua started 27 of 28 appearances in 2009 and posted career highs with nine goals and seven assists. Two other players, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Michael Fucito, remain on the disabled list.

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 on Sale

Tickets are now on sale 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.

Tickets Now Available for CONCACAF Match

Tickets went on Sale June 21 for the home leg of the Sounders FC first foray into international competition. Seattle will host Metapan of El Salvador on Wednesday, July 28 at Qwest Field. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.

The return leg is scheduled for August 3, with the Sounders FC traveling to El Salvador to play Metapan to determine the series winner.

Based on aggregate scoring, the winner will advance to the Group Stage on August 17-19. The top two teams in each group will qualify for the knockout quarterfinals, set for February and March of 2011. CONCACAF Champions League winner will advance to FIFA Club World Cup.

Tickets will be available at www.SoundersFC.com, by calling 800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster outlets and the Qwest Field Box office.

Among the Leaders

Sounders FC leads the league in three statistical categories: shots (165), corner kicks (90) and fouls suffered (171). Seattle has recorded 20 assists, which is fourth most, and the club has been whistled offside 48 times, second in the league. Fredy Montero is tied for ninth in MLS with five goals and tied for sixth with five assists. Montero has taken 35 shots (3rd) with 13 shots on goal (T-8th). Montero is tied for third with 29 fouls suffered and Freddie Ljungberg is second with 34. Ljungberg leads the league with 75 corner kicks. Two Seattle veterans are among the top 10 in minutes played. Kasey Keller leads the league with 1215 minutes played in net and defender Tyrone Marshall is tied in sixth amongst all players with 1170 minutes played.

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 L.A. Galaxy

The Galaxy own the best record in MLS (10-1-3) and sit nine points ahead of all other clubs. After starting the season on a 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2), L.A. has begun to slow, dropping its first match, 1-0, at Real Salt Lake on June 9, followed by a scoreless draw at Toronto on June 26. The Galaxy have not scored a goal since June 5. With the U.S. Men’s National Team’s exit from the World Cup, Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle may rejoin the team in time for the Seattle match. Donovan has nine assists in nine games this season and also added one goal (at Seattle on May 8). Buddle is averaging one goal per game with nine goals in nine games. On the injury front, defender Leonardo has been out since mid-April with a right quad strain but dressed for the first time at Toronto. Dema Kovalenko and Mike Magee are both out with injuries. Similar to the Sounders FC, L.A. plays a midweek U.S. Open Cup match. The third round game is set for Tuesday night at the Home Depot Center against AC St. Louis.

Last Meeting: Seattle Sounders FC 2 at Portland Timbers 1 – July 1, 2009 – Recap

Two early strikes paved the path to the quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open Cup before a crowd of 16,382. In the opening minute, Sanna Nyassi found room on the right side, and crossed to a diving Roger Levesque, whose header beat Portland keeper Steve Cronin inside the near post. Stephen King scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 27th minute. Nate Jaqua dropped the ball back to King near the top of the box, and King drove the ball inside the left post past Cronin. The Timbers finally broke through the Seattle defense in the 43rd minute. Mandjou Keita scored his third goal of the tournament. David Hayes lofted the ball into the box, finding Keita front and center, and he tapped it right of goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Neither side scored in the second half, and Sounders FC came out on top, halting Portland’s 12-game unbeaten streak. Levesque’s goal was his first with the MLS side Sounders. It was his tenth goal in his career against the Timbers.

Last Meeting: Seattle Sounders FC 0 vs. L.A. Galaxy 4 – May 1, 2010 – Recap

Sounders FC allowed four goals for the first time at home as Landon Donovan recorded three assists and scored his first goal of the season. It was only the second time Seattle had allowed more than one goal at home in a league match.

Galaxy opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a goal by Jovan Kirovski. Michael Stephens took a ball from Landon Donovan and found Kirovski making a run from the left side. Kirovski’s right-footed strike from outside the 18 deflected off Kasey Keller’s hand and into the net.

L.A. added a second goal in the 52nd minute when Omar Gonzalez headed in a Donovan corner kick. A third tally came just minutes later off a Donovan free kick as he whipped the ball into the box where Todd Dunivant headed past Keller. Donovan added a fourth strike in the 67th minute off a one-touch shot from Edson Buddle.

Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso left the match in the 35th minute with a right hamstring strain.

Colombian forward Miguel Montano saw his first MLS action, entering the match in the 58th minute for Fredy Montero.

It was the second time Sounders FC had been beaten by four goals. The first came at San Jose on August 2, 2009. Seattle was called offside a record 10 times.

Previous Sounders FC-Galaxy Meetings

Sounders FC 1, L.A. Galaxy 1 – May 10, 2009 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field (Match 8)

Sebastien Le Toux scored his first MLS goal to help the Sounders FC hold on for a point despite playing final 30 minutes down a man. The opening goal came in the 22nd minute and was set-up by midfielder Steve Zakuani, who chipped over the L.A. defense to Nate Jaqua. Beating Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts to the ball, Jaqua tapped it left to Le Toux to stroke into an open net from 15 yards. The Galaxy’s equalizer in the 35th minute came Alan Gordon, who headed past Kasey Keller from 8 yards from a Mike Magee cross. Defender James Riley was sent off the field with a red card in the 57th minute after being judged to have struck Gregg Berhalter. Moments earlier he had drawn a yellow card.

Sounders FC 2, L.A. Galaxy 0 – August 15, 2009 – Home Depot Center (Match 21)

Seattle broke a 336-minute scoreless drought to end a three-game winless skein and post its first road win in nine matches. Sounders FC got its first break in the 16th minute. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham was shown a red card after a studs up midfield tackle on former teammate Peter Vagenas. Sounders FC played much of the match up one man. Steve Zakuani scored in the 22nd minute, the team’s first goal since July 11. Brad Evans beat Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter and crossed the ball to the far post where Zakuani knocked it past goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Seattle scored its second goal in the 54th minute after a corner kick by Peter Vagenas was headed by Nate Jaqua and volleyed in by forward Fredy Montero. Each team lost a man in the final minutes. Tyrone Marshall was ejected on a second yellow and the Galaxy’s Eddie Lewis was sent off for a rough tackle on James Riley three minutes later. Seattle played the match without two of its MLS All-Stars. Midfielder Freddie Ljungberg sat out because of illness while defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado missed the match due to yellow card suspension. Seattle wore its blue kit for the first time at Los Angeles.

Seattle Sounders FC 1 at Philadelphia Union 3 – June 27, 2010 – Recap

Philadelphia Union scored three times in the second half to christen its new PPL Park with a victory over Sounders FC on a hot and humid afternoon before a capacity crowd of 18,755.

Pat Noonan scored his first MLS goal for Sounders FC and former Seattle forward Sebastien Le Toux recorded a goal and an assist for Union.

Noonan became the first goal scorer at PPL Park with a strike in the 44th minute. Steve Zakuani made a run up the left flank and played a ball to Fredy Montero in the box. Montero flicked the ball on to Noonan who poked it past the keeper from 15 yards just before the halftime break.

Montero has a team-high five assists and Zakuani is second with three. It was Noonan’s 41st career goal.

Le Toux equalized with a penalty kick in the 54th minute after Tyrone Marshall was whistled for a foul in the box on Alejandro Moreno.

Five minutes later, Montero drew a penalty kick for Seattle. Noonan stepped up to take the shot but keeper Chris Seitz made the save to keep the game even.

Union took the lead in the 79th minute when a cross from Le Toux skipped in front of goal and landed at the feet of Fred at the back post, who knocked it into the net.

Philadelphia added a third tally in the 84th minute. Danny Mwanga took a ball from Le Toux and blasted a shot on goal from close range. Kasey Keller made the stop but Mwanga knocked in the rebound for his fourth goal of the season.

Keller made a season-high seven saves on 14 Philadelphia shots (13 on goal), including a diving save on Le Toux’s shot in the 27th minute and a pair of saves on shots from Fred and Moreno in the 71st minute.

Forward Nate Jaqua saw his first action of the season, replacing Zakuani in the 72nd minute. Jaqua was taken off the Disabled List on June 24. Rookie Michael Seamon made his MLS debut in the 66th minute, coming on for Peter Vagenas.

It marked the first time this season that Seattle has lost after scoring first (it had been 4-0-2) or when leading at halftime (2-0-1).

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)

36,344 June 5, 2010 Seattle v New England

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

36,146 June 10, 2010 Seattle v D.C. United

36,066 April 3, 2010 Seattle v New York

35,953 May 22, 2010 Seattle v San Jose

*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 (3): Terry Boss, Chris Eylander*, Kasey Keller; Defenders (9): Taylor Graham, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Tyrone Marshall, Jeff Parke, James Riley, Zach Scott, Tyson Wahl. 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.

*invitee

Throw-ins

Kasey Keller’s nine saves at Philadelphia was the most since he stopped a record 10 shots at San Jose on August 2, 2009…The 13 shots on goal from Philadelphia tied an opponent team record (13 at SJ, 8/2/09)…Seattle is 0-3-2 versus MLS Western Conference opponents. It was 6-4-5 in 2009. All four Sounders FC wins this season have come by way of shutout against Eastern Conference opponents…Sounders FC players and coaches will join representatives from Celtic FC and other international soccer stars for a dinner and auction at Qwest Field Event Center on Saturday, July 17, at 5 p.m. All proceeds from the event will be dedicated to provide funding to further develop soccer players in Washington State.

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