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

September 14, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Sounders FC weekly release of team news and notes

A pair of homecomings and two significant matches await the Seattle Sounders FC on a journey of nearly 8,000 miles this week. Sounders FC reaches the halfway point of its CONCACAF Champions League group stage campaign when it visits CD Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. PT. Seattle moves on to the capital of Ohio and a date with the Columbus Crew, leader of the MLS Eastern Conference, on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PT.

Tuesday’s game will be televised nationally on Fox Soccer Channel and Saturday the match can be seen on KONG 6/16 and THIS-TV. Both games will be carried live on KIRO 97.3 FM.

Sounders FC seeks its first points in the Champions League after falling to CD Marathon of Honduras and CF Monterrey last month. Monterrey leads Group C with six points; Marathon and Saprissa have three each.

In MLS, Seattle (9-9-6, 33 points) is out to strengthen its hold on a playoff position. It is tied with San Jose for the final two playoff wild card slots and fifth in the Western Conference. After going undefeated in seven games, Sounders FC has one point in its last two outings.

Costa Rica is home to starting left back Leo Gonzalez while Columbus is the city Sigi Schmid delivered an MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield in 2008, his third season of coaching the Crew. Saturday’s match is also a preview of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, between Seattle and Columbus, to be played October 5 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.

The next four matches-two in Champions League and two in MLS-are on the road. Although undefeated in its last five league fixtures at home, Sounders FC has not won away since July 31. After a brief return home, Seattle plays at Monterrey on September 22 and Chicago on September 25.

Last week, Sounders FC battled MLS Cup holder Real Salt Lake to a scoreless draw at home. Columbus lost to the L.A. Galaxy, 3-1, but is still in a position to earn an unprecedented third straight Supporters’ Shield. The Crew leads the East by four points and is tied with Real Salt Lake with the second highest points total, trailing the Galaxy by three. It hosts Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago in a Champions League match on Tuesday.

Seattle owns the only win in the series, having snapped a record 22-game home unbeaten run by the Crew with a 1-0 result on October 3, 2009. Two meetings in the Emerald City have ended in 1-1 draws.

Arlo White will call the action on KONG 6/16 and both matches on KIRO 97.3 FM. Jaime Mendez will be joined by Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar on THIS-TV (Comcast channel 114). Coverage on Homero 1210 AM is provided by Rene Aleman, Noe Menendez and Victor Hernandez.

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

Tuesday, September 14, 7 p.m. – at CD Saprissa, Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, San Jose, Costa Rica (CONCACAF Champions League, Group Stage/Round Three)

Saturday, September 18, 4:30 p.m. – at Columbus Crew, Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

Wednesday, September 22, 5 p.m. – at CF Monterrey, Estadio Tecnologico, Monterrey, Mexico (CONCACAF Champions League, Group Stage/Round Four)

Saturday, September 25, 5:30 p.m. – at Chicago Fire, Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

Wednesday, September 29, 7 p.m. – CD Marathon, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle (CONCACAF Champions League, Group Stage/Round Five)

Saturday, October 2, 12:30 p.m. – Toronto FC, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

New Beginnings?

A 3-1 road loss followed by a home draw. Where have we heard this before? Sure enough, that’s how Sounders FC transitioned into a record seven-game unbeaten run during July and August, and it’s also where the Rave Green finds itself now. Seattle’s five home games without a loss (3-0-2) is the longest of the season and second to an eight-game home run (4-0-4) in 2009.

Batten the Hatches

It all begins with defense. Sounders FC was solid at the back in its inaugural season, and it’s again the recipe for success in 2010. Seven of the nine MLS victories have been shutouts. In the 12 wins over all competitions the average goals allowed is 0.25. Of the three goals allowed during the last five home dates, one came on a penalty kick and another while Sounders FC was shorthanded.

Make It 50

Assuming he steps between the posts in Columbus, Kasey Keller will make his 50th consecutive MLS start against the Crew on Saturday. Keller starred in the nil-nil draw with Real Salt Lake, saving a first-half penalty kick by Robbie Findley. RSL entered the match with the highest-scoring attack in MLS. He now has nine shutouts this season-one shy of last year’s total. The two-time MLS All-Star has yet to miss a league match and at age 40 he leads the club with 2115 minutes played.

The Long Way Home

The most traveled team in MLS is now the most traveled team in CONCACAF. Sounders FC will log 7,981 miles to Costa Rica and Columbus and back home this week. Following that is another 4,980 to Monterrey and Chicago round trip. Combine that with the flight to Boston and back to start the month, the club will have accumulated nearly 18,000 air miles in September. Seattle travels nearly 50,000 miles in MLS play alone. There will be an additional four trips to Champions League play, including last month’s excursions to El Salvador and Honduras.

SFC Factoids

— Sounders FC is 7-1-3 in its last 11 domestic (MLS and Open Cup) matches

— Seattle is unbeaten in its last seven (5-0-2) at home in MLS and Open Cup play

— Fredy Montero has scored (9) or assisted (7) on 16 of the last 20 MLS goals since April 22

— Montero has 12 goals (six game-winners) and 10 assists in all competitions

— Montero is one of two players to rank among MLS top five in both goals (10) and assists (9)

— Kasey Keller has played in 49 consecutive MLS matches, dating to April 25, 2009

— Montero and Osvaldo Alonso have started the last 10 matches in all competitions (July 31)

— Half of the team’s 26 goals have been scored either in the first or last 15 minutes

— Nine of the 29 goals allowed have come in the final 15 minutes

— Sounders FC is 8-2-3 when scoring first and 0-6-2 when allowing two or more goals

Pepsi Refresh Voting Deadline Nears

There is one week remaining to vote for the winner of the Pepsi Refresh Grant of $50,000 in Major League Soccer. The Sounders FC idea is to help a family affected by a drunk driver renovate their home so they can move easily throughout. Online voting ends on September 20 at 8:59 p.m. PT. Visit www.MLSsoccer.com/pepsirefresh.

Postseason Picture

With a 5-1-3 mark to start the second half of the season, Sounders FC is in a position to make the MLS Cup Playoffs for a second year in a row. Seattle is currently tied with San Jose for the two final wild card spots.

The Earthquakes, Kansas City (27), and Chicago (26) all have played fewer games with two in hand. Toronto FC (28) is even with Seattle with 24 games played. The top two teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs, along with the four teams with the next highest totals. This week’s schedule pits the teams currently holding playoff slots against one another.

Countdown to 45

Sigi Schmid has once again set a target of 45 points for his club to make the playoffs. In the first 14 years of MLS, only one team achieving that threshold (Kansas City in 2005) failed to earn a postseason berth. A minimum of 39 points was required the last five years. In 2009, two of the three teams finishing with 40 missed the cut. Real Salt Lake prevailed in the tiebreakers with D.C. United and Colorado and went on to win the MLS Cup. In 2008, New York nabbed the eighth and final slot with 39 points, and the Red Bulls proceeded to reach the MLS Cup Final.

Break Out the Blues

Seattle will break out its blue jerseys for only the second time this season at Columbus. It wore an all-blue kit for its 1-1 draw with the Crew on May 1. Sounders FC was 2-1-1 when wearing blue on the road in 2009, including wins at Los Angeles and Columbus. The sole loss was at Houston in the playoffs.

Leo Goes Home

This week’s trip to Costa Rica will be a homecoming for left back Leo Gonzalez. San Jose is Gonzalez’s hometown. Gonzalez has experienced the atmosphere of Estadio Saprissa from both sides. The Monster’s Cave is home to the Costa Rica National Team, which capped Gonzalez 60 times. He was also on the visiting side for league matches while playing for Herediano and Municipal Liberia against Saprissa. Kasey Keller started for the U.S. in two matches (both losses) against the Ticos at Saprissa, in 1997 and 2000.

Hello, Columbus

Sigi Schmid will be returning to Crew Stadium for the second time since guiding Columbus to its first MLS Cup championship in 2008. Seattle won, 1-nil, last year. Schmid served three seasons at the helm of the Crew, taking them back to the playoffs in 2008 after a three-year absence.

Changes in the XI

Three changes were made to the first XI last week against Real Salt Lake. Zach Scott was at right back for the injured (ankle sprain) James Riley. In central midfield Nathan Sturgis was back in for Michael Seamon and Nate Jaqua was up front.

Ossie Unleashed

He’s primarily known as a bulldog of a ballwinner but midfielder Osvaldo Alonso also packs a powerful shot from distance. Against Real Salt Lake, Alonso pounded five shots, including two on goal. Those numbers matched his career highs. Alonso’s first MLS goal, against D.C. United last season, was a thunderous drive from outside the box, high into the right corner.

Chivas de Guadalajara Tickets on Sale Monday

Tickets for the October 12 friendly with CD Chivas de Guadalajara went on sale Monday at 10 a.m. Chivas Guadalajara, an 11-time champion, is one of Mexico’s most popular teams and the 2010 Copa Libertadores runner-up. First kick is 7 p.m. PT on Tuesday, October 12, on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. The match will be televised live on TeleFutura.

Tickets will be available at www.SoundersFC.com, by calling 800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster outlets and the Qwest Field Box office. The match is part of the Sounders FC 18-game season ticket package.

Sounders FC Support is a Growing Legend

The loyal, passionate and thunderous support of Sounders FC is already becoming legend. In 2009 the club established an MLS record (30,943) for average season attendance and to date there have been 29 consecutive sellouts of MLS matches. Seattle is averaging 36,167 this season and has already surpassed (470,171) last year’s total attendance (464,145) for league matches with two dates still to play.

The turnout of 22,513 for the August 25 Champions League match with Monterrey was the second-largest for a Champions League/Champions Cup match played in the U.S.

U.S. Open Cup Final Start Time Changed

Sounders FC has announced that the first kick for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final on October 5 has been moved to 7:00 p.m. PT. The match between Sounders FC and the Columbus Crew on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field will be aired live on Fox Soccer Channel.

“In working with U.S. Soccer and Fox Soccer Channel to change the kickoff, we all decided this is in the best interest of the fans,” said Sounders FC Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer. “This is a Cup Final and whether it’s the record crowd expected to be on hand in Seattle or those in Columbus and around the country watching on television, everyone involved wants as many people as possible to experience it.”

Tickets start at $15 and are available at www.SoundersFC.com, by calling 800-745-3000, all Ticketmaster outlets and the Qwest Field Box office.

James Riley 7v7 Benefit Tournament

Registration is now open for the James Riley 7-a-Side Youth Tournament on October 3 at Arena Sports in Redmond. Proceeds from the tournament benefit he Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club. There will be U10 and U12 divisions for both boys and girls, and Riley will present the trophies following each championship game. To register call (425) 885-4881 or go online to www.arenasports.net.

Expansion Teams: Year Two

The total of 33 points after 24 games is one point behind the 2009 team (8-6-10) at the same stage. Sounders FC became the first expansion team since 1998 to reach the playoffs. Chicago and Miami both qualified in their inaugural season, and each team had two fewer wins the following year.

Champions League Group C

Sounders FC is among four MLS teams competing in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League. The top two teams in each four-team group advance to the knockout rounds in early 2011. Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew and Toronto FC are the other MLS teams in contention. The L.A. Galaxy was eliminated in the preliminary round.

Group C consists of Seattle, Monterrey (Mexico), Saprissa (Costa Rica) and Marathon (Honduras). Sounders FC eliminated Isidro Metapan (El Salvador), 2-1 on aggregate, in the preliminary round while Marathon defeated Tauro (Panama), 4-2 on aggregate.

In group play each team plays one another twice, home and away. All Sounders FC games in Champions League will be televised by Fox Soccer Channel. The schedule for Group C (home teams listed first):

Round One

Tuesday, August 17

Monterrey (MEX) 1 vs. Saprissa (CRC) 0

Thursday, August 19

Marathon (HON) 2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC (USA) 0

Round Two

Wednesday, August 25

Seattle Sounders FC (USA) 0 vs. Monterrey (MEX) 2

Thursday, August 26

Saprissa (CRC) 4 vs. Marathon (HON) 1

Round Three

Tuesday, September 14

Monterrey (MEX) vs. Marathon (HON), 5 p.m. PT

Saprissa (CRC) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (USA), 7 p.m. PT

Round Four

Wednesday, September 22

Monterrey (MEX) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (USA), 5 p.m. PT

Marathon (HON) vs. Saprissa (CRC), 7 p.m. PT

Round Five

Tuesday, September 28

Saprissa (CRC) vs. Monterrey (MEX), 7 p.m. PT

Wednesday, September 29

Seattle Sounders FC (USA) vs. Marathon (HON), 7 p.m. PT

Round Six

Tuesday, October 19

Seattle Sounders FC (USA) vs. Saprissa (CRC), 7 p.m. PT

Wednesday, October 20

Marathon (HON) vs. Monterrey (MEX), 7 p.m. PT

From Here to There

Sounders FC qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League by winning the 2009 Lamar hunt U.S. Open Cup. The other U.S. berths went to Real Salt Lake (MLS Cup champion), Columbus Crew (MLS Supporters’ Shield winner) and L.A. Galaxy (MLS Cup runner-up). The former two receive automatic passage to the group stage. Toronto FC is Canada’s representative.

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. It finished tied, 2-2, on aggregate with Cruz Azul, but prevailed on away goals. Pachuca will represent CONCACAF in the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in December. Barcelona is the reigning world champion.

The Champions League consists of three stages: preliminary rounds, group play and knockout rounds. Group play will begin in mid-August and conclude in late October. Two teams from each group advance to the quarterfinals, to be played in February 2011. The quarterfinals, semifinals and final are two-match series with the winner determined by total aggregate goals. Away goals will be used as the tiebreaker. If teams remain tied after extra time in the second game, the outcome will be decided by penalty kicks.

Academy Teams Open October 2

The Sounders FC Youth Academy teams will open their respective inaugural seasons at home on October 2 at the Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Wash. The U18 side hosts the Nomads at 12 p.m. PT and the U16 boys play the Nomads counterparts at 2:30 p.m. PT.

Both squads meet the San Diego Surf on October 3 at Starfire. The first road matches are October 23 and 24 at Carson, Calif., against the academy teams from the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA.

Sounders FC is a member of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Northwest Division. For more information on the Sounders FC Youth Academy, visit www.SoundersFC.com.

Count ‘Em: 42 Matches

By the end of the regular season, no other MLS club will have played more matches than Sounders FC. Combining MLS (30), Champions League preliminary (2) and group stage (6) fixtures, plus Open Cup matches (4), Seattle will have played 42 competitive matches. It played 38, including MLS Cup playoffs, in 2009. The only other MLS club competing in three competitions is Columbus, which is also active in the CCL and Open Cup.

Sounders FC is in the midst of 10 consecutive weeks with midweek competitive matches, however it was idle the weekend off before traveling to Costa Rica. In addition to the six remaining regular season games, Sounders FC will play four CCL group stage matches and the U.S. Open Cup Final. There is also a friendly with Mexico’s Chivas de Guadalajara on October 12. Playoffs could potentially push that total to 16 competitive matches between now and November 21, the date of MLS Cup 2010.

Will Cup Runneth Over?

Sounders FC will host the Final at Qwest Field on October 5. The defending U.S. Open Cup champion, Seattle is bidding to become the first repeat winner since 1982-83 when the New York Pancyprian Freedoms won back-to-back. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, recognized as U.S. Soccer’s National Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament has crowned a champion for 96 consecutive years dating back to 1914. It is the oldest annual team tournament in U.S. sports history and among the oldest soccer tournaments of its type in the world. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor longtime soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.

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 MLS matches), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (the past 14), Osvaldo Alonso (seven games) and Brad Evans (the last 11). Mike Fucito, out 18 games with a knee injury since scoring the winner versus Kansas City on April 17, returned to action at New England on September 1.

Only two players have appeared in each of the 23 matches. Kasey Keller is the only player to start each fixture and he is the leader in minutes (2115), ranking sixth in MLS. Fredy Montero is the only outfield player with 24 appearances. Already Sigi Schmid has used 28 different players in MLS matches, compared to 22 in all of the inaugural season. Three players-Evans, Hurtado, and Peter Vagenas-are currently on the MLS disabled list.

1K and Counting

The minutes are mounting at a rapid rate with twice weekly matches of late. Three players have played more than 1,000 minutes during the 12 matches since July 25. In fact, Kasey Keller has played 14 complete matches (1290 minutes) in a row, dating back July 11. Osvaldo Alonso (1066 minutes) and Fredy Montero (1016) are the outfield players who have each played in 12 consecutive matches over all competitions. Right back James Riley played each minute (990) in 11 straight MLS, Champions League and Open before sitting out last week’s game with an ankle sprain.

Among the Leaders

Seattle leads the league in fouls suffered (290) and corner kicks (145) and is second in assists (34). Fredy Montero ranks among the top ten in goals (10; 4th) and assists (9; T-3rd). Montero also ranks fourth in shots (74) and shots on goal (30). He is tied third with four game-winning goals and tied fourth with three game-winning assists. Sanna Nyassi joins Montero with three game-winning assists. Montero is fifth in fouls committed (35) and fourth in fouls suffered (51). Steve Zakuani has eight goals (T-9th in MLS). Kasey Keller ranks sixth with 2115 minutes played and tied fourth with nine shutouts. He also posted the third longest shutout streak (379 minutes) in MLS this season (snapped on August 28 vs. Chicago).

Last CCL Match: Seattle Sounders FC 0, CF Monterrey 2 – August 25, 2010 – Recap

Sounders FC dropped to the bottom of the Group C standings despite finishing with a commanding advantage in shots and corner kicks. Neri Cardozo scored the first goal and assisted on the second for Monterrey. Aldo de Negris added the second goal for the visitors.

Sounders FC is winless through its first two Group C matches, having lost, 2-1, to CD Marathon in Honduras on August 19. In the other Group C game of Round Two, Saprissa of Costa Rica beat Marathon, 4-1.

Monterrey opened the scoring in the 41st minute. Jesus Zavala played a long ball into the box where it took one bounce before Cardozo headed it past an onrushing Kasey Keller. In the 58th minute Cardozo chipped a ball behind the Seattle defense and de Nigris touched it once before sending a right-footed strike inside the near post.

Sounders FC forward Nate Jaqua had a 90th minute goal called back. He knocked in the rebound of a Fredy Montero shot saved by Jonathan Orozco but the goal was disallowed due to offside.

Seattle nearly scored in the 61st minute off a Nathan Sturgis corner kick. Jaqua headed the ball towards goal but it was knocked down by keeper Jonathan Orozco. Montero had a chance to put away the rebound but the ball was cleared off the line.

Just minutes after entering the match as a halftime substitute, Jaqua served a ball to Sanna Nyassi who slid a shot past Orozco from 6 yards but it caromed off the right post.

Seattle owned statistical advantages in shots (17-7, 6-3 on goal) and corners (12-5).

The crowd of 22,513 was the second-largest for a Champions League/Champions Cup match played in the U.S.

Monterrey leads Group C with six points. Saprissa and Marathon each have three points. Seattle’s next Champions League match is September 14 at Saprissa.

Last MLS Match: Sounders FC 0, Real Salt Lake 0 – September 9, 2010 – Recap

Kasey Keller saved a first-half penalty kick as the Seattle Sounders FC extended its home unbeaten string to five matches with a scoreless draw in a nationally televised match.

Keller made his stop on RSL forward Robbie Findley in the 31st minute. Findley caught Jeff Parke off-balance in the box and the sprawling Seattle defender inadvertently tripped Findley, resulting in the penalty. Keller dived to his right and blocked Findley’s attempt from the spot.It was the Keller’s first career save on a penalty kick in MLS play.

Keller also made a diving save on Andy Williams’ shot from 25 yards in the 61st minute.

Osvaldo Alonso fired several dangerous long-range shots, including drives in the 42nd and 67th minutes that missed wide and high, respectively. His strike from 25 yards in the 41st minute forced a saved from Real goalkeeper Kyle Reynish.

Seattle held the advantage in shots 10-7 (2-2 on goal) and 6-2 on corner kicks.

About Columbus

The Crew lost for the first time in four contests, 3-1 to the L.A. Galaxy last Saturday. Despite the loss, Columbus sits three points of the points lead as it continues to defend its Supporters’ Shield. Columbus holds the Eastern Conference lead by four points over the New York Red Bulls. The Crew have four wins over West opponents this season and all four have been at Crew Stadium, where the side boasts a 4-1-1 record outside the conference. Overall, Columbus is 4-4-5 against West foes, including the 1-1 road draw at Qwest Field on May 1. In fact, all five Crew draws in MLS play have been against the West. Columbus will be seeking its first win (0-1-2) over Sounders FC.

Crew Notables

Guillermo Barros Schelotto leads the Crew offense with seven goals and eight assists in 23 appearances. He scored the game-winner against D.C. United on September 4. Steven Lenhart, the goal-scorer at Seattle in the first meeting of the year, has added five goals and two assists. Goalkeeper William Hesmer has started all 24 games in goal, allowing 23 goals (0.96 GAA). Hesmer has earned 10 shutouts (T-2nd in MLS). Midfielder Eddie Gaven returned to action on August 21 after suffering a head injury on July 31. He has started and played the full 90 in all four matches since his return. Gaven has three goals and three assists on the year. Forward Emilio Renteria has emerged as a force on the Crew offense, recording four goals and one assist in 16 games this season. The Crew have also added a new striker into the mix. Peruvian forward Andres Mendoza made his MLS debut at D.C. United on September 4 and scored his first MLS goal as a second-half substitute on Saturday against the Galaxy.

About Saprissa (courtesy of CONCACAF)

Club: Deportivo Saprissa

Founded: 1935

City: San Jose, Costa Rica

Stadium: Estadio Ricardo Saprissa

Manager: Roy Myers

Qualification method: Costa Rican Verano champion

Previous Champions League appearances: 2 (2008-09, 2009-10)

Honors: Costa Rican league – 29 (1952-53, 1953-54, 1957-58, 1962-63, 1964-65, 1965-66, 1967-68, 1969-70, 1972-73, 1973-74, 1974-75, 1976-77, 1977-78, 1982-83, 1988-89, 1989-90, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1997-98, 2003-04, 2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08 Apertura, 2007-08 Clausura, 2008-09 Apertura, 2010 Clausura); CONCACAF Champions Cup – 3 (1993, 1995, 2005); Copa Interclubes UNCAF – 5 (1972, 1973, 1978, 1998, 2003)

Official Web site: http://www.saprissa.co.cr/content

Not just the most decorated club in Costa Rica, Deportivo Saprissa is also one of the most successful clubs in the entire CONCACAF region. El Monstruo Morado (the Purple Monster) has won a record 29 Primera Division de Costa Rica titles and captured the CONCACAF Champions Cup, the predecessor to the Champions League, three times and have five Central American crowns. One of the greatest moments in club history came in 2005 when Saprissa became the first non-Mexican squad from CONCACAF to play in the FIFA Club World Cup. Saprissa finished third, equaling Mexico’s Necaxa for the best finish in the competition by a CONCACAF squad. Saprissa plays at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, a 23,112-seat fortress known as La Cueva del Monstruo (the Monster’s Cave) and has become a favorite for the Costa Rican national team. It is the only Latin America stadium featuring an artificial playing surface. Roy Myers, who has been capped 45 times and played in the 1990 World Cup for Costa Rica, is the manager. Former Costa Rican international defender Victor Cordero, who has been with Saprissa for 18 seasons, is the captain. Saprissa fell, 1-0, at Monterrey in the first round before beating Marathon, 4-1, at home. In the Costa Rican Primera Division, Saprissa is 3-3-2 and enters the week tied sixth in the league table. It beat Perez Zeledon, 4-1, on Sunday behind two goals from Josue Martinez. The return match against Sounders FC is October 20.

SEA/CLB Connections

Head coach Sigi Schmid served three seasons at the helm of the Crew, guiding Columbus to its first MLS Cup in November 2008. Schmid’s Columbus teams were 34-33-25 and he was named MLS Coach of the year in 2008. Alongside Schmid, Seattle midfielder Brad Evans, forward Pat Noonan and assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson were on the 2008 Crew squad. Evans scored the game-winning goal for the Crew in a playoff semifinal win. After two years in Columbus he was selected in the expansion draft and was a regular starter in the Seattle midfield before suffering a knee injury earlier this season. Noonan joined Columbus in 2008. Hendrickson played his final three seasons for the Crew.

The College Connection

Steve Zakuani, Seattle’s the No. 1 pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, attended the University of Akron, 126 miles northeast of Columbus. Sounders FC defender James Riley played alongside Columbus midfielder Brian Carroll (2001-02) and goalkeeper William Hesmer (2001-03) at Wake Forest. Taylor Graham and Roger Levesque played with Columbus defender Chad Marshall at Stanford for one season (2002). Columbus defender/midfielder Frankie Hejduk played three seasons at UCLA under Sigi Schmid. Pat Noonan and Crew midfielder Danny O’Rourke played together for two seasons at Indiana University (2001-02).

Previous Sounders FC-Columbus Crew Meetings

Sounders FC 1, Columbus Crew 1 – May 30, 2009 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Nate Jaqua scored the tying goal in the 58th minute to split the points with the defending champion Crew in Sigi Schmid’s first encounter with his former club. Columbus opened the scoring in the 12th minute of the match on a lunging header by Alejandro Moreno. On a quickly taken free kick, Jed Zayner slipped the ball up the right flank for Pat Noonan, whose cross found Moreno open at the far post for the finish past Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Early in the second half, Freddie Ljungberg assisted on the tying goal. He lobbed a ball behind the Columbus defense and near the right post for Jaqua’s 10-yard volley into the upper left corner of the net. It was the fifth consecutive tie for the Sounders FC. Seattle finished the match a man down after defender Tyrone Marshall was sent off the field in the 92nd minute of the match with a red card after a tussle with Steven Lenhart.

Sounders FC 1, Columbus 0 – October 3, 2009 – Crew Stadium (Match 28)

Seattle snapped an MLS record 22-game home unbeaten streak by Columbus and all but assured itself of a playoff berth by blanking the Eastern Conference leaders as Sigi Schmid made his first visit to Columbus since winning MLS Cup 2008. Sounders FC secured its lead in the 36th minute. Brad Evans played Fredy Montero into the box. Crew keeper William Hesmer got to the ball first but could not hold it. Roger Levesque located the rebound near the top of the area and slotted it into the back of the net for his first career MLS goal. The final 20 minutes were tense. In the 70th minute Tyrone Marshall twice saved Seattle. First, Marshall used an overhead kick to clear Steven Lenhart’s header from crossing the goal line. A moment later, a long-range drive by Kevin Burns was deflected wide of the right post by Marshall’s outstretched leg. Osvaldo Alonso nearly doubled the advantage to 2-0 in the 75th minute but his 20-yard attempt caromed off the right post, then the back of Hesmer before spinning out for a corner kick. The visitors dodged a final bullet in the 83rd minute. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado brought down Eddie Gaven, resulting in a Crew penalty kick. Guillermo Barros Schelotto took the spot kick but steered his shot wide left.

Sounders FC 1, Columbus Crew 1 – May 1, 2010 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Steve Zakuani’s record fastest goal helped earn a draw for Sounders FC against the unbeaten Crew before 36,219.Zakuani struck in the 4th minute. Fredy Montero found Freddie Ljungberg near the middle of the field, and Ljungberg instantly lofted the ball over the defense for Zakuani to run onto and beat Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer from 10 yards.Columbus equalized in first half stoppage time. In the 46th minute, Danny O’Rourke’s cross found Steven Lenhart who headed the ball from short range past Kasey Keller.Seattle attempted to answer with several scoring opportunities in the second half. A 25-yard drive by Montero in the 52nd minute deflected off defender Andy Iro before hitting the right post. Leo Gonzalez played a ball over the top of Ljungberg in the 67th minute but his shot also struck the right post. Montero had a goal nullified in second half stoppage time for a foul on Sanna Nyassi.Seattle had a 16-7 advantage in shots (3-3 on goal) and 9-4 on corner kicks.Three Crew players were issued yellow cards. O’Rourke received his second yellow card in the 85th minute, forcing Columbus to finish the match with 10 men.

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)

45,631 July 18, 2010 Seattle v Celtic (friendly)

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

36,386 August 28, 2010 Seattle v Chicago

36,344 June 5, 2010 Seattle v New England

36,333 July 25, 2010 Seattle v Colorado

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

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

Fans: Opportunity Knocks

Sounders FC fans have filled the stadium to capacity for 29 consecutive MLS matches. Tickets are available for the final two CONCACAF Champions League home matches, September 29 versus CD Marathon of Honduras and October 19 versus CD Saprissa of Costa Rica. Deposits of $50 per seat are also being taken for new 2011 season ticket memberships. For tickets to Sounders FC home matches, call 1-877-MLS-GOAL or www.SoundersFC.com.

Sounders FC Roster

The following players are currently training with Sounders FC: Goalkeepers (3): Terry Boss, Jordan Jennings*, 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, Alvaro Fernandez, Sanna Nyassi, Michael Seamon, Nathan Sturgis, Peter Vagenas; Forwards (9): Mike Fucito, Blaise Nkufo, Nate Jaqua, Roger Levesque, Miguel Montano, Fredy Montero, Pat Noonan, Ty Perdido*, Steve Zakuani.

* invitee

Throw-ins

Saturday’s match will be the first for the Sounders FC on grass in seven matches, dating back to the August 19 group stage opener at Marathon…Seattle is 3-0-3 in its last six meetings with Western Conference opponents after starting off 0-4-3…Secondary assists for Patrick Ianni and James Riley were removed from the official scoring on both Seattle goals versus Chicago on August 28….Sanna Nyassi returned to action versus RSL, coming on as a substitute in the 74th minute. Nyassi missed the New England league match and Open Cup semifinal with Chivas USA after being called in to the Gambia National Team for an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Banjul, Gambia on September 4. Nyassi did not dress for the game. His national team duty interrupted his string of six consecutive starts in MLS matches…September 18 is the 38th anniversary of the NASL Sounders’ 1-0 loss to the New York Cosmos in Soccer Bowl ’82.

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