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Sounders FC

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

September 21, 2010 at 11:55 AM

Sounders FC weekly release of team news and notes

Buoyed by a record-shattering performance in its last outing, the Seattle Sounders FC ventures out on the long and winding road again this week before settling in at home for the majority of its remaining matches. First the Rave Green faces a tough test in CONCACAF Champions League play at Mexico’s CD Monterrey on Wednesday night at 5 p.m. PT. Following that is a game with MLS playoff implications at the Chicago Fire on Saturday at 5 p.m. PT.

Fox Soccer Channel will televise the midweek match live. Saturday’s game at Toyota Park in Bridgeville, Illinois will be broadcast on KONG 6/16, KIRO 97.3 FM, THIS-TV and Homero 1210 AM.

In Mexico, Sounders FC is shooting to get off the schneid in the Group C table of the Champions League after losing its third straight, 2-0, at Costa Rica’s CD Saprissa last week. Seattle has dropped all three of its group games thus far, however its final two CCL dates are at home. Monterrey has won its first three matches with a plus-5 goal differential.

It’s a much brighter picture for the Sounders FC with regard to the MLS Cup Playoffs. An emphatic 4-0 victory at Eastern Conference leader Columbus last week kept Seattle in the fourth and final wild card playoff position.

Sounders FC (10-9-6, 36 points) is sixth in the West on goal difference, but has lost only once (6-1-3) in its last 10 league matches. Chicago, featuring former Seattle midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, is struggling to remain in the postseason hunt. The Fire (6-9-8, 26 points) is fifth in the East and winless (0-2-2) in four games since losing, 2-1, on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field on August 28. It was the first win in the series after two draws a year ago.

The Rave Green is 4-5-3 on the road with three of those wins coming in the last five games. Chicago is 3-2-6 at home.

Seattle sent shockwaves through the MLS landscape on Saturday, dealing the Crew its worst home loss in five years. Furthermore, the three goals of striker Blaise Nkufo may signal the awakening of a potentially ferocious three-pronged attack featuring the Swiss international as well as Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani.

Beginning September 29 when it hosts Saprissa at 7 p.m. PT in the Champions League, Sounders FC plays three in a row at home. On October 2 at 12:30 p.m. PT Toronto FC comes to town and Columbus arrives on October 5 for a rematch, this time in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final at 7 p.m. PT.

Arlo White will call the play on KONG 6/16 and KIRO 97.3 FM. Jaime Mendez teams with Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar on THIS-TV (Comcast channel 114) and Rene Aleman, Noe Menendez and Victor Hernandez provide details and commentary on Homero 1210 AM.

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

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

Saturday, September 25, 5:00 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

Tuesday, October 5, 7 p.m. – Columbus Crew, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle (Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final)

Bright Horizons

While it’s far from a magic carpet ride, the team’s travels of late have been pleasant enough. Sounders FC has taken 10 of a possible 15 points in its last five MLS road matches, going 3-1-1. It started with a last-minute win at D.C. United on July 15, but the other two victories have come at the expense of two clubs well-positioned for the playoffs: San Jose and Columbus. The uptick in fortunes is reminiscent of 2009, when the Rave Green rebounded from a 1-4-4 start away to finish strong at 4-1-1.

Looking for Points

Still searching for its first points of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage, Seattle may find that a tall order at the formidable home of Monterrey this week. The Rayados have gone 3-0-1 in four home matches in Mexico’s Primera Division and in CCL they have beaten Saprissa and Marathon at home by a combined count of 3-nil. Sounders FC is mathematically alive in the race for one of two Group C berths in next spring’s knockout rounds, however it would need to run the table and win its final three matches, plus get some help. Since Roger Levesque’s goal in the 17th minute at Marathon, Seattle has been scoreless for 253 minutes of CCL play. Without a win at Monterrey, a Saprissa victory over Marathon on Wednesday night (7 p.m. PT) would eliminate Sounders FC.

Home Comfort Awaits

Once it completes this week’s travel, Sounders FC will play five of its next seven competitive matches at home. That includes two MLS and two Champions League dates, and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final. In addition there’s a friendly with CD Chivas de Guadalajara on October 12. That’s not only good news for fans wishing to see their favorites in the flesh, the players are also in fine form at home. In MLS play Seattle is unbeaten (3-0-2) in its last five home games and has not lost in its last seven (5-0-2) since June 10 in domestic competition.

Nobody’s Hotter

Seattle’s 21 points from its last 10 games (6-1-3) is the best in MLS, one more point than FC Dallas (20, 5-0-5), which is unbeaten in 15 matches overall. Four of those wins have been by a single goal, including game-winners in the final minutes against D.C. United and Chicago. With the four-goal margin at Columbus, Seattle’s season goal differential is back in the black for the first time in four months at plus-1. A win at Chicago would put Sounders FC two games over .500 for the first time this season.

Blaise of Glory

He speaks softly but Blaise Nkufo’s scoring feats can easily pump up the volume. Already a legend in the Netherlands as defending champion FC Twente’s all-time scoring king, Nkufo opened his MLS and Seattle account with a hat trick at Columbus. He returned to the starting XI after a two-game absence and promptly put the visitors ahead in the fourth minute, punching home a rebound out of a goalmouth scramble. Nkufo executed close control and precise placement on his second marker and his third was a clinical finish to the corner on a first-time drive from 15 yards.

Nkufo was named MLS Player of the Week, becoming the third Sounders FC player to earn that distinction in the last nine weeks. Steve Zakuani was the winner in Week 17 and Fredy Montero in Week 22.

Nkufo put four of his five shots on target, tying a team record. His hat trick comes only six matches into his MLS career. According to Elias, he joins Stern John of Columbus (1998) and Zack Schilawski of New England (2010) as the only players whose first MLS goal was part of a hat trick.

Opportunity Knocks

To stay fresh in its quest for silverware in three competitions, Sounders FC must rely upon its depth. Among those who have emerged in the second half of the MLS season to make major contributions are defender Zach Scott and midfielders Nathan Sturgis and Sanna Nyassi. Scott has started the past three matches in relief of regular right back James Riley. Scott had made only two league starts in the first four months of the campaign but used the Open Cup to sharpen his game for the second half. Nyassi, after only three starts in the first 17 MLS matches, has started six of the last eight, assisting on three goals and drawing the penalty at Columbus. Sturgis, who stroked home the spot kick for his first MLS goal, has started nine of the last 10. He also had his first MLS assist, the game-winner in the 92nd minute at home against Chicago.

Add a Zero at 50

Kasey Keller marked his 50th consecutive MLS start with a second straight shutout at Columbus. He made five saves, equaling the most he’s totaled in a clean sheet. He leaped to thwart Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the 54th minute and later batted away an effort by Eddie Gaven. It was his 10th shutout, tying his sum for 2009 with five games still to play. The two-time MLS All-Star has yet to miss a league match due to injury and this year, at age 40, he leads the club with 2205 minutes played. Keller’s stop of Real Salt Lake’s Robbie Findley from the spot on September 9 was voted MLS Save of the Week.

Five thousand Miles to Seattle

It’s a new week and a new flight plan for Sounders FC. After racking up a combined 7,981 miles to Costa Rica and Columbus last week, the team returned to rest and refuel before going another 4,980 miles to Monterrey and Chicago and back home this week. 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. This season there are an additional four trips for Champions League play, including last month’s excursions to El Salvador and Honduras.

For the Record

Several records were broken in the win over the Crew. Blaise Nkufo set new standards for goals (3) and total points (6), and he tied the marks for earliest goal (4th minute) and shots on goal (4). It was the team’s largest margin of victory to date. The three first-half goals matched the mark set earlier this season against New England. The seven first-half shots on goal set a new club record.

Postseason Picture

The playoff chase has only just begun in MLS, but Sounders FC (36 points) currently holds a five-point lead over its closest competitor for the eighth and final postseason slot. Toronto FC (31) is next in line, followed by Kansas City (30, with two games in hand) and Chicago (26, two games in hand).

FC Factoids

— Sounders FC is 8-1-3 in its last 12 domestic (MLS and Open Cup) matches; 6-1-3 in MLS

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

— Fredy Montero has scored (10) or assisted (9) on 19 of 30 MLS goals scored this season

— 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 50 consecutive MLS matches, dating to April 25, 2009

— Keller’s 10 shutouts matches his 2009 total

— Montero and Osvaldo Alonso have started the last 12 matches in all competitions (July 31)

— Half of the team’s 30 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 9-2-3 when scoring first and 0-6-2 when allowing two or more goals

— Eight of the 10 MLS victories have been shutouts and in the 13 wins over all competitions the average goals allowed is 0.23.

Countdown to 45

Seattle’s second-half surge has the club nearly on par with the inaugural season when it became the first expansion franchise in 11 years to reach the playoffs. Sounders FC had 37 points through 25 matches last season, compared to 36 now. Sigi Schmid has once again set a target of 45 points for his club to make the postseason, and Sounders FC is nine points way from that objective. It totaled 47 points and went 12-7-11 in 2009.

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 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.

Penalty Phase

As it turned out, the fifth try was golden. Nathan Sturgis became the first Sounders FC player to score from the penalty spot at Columbus. Until then the Rave Green had been snakebit, failing to score on four attempts in MLS and Champions League play. Four days earlier in Costa Rica, Osvaldo Alonso had his penalty saved by Saprissa’s keeper.

Seattle was thwarted in three attempts in MLS games: Freddie Ljungberg vs. Columbus (wide left) on May 30, 2009; Fredy Montero vs. New England (crossbar) on August 20, 2009; and Pat Noonan vs. Philadelphia (saved) on June 27, 2010.

In U.S. Open Cup play, Sebastien Le Toux had converted against Kansas City on July 7, 2009, and Sturgis, Montero, Steve Zakuani and Zach Scott scored in a tiebreaker at Portland in the third round of this year’s tournament on June 30.

We Meet Again

This will be the second meeting between the Sounders FC and Fire since Freddie Ljungberg’s move to Toyota Park on July 30. Ljungberg’s season and a half in Seattle was highlighted by being voted to the MLS First XI and two All-Star teams. He assisted on the final four goals of the 2009 season and finished with a league-best five game-winning assists. His 37th and final appearance for Sounders FC was on July 4 at L.A. He totaled two goals and 12 assists with the club. Ljungberg has two assists in his eight appearances for Chicago.

McBride & Keller: Together One Last Time

Barring a playoff pairing between their two clubs Saturday will be the last competitive meeting between two longtime standouts of American soccer, Seattle’s Kasey Keller and Chicago’s Brian McBride. McBride has announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season. He was a regular teammate of Keller on the U.S. National Team, including the 1998, 2002 and 2006 World Cups, as well as with England’s Fulham in 2007-08.

Roster is Set

In moves just prior to the MLS roster freeze date, midfielder/forward Pat Noonan was placed on the club’s disabled list and midfielder Brad Evans was activated, effective October 2. Noonan, 30, out since July 24 with an adductor strain, started eight of 12 appearances with one goal and one assist. His last appearance was in a starting role on July 15 at D.C. United, playing 88 minutes in the 1-0 win. Evans, placed on the DL on August 17, started 11 of 12 appearances this season with one goal and three assists. His last appearance was June 10.

Defense Never Rests

The shutout of the Crew was Seattle’s sixth in the last nine MLS matches, and the defense takes a scoreless streak of 189 minutes into Chicago. In the last 10 league games the GAA is 0.60. A penalty kick by the Fire snapped a 379-minute scoreless streak on August 28.

Changes in the XI

Two changes were made to the first XI last week at Columbus. Sanna Nyassi returned to the right side of midfield and Blaise Nkufo was back at striker, both for the first time since August 28 against Chicago.

Suspensions to be Served

Seattle will be without defender Leo Gonzalez and forward Roger Levesque in Monterrey. Gonzalez must miss the match after receiving a red card at Saprissa last week. Levesque was issued his second yellow card of the tournament and must also serve a one-match suspension.

Jaqua First to Test Toyota Park Nets

While playing for the Fire, Nate Jaqua scored the first two goals at Toyota Park on June 11, 2006 against New England, in the 39th and 79th minutes. Jaqua went on to score four more times at the Bridgeville, Ill., stadium, including one for Houston against Chicago in 2007.

Chivas de Guadalajara Tickets on Sale

Good seats still remain for the October 12 friendly with CD Chivas de Guadalajara. 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 are 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.

With nearly 23,000 tickets already sold, the Open Cup final will be played before a record crowd on October 5. The record attendance for an Open Cup final is 21,583 in 1929 between New York Hakoah and Madison Kennel Club of St. Louis. The record in the tournament’s modern era, which began in 1996 when MLS teams joined, is 19,164 for the 2000 final between the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion.

The turnout of 22,513 for the Sounders FC 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.

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 seasons, 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) 2 vs. Marathon (HON) 0

Saprissa (CRC) 2 vs. Seattle Sounders FC (USA) 0

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. The Crew, which wrapped up 2009-10 Champions League play in March, will also play 42 competitive matches.

In addition to the five remaining regular season games, Sounders FC will play three 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 14 competitive matches between now and November 21, the date of MLS Cup 2010.

Will Cup Runneth Over?

Sounders FC will host the U.S. Open cup final at Qwest Field on October 5. The current cup holder, 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 15), Osvaldo Alonso (seven games), Pat Noonan (the the last eight) and Brad Evans (the last 12). 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 25matches. Kasey Keller is the only player to start each fixture and he is the leader in minutes (2205). Fredy Montero is the only outfield player with 25 appearances. Already Sigi Schmid has used 28 different players in MLS matches, compared to 22 in all of the inaugural season. Three players-Hurtado, Noonan and Peter Vagenas-are 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 14 matches since July 25. Kasey Keller played 14 complete matches (1290 minutes) in a row, dating from July 11 to September 9. Osvaldo Alonso (1246 minutes) and Fredy Montero (1196) are the outfield players who have each played in 14 consecutive matches over all competitions. Keller has played in 31 matches (2775 minutes), and Montero, 32 (2556).

Among the Leaders

Seattle leads the league in fouls suffered (305) and corner kicks (150) and is second in assists (35). Fredy Montero ranks among the top ten in goals (10; T-5th) and assists (9; T-3rd). Montero is also tied for second in shots (80) and is fourth in shots on goal (31). He is tied for fourth with four game-winning goals and three game-winning assists. Sanna Nyassi joins Montero with three game-winning assists. Montero is tied for fourth in fouls committed (37) and third in fouls suffered (53). Steve Zakuani has eight goals (T-12th in MLS). Kasey Keller ranks fifth with 2205 minutes played and tied for second with 10 shutouts. He also posted the fifth longest shutout streak (379 minutes) in MLS this season (snapped on August 28 vs. Chicago).

Last MLS Match: Sounders FC 4, Columbus Crew 0 – September 18, 2010 – Recap

Blaise Nkufo recorded the first hat trick in franchise history and Nathan Sturgis converted a penalty kick as the Seattle Sounders FC beat the Eastern Conference leader Columbus Crew.

Nkufo and Sturgis both recorded their first career MLS goals and Sounders FC set a club record with four goals.

In the 4th minute, Nathan Sturgis whipped in a corner kick that Fredy Montero headed into the chest of Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer. Nkufo knocked the rebound past Hesmer for his first goal as a Sounder. Nkufo tied the mark for earliest goal in club history, set by Steve Zakuani (vs. Crew, 5/1/10).

Nkufo added another tally in the 39th minute. He took a cross from Zach Scott, dribbled into the box and slid a left-footed shot into the corner of the net.

Just minutes later, Sanna Nyassi was taken down in the box by Crew defender Danny O’Rourke. Sturgis stepped up and buried the shot into the low left corner, tying the club record with three first-half goals. It was the first made penalty kick for Sounders FC in MLS. Seattle had previously missed three.

Nkufo became the first player in Sounders FC history to record a hat trick when he beat Hesmer in the 75th minute. Steve Zakuani beat the Crew defense to the endline and found Nkufo at the top of the box, and he blasted a right-footed shot into the top corner of the net. He became the fourth player to record a hat trick in MLS this season and the team is 5-0-1 when Nkufo starts.

Kasey Keller, making his 50th consecutive MLS start, made five saves to earn his 10th shutout.In the 54th minute, Keller dived to his right to knock away Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s shot. Keller made another diving save on a Schelotto shot in the 7th minute. He also dived to save Eddie Gaven’s shot in the 80th minute.

Seattle held a commanding advantage in shots 16-14 (8-5 on goal).

About Chicago

Chicago (6-9-8, 26 points) is fifth in the Eastern Conference and sits 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with seven games remaining. The Fire lost last Saturday to Real Salt Lake, 1-0, at Rio Tinto Stadium, extending its winless streak to six games. It played down a man after Wilman Conde was shown his second yellow card, resulting in a penalty kick. Chicago has just two wins against the West in 12 games this season. Six of the club’s eight draws have come at Toyota Park, where the club holds a record of 3-2-6. Its last home win was against the New England Revolution on August 18. Chicago could miss playoffs for just the second time in club history.

Fire Notables

Mexican international striker Nery Castillo and former Sounder Freddie Ljungberg joined the Fire midseason. Castillo has started six of seven matches but is still searching for his first MLS point. Ljungberg has recorded two assists in eight appearances with the club; both assists were against Houston on August 21. Brian McBride returned to the club after an injury-shortened season last year. McBride has four goals and two assists in 19 appearances. Midfielder Marco Pappa, who recently returned from an injury he suffered during play with the Guatemala National Team, has helped spark the Fire’s offense with a team-high seven goals and four assists in 19 appearances. Chicago’s back line will continue to shuffle this week as Wilman Conde was sent off with two yellow cards against RSL. Left back Gonzalo Segares recently returned to the starting lineup after serving a two-game red card suspension. Ghanaian forward Patrick Nyarko has seven assists (T-7th in MLS) in 20 appearances. Sean Johnson, the 21 year-old goalkeeper, has started the last nine games in net. He has allowed 12 goals for a goals against average of 1.33. Newly signed Serbian midfielder Bratislav Ristic started for the first time against RSL after training with the team for much of the summer. Ristic played professionally in Serbia, Ukraine and Russia.

About Monterrey (Courtesy of CONCACAF)

Club: Club de Futbol Monterrey

Founded: 1945

City: Monterrey, Mexico

Stadium: Estadio Tecnologico

Manager: Victor Manuel Vucetich

Qualification method: Mexican Apertura winner

Previous Champions League appearances: None

Honors: Mexico league – 3 (1986, 2003, 2009); Copa Mexico – 1 (1991); CONCACAF Cup Winners Cup – 1 (1993)

Official Web site: http://www.terra.com.mx/rayados

Monterrey’s Champions League debut featured a goal by Aldo De Negris midway through the first half of its home victory over Saprissa on August 17. In its Mexican Primera Division match on August 21 at Pachuca, Monterrey struck twice in nine minutes to take the lead but eventually settled for a 2-2 draw. The Rayados, undefeated (3-0-2) in the first five games of the Apertura, qualified by winning the 2009 Apertura title, beating Cruz Azul 6-4 on aggregate. Chilean Humberto Suazo, who has since joined Spain’s Real Zaragoza on loan, helped lead the Rayados to their third major Mexican league crown. Although Suazo is gone, Monterrey is home to Mexican international Luis Perez, longtime former Mexican center back Duilo Davino and Jesus Arellano. Monterrey plays at 32,000-seat Estadio Tecnologico, the second oldest stadium in Mexico after Estadio Azul. Plans are in the works for the club to move to Estadio de Futbol Monterrey in Guadalupe, a 50,000-seat stadium pattered after Wembley Stadium in England. The team is owned by FEMSA, the largest beverage company in Mexico and Mexican Victor Manuel Vucetich is the manager, the team’s 25th since 1962.

Monterrey defeated Atlas, 2-0, in domestic play on Saturday and is tied with Santos atop the Apertura Group 1 table with an unbeaten record of 5-0-3. The Rayados play at Queretaro on Saturday. Monterrey beat Marathon, 2-0, at home last week and now leads the group with nine points and a plus-5 goal differential. Aldo de Nigris has scored three times in as many CCL matches, including one at Seattle in the first meeting.

Last CCL Match: Seattle Sounders FC 0, Saprissa 2 – September 14, 2010 – Recap

Down to 10 men for the entire second half, Sounders FC surrendered two second-half goals and was unable to capitalize on a penalty kick, as Costa Rica’s Saprissa won at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.

Seattle’s Leo Gonzalez, a native of San Jose, attempting to win the ball was issued a red card in the 38th minute for a high kick foul to the thigh towards Saprissa’s Jairo Arrieta.

Saprissa took advantage in the 56th minute when David Guzman took Fernando Paniagua’s pass and shot inside the far post past goalkeeper Terry Boss for the 1-0 lead.

It was Boss’ second competitive match for Seattle, having replaced an injured Kasey Keller for the second half versus Dallas on April 22.

Seattle had a chance to even the score in the 67th minute when Fredy Montero was tripped inside the box by Saprissa defender Gabriel Badilla.

Osvaldo Alonso took the penalty, but Fausto Gonzalez dived to his right and saved the midfielder’s shot.

Saprissa secured the win on a counterattack in the 82nd minute, as Josue Martinez found forward Allan Aleman who slipped the ball past Boss for the 2-0 advantage.

First Meeting with Monterrey: Sounders FC 0, 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 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field was the second-largest for a Champions League/Champions Cup match played in the U.S.

Previous Sounders FC-Chicago Fire Meetings

Sounders FC 1, Chicago Fire 1 – May 2, 2009 – Toyota Park

Tyrone Marshall’s goal in the 74th minute earned the shorthanded Sounders FC a draw with the unbeaten Fire. Seattle played the final 42 minutes with 10 men following a red card to top scorer Fredy Montero. Montero was ejected in the 48th minute after his elbow struck Gonzalo Segares as the two battled for a header. Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the 68th minute on an 18-yard shot by Marco Pappa, a first-time hit following a pass by Cuauhtemoc Blanco. It was the first goal allowed by Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller after an MLS record 457 scoreless minutes to begin the season. Marshall’s goal, the first in two years by the central defender, came from close range as his outstretched left foot poked home a corner kick from Freddie Ljungberg. It was Ljungberg’s first MLS assist and it was also Seattle’s first goal off a set piece this season. Keller made four saves as Chicago finished with a 15-4 advantage in shots, including 5-1 on goal.

Sounders FC 0, Chicago Fire 0 – July 25, 2009 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Two red cards issued early in the second half contributed to a scoreless draw which lengthened Seattle’s unbeaten string to six games (3-0-3). Nate Jaqua got on the end of Freddie Ljungberg’s corner in the 2nd minute with the ball hitting the post and Fire keeper Jon Busch pushing out the rebound. Fredy Montero hit the crossbar in the 80th minute and Chicago’s Brandon Prideaux sent a shot off the crossbar with two minutes left on the clock. In the 54th minute Seattle went a man up for the first time during the season as the Fire’s John Thorrington drew his second yellow for a foul against Ljungberg. However, the advantage didn’t last long. Ljungberg was issued two cautions that resulted in an ejection in the 59th minute. It was the first scoreless draw for the Sounders FC.

Sounders FC 2, Chicago Fire 1 – August 28, 2010 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Fredy Montero scored two goals, including the game-winning header in second-half stoppage time, as the Sounders FC extended its unbeaten streak to seven league games.Montero equalized Chicago’s penalty kick with a strike in the 36th minute and then scored the decisive goal in the 92nd minute before a record MLS crowd of 36,386.In the second minute of second-half stoppage time, James Riley took a quick throw-in to Nathan Sturgis who served a left-footed cross to Montero, lurking at the far post. Montero headed the ball down, past keeper Sean Johnson, for his 10th goal. Montero’s equalizer came in the 36th minute. Defender Tyson Wahl, making his first appearance since April 25, served a long ball to the box. Montero chased it down, touched the ball once as he beat two defenders and blasted a shot inside the near post. Chicago had taken an early lead on a penalty kick in the 27th minute. Seattle’s Jeff Parke was whistled for a handball in the box when Patrick Nyarko’s pass struck his arm. John Thorrington stepped up and knocked the penalty kick past Kasey Keller. It was the first goal allowed by Seattle in MLS play since July 25, snapping the club’s record 379-minute opponent scoreless streak. Seattle finished with a 12-9 edge in shots (4-4 on goal) and 6-4 on corner kicks and all four Montero shots were on target, including a free kick from 25 yards in the 3rd minute which was saved by Johnson with a lunge to the right post. Defender Leo Gonzalez missed the match while serving a red card suspension.

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 visit www.SoundersFC.com.

Sounders FC Roster

The following players are currently training with Sounders FC: Goalkeepers (2): Terry Boss, 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

Seattle is 4-5-5 against teams currently occupying the other seven playoff spots, with a 3-0-2 mark since the midway point of the campaign…Steve Zakuani’s assist on Blaise Nkufo’s third goal at Columbus gave him four for the season, matching his season total for 2009…Nkufo’s first goal was preceded by a Nathan Sturgis corner kick. Seattle leads MLS in corners, scoring twice…The Seattle SeaDogs indoor team played the Monterrey La Raza from 1995-97 in the CISL. La Raza won CISL championships in 1995 and 1996 before the SeaDogs (with assistant coach Brian Schmetzer) won in 1997…Sounders FC is 7-5-1 against East teams this season…Saturday is the fifth anniversary of the USL Sounders’ semifinal-clinching, 2-1 playoff win at Montreal on September 25, 2005. Roger Levesque scored the series’ decisive goal in the 90th minute. Seattle went on to defeat Richmond for its third championship…Sounders FC wore its blue jerseys at Columbus, raising its record to 3-1-2 in that garb…With Portland and Vancouver joining MLS in 2011, the schedule will expand to 34 matches over 32 weeks, beginning on March 19, 2011. Teams have played 30 games since 2007, but have played as much as 32 in seven different seasons.

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