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Sounders FC

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

September 27, 2010 at 6:15 PM

Sounders FC weekly release of team news and notes

Sounders FC Returns Home for Next Three Matches

Three huge matches across a spectrum of three competitions await the Seattle Sounders FC upon its return home from two weeks of travel. The Rave Green aims to stay alive in the CONCACAF Champions League, strengthen its bid to make the MLS Cup Playoffs and, finally, raise a trophy before a record crowd of its loyal fans.

Sounders FC begins the home stand on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. PT against CD Marathon of Honduras in Round Five of the Champions League group stage. A victory, together with a CF Monterrey win over CD Saprissa on Tuesday, would keep alive hopes of reaching the tournament’s knockout stage next spring. The match will be nationally televised on Fox Soccer Channel and can be heard on KIRO 97.3 FM.

Next, on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. PT, Seattle (11-9-6, 39 points) hosts one of its closest challengers for an MLS postseason wild card slot. Toronto FC (8-11-7, 31), which defeated Sounders FC, 2-0, back on April 25 at BMO Field, will be desperate for a victory to stay alive.

Sounders FC is undefeated in its last five (3-0-2) league home games and has not lost in its last seven (5-0-2) since June 10 in domestic competition. Saturday’s match will be the 30th consecutive sellout and can be seen on KONG 6/16 and heard on KIRO 97.3 FM.

At stake next Tuesday, October 5, will be possession of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Seattle will defend its 2009 title against the Columbus Crew, winner of three MLS trophies in the past two years. First kick is 7 p.m. PT and Fox Soccer Channel will air the game live along with KIRO 97.3FM.

Tickets are still available for both the Marathon and Open Cup final matches at www.SoundersFC.com, by calling 800-745-3000, or at all Ticketmaster outlets and the Qwest Field Box office.

Seattle went the distance last week, logging the last of its 18,000 miles of September travel and coming through late to vanquish the Chicago Fire, 1-nil, on the road. It was the third straight shutout and raised the club’s record to 7-1-3 in the second half of the season.

Although Sounders FC has yet to earn a point in the group stage, there remains an opportunity to claim the second-place position in Group C by winning Wednesday and against Saprissa in the sixth and final round on October 19. Sounders FC squandered a 2-0 halftime lead in falling, 3-2, at Monterrey last week. Seattle would need Monterrey to defeat Saprissa and Marathon, and Sounders FC must finish with a superior goal differential.

Marathon edged Sounders FC, 2-1, at home on August 19. Last week it dropped Saprissa, 2-1.

In MLS the picture is much rosier for the Rave Green. Seattle moved up in the wild card standings last week and increased its lead over its nearest challengers.

Seattle seeks to become the first team in the Open Cup’s modern era to retain the championship. By doing so, it would double the size of its trophy collection and also likely ensure a berth in the 2011-12 Champions League.

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

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)

Saturday, October 9, 5:00 p.m. – at Kansas City Wizards, CommunityAmerica Ballpark, Kansas City, Kansas

Tuesday, October 12, 7 p.m. – CD Chivas de Guadalajara, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Sounders FC Factoids

— Sounders FC is 9-1-3 in its last 13 domestic (MLS and Open Cup) matches; 7-1-3 in MLS

— With 39 points through 26 matches Seattle is one point ahead of the 2009 pace (9-6-11, 38 points) and it is two wins above .500 for the first time this season

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

— Blaise Nkufo has scored four goals, including both game-winners, in the last two matches and Seattle is 6-0-1 in his seven starts

— Fredy Montero scored (9) or assisted (7) on 16 of 19 MLS goals scored between April 22 and August 28.

— Montero has 12 goals (six game-winners) and 10 assists in all competitions. He is one of two players to rank among MLS top ten in both goals (10) and assists (9).

— Sounders FC has three consecutive shutouts and clean sheets in six of the last eight.

— The 11 wins is one shy of the 2009 total and the 11 shutouts surpasses the 10 earned last year

— Kasey Keller has played in 51 consecutive MLS matches, dating to April 25, 2009

— Sixteen of the team’s 31 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 10-2-3 when scoring first and 0-6-2 when allowing two or more goals

— Nine of the 11 MLS victories have been shutouts and in the 14 wins over all competitions the average goals allowed is 0.21.

Suddenly Stingy

Seattle’s defense has held firm for the past three MLS matches with three consecutive shutouts, and over the second half of the season is yielding only an average of 0.55 goals (six in 11 games) with seven shutouts. The 11 shutouts is one more than the entire 2009 season. Prior to the current stingy stretch of 279 minutes (third-longest) there was a club-record 379-minute scoreless streak in July and August. During the first half of the season Sounders FC allowed 1.53 goals per game. Since July 11 the back four of James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez has started together six times. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller has started 51 consecutive games and has 21 shutouts in 55 career appearances.

What They’ve Done Lately

Without a doubt the Rave Green has been a team to be reckoned with in both the second half of the season and the latter stages matches. Five of the victories have featured winning goals scored in the 85th minute or beyond. Last week, Blaise Nkufo secured the points at Chicago with a strike in the 88th minute. Before that, were late heroics against Kansas City (Mike Fucito/90′), New York (Fredy Montero/85′), D.C. United (Roger Levesque/89′) and Chicago at home (Montero/92′). Altogether eight matches have been decided in the final five minutes of regulation.

Blaise of Glory

First came an MLS Player of the Week award, then Blaise Nkufo collected a Goal of the Week prize for the second of his three sublime scores at Columbus. Now he’s a candidate for Player of the Month following his decisive strike to win in the 88th minute at Chicago. With Nkufo starting at striker Seattle is 6-0-1. He joined the club on July 15 after playing for the Swiss National Team in the World Cup and finishing a seven-year run with Holland’s FC Twente as the Enschede side’s career scoring leader and an Eredivise championship in 2010.

Bright Horizons

Sounders FC has taken 13 of a possible 18 points in its last six MLS road matches, going 4-1-1. It started with a last-minute win at D.C. United on July 15, but the other three victories have come at the expense of clubs who are in the playoff hunt. 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.

Still Alive

Barring a win or draw by Saprissa against Monterrey on Tuesday night, Sounders FC goes into Wednesday’s match with a shot at still securing second place in its group of the CONCACAF Champions League. A loss to Marathon eliminates Seattle. Both Saprissa and Marathon are sitting on six points and Seattle can still reach that total by winning its final two CCL games, both at home. Marathon defeated Saprissa, 2-1, at home last week to keep the Rave Green’s advancement dreams alive. The sixth and final round of the group stage is next month. Sounders FC hosts Saprissa on October 19 and Marathon hosts Monterrey the following night.

Home Comfort Awaits

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 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 23 points from its last 10 games (7-1-2) is the best in MLS, three more points than FC Dallas (20, 5-0-5), which is unbeaten in 17 matches overall, and five more than Real Salt Lake (18, 4-0-6).Five of the Sounders FC wins have been by a single goal, including game-winners in the final minutes against D.C. United and Chicago (twice).

Kasey Being Kasey

Kasey Keller accomplishing the unexpected has come to be expected. Keller has come up with hundreds of spectacular stops in his storied career and while for him it’s just part of the job, the fans can’t get enough of it. Another nominee for September Player of the Month, he has won the online vote for MLS Save of the Week three times this year, including each of the last two weeks and a chance at making it three in a row. Keller stopped Chicago’s Marco Pappa twice from close range at the right post in the shutout of the Fire. A week earlier his denial of Columbus’ Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the 54th minute won the league award and Keller snuffed a penalty kick by Real Salt Lake’s Robbie Findley on September 9. For the month, Keller made 18 saves and allowed only three goals in four matches.

It’s All in the Rearview Now

The most traveled team in CONCACAF is now home, having flown nearly 18,000 miles for five matches in MLS and Champions League play in September. All’s well that ends well, and Sounders FC finished with road victories at Columbus and Chicago after a defeat at New England to open the odyssey. Seattle travels nearly 50,000 miles to its MLS matches this season. Added to that have been long flights to El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Mexico.

McLoughlin Appointed President of Seahawks, Sounders FC and First & Goal

Paul G. Allen has announced the appointment of Peter McLoughlin as president of the Seattle Seahawks, Sounders FC and First & Goal Inc. McLoughlin will assume responsibility for all business operations, sales and marketing, sponsorship, administration and operations of Seattle’s football and soccer franchises. As president of First & Goal, he will oversee management of Qwest Field and Event Center, and WaMu Theater.

“Peter is a bright, proven leader who believes as I do that the fans always come first and understands the importance of community,” Allen said. “He is experienced in all aspects of the business side of sports.

“Peter joins a very capable leadership team with General Manager John Schneider and Executive Vice President of Football Operations & Head Coach Pete Carroll. He is the best fit for the job to continue the growth of the Seahawks and Sounders FC.”

Allen is the sole owner of the Seahawks and a minority owner of the Sounders FC, the MLS team now in its second season.

As president of the Seahawks, McLoughlin will report to Allen and be in charge of all financial and business operations of the team. Schneider and Carroll report to Allen for football operations and to McLoughlin for budgetary and finance issues.

McLoughlin replaces Tod Leiweke, who after seven years leading Allen’s sports operations announced in July he was becoming a part-owner and executive of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. Leiweke participated in the search for his replacement.

Most recently, McLoughlin served as chief executive officer of St. Louis Blues Enterprises, which encompasses all business operations of the NHL Blues and Scottrade Center; including sales, marketing and finance.

During his tenure in St. Louis, the Blues saw dramatic increases in season ticket and sponsorship sales and television ratings. In the ESPN Fan Satisfaction Ratings, the Blues went from 63rd to 14th among all U.S. pro sports teams.

He has also been active in the St. Louis community. He led fundraising for the United Way and The Fourteen Fund, served on the board of directors for the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association, Regional Business Council, Boy Scouts of the Greater St. Louis Area and the St. Louis Sports Commission.

Promised Land in Sight

Sounders FC continues to strengthen its hold on a wild-card playoff spot. Beginning last week in the eighth and final position Seattle overtook Colorado (38, which has one game in hand) last week and increased its advantage over Kansas City (33, one game in hand), Toronto FC (31) and Chicago (26, two games in hand). The top two teams in each conference qualify automatically for the MLS Cup Playoffs. The next four teams, regardless of conference finish, earn wild card berths.

Spot on: Rave Green Averaging 1.5 Points

It’s been a consistent theme for Sigi Schmid: Average 1.5 points per match and good things will come. With the win at Chicago, Sounders FC has reached that threshold with 39 points from 26 games. Forty-five points is the objective and Schmid’s team is only six points away with four fixtures remaining. Seattle totaled 47 points (12-7-11) to become the first MLS expansion team in 11 years to make the playoffs in 2009.

In the first 14 years of MLS, only one team has hit 45 points (Kansas City in 2005) and 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.

Forza Fucito

Sounders FC came tantalizingly close to becoming the first MLS club to win on Mexican soil. And although it eventually succumbed to Monterrey, 3-2, Seattle seems to have found another power source. Second-year forward Mike Fucito figured in both first-half goals. First a Fucito goal attempt was deflected into the Monterrey net. A few minutes later he finished it himself, firing home from 15 yards to make it 2-nil. It was Fucito’s first goal since scoring the stoppage time winner against Kansas City on April 17.

Changes in the XI

James Riley returned to start at his customary right back position at Chicago. Riley had missed the previous two MLS matches (his first due to injury in two seasons with Seattle) with an ankle sprain. Schmid’s starting lineup at Chicago featured none of the starters from the Monterrey match.

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 over 24,000 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. The registration deadline is Wednesday, September 29. 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

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. Chicago, Miami and Chivas USA made the playoffs in their second year of play.

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, 5 p.m. PT

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

Round Four

Wednesday, September 22

Monterrey (MEX) 3 vs. Seattle Sounders FC (USA) 2

Marathon (HON) 2 vs. Saprissa (CRC) 1

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.

About Marathon (Courtesy of CONCACAF)

Club: Club Deportivo Marathon

Founded: 1925

City: San Pedro Sula, Honduras

Stadium: Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano

Manager: Edwin Pavon

Qualification method: Honduran Apertura 2009 winner

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

Honors: Honduran league – 8 (1979-80, 1985-86, 2001-02 Clausura, 2002-03 Clausura, 2004-05 Apertura, 2007-08 Apertura, 2008-09 Apertura, 2009-10 Apertura); Honduran Cup – 1 (1994)

Official Web site: http://www.cdmarathon.com

CD Marathon, the second-most popular club team in Honduras, is set to make its third appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. In the 2008-09 tournament, Marathon topped its group, but was upset by the USL Puerto Rico Islanders in the quarterfinals, 3-1. Last year, the squad finished second in Group B and was ousted by Mexican side Pumas UNAM, 6-3 on aggregate in the knockout stage. Founded in 1925, Marathon has become one of Honduras’ most successful clubs and plays its matches at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano, a 40,000-seat stadium in San Pedro Sula. El Monstruo Verde (the Green Monster), the only Honduran team to beat Argentine great River Plate, has won eight Liga National de Futbol Honduras titles and finished second 11 times. Forward Walter Martinez played for Honduras in the 2010 World Cup and Marathon is also led by defender Erick Norales, who converted the final penalty kick to book Honduras’ spot in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Nicolas Cardozo has scored four goals in the group stage, including a penalty kick which proved to be the winner against Seattle in Round One. Marathon is 2-1-3 in the Honduran Apertura.

Last CCL Match: Seattle Sounders FC 2, CF Monterrey 3 – September 22, 2010 – Recap

Sounders FC scored two first-half goals but Group C leader CF Monterrey answered with three goals in four minutes to prevail. After Seattle took the lead on an own goal, Mike Fucito scored in his first professional start to give Seattle a 2-0 halftime lead. Monterrey then scored three second-half goals, including a penalty kick in the 77th minute that proved to be the game-winner. Monterrey (4-0-0 in CCL) remains the only club in the Champions League with an unblemished record. The game’s first goal came after Fucito struck a right-footed shot that deflected off Monterrey’s Hiram Ricardo Mier and into the back of his own net. The lead was extended shortly before halftime. Nate Jaqua took a ball from Alvaro Fernandez and played Fucito into the box. Fucito poked the ball with the outside of his right foot and beat keeper Jonathan Orozco. Monterrey pulled a goal back in the 74th minute. Terry Boss stopped an initial shot from Humberto Suazo but Aldo De Nigris headed the rebound past Boss. One minute later, Suazo beat Boss from 18 yards with a right-footed shot to the far corner. Three minutes later, Monterrey got the game-winner. Boss was whistled for a foul in the box on a streaking Suazo. Perez stepped up and knocked the penalty past Boss for the club’s third goal in four minutes. Boss made five saves in his third competitive start, including a tip save on William Paredes’ header in the 39th minute. Seattle was outshot by Monterrey 15-11 (8-3 on goal).

First Meeting with Marathon: Sounders FC 1, Marathon 2 – August 19, 2010 – Recap

Despite an early goal, Sounders FC was defeated in the group stage opener at Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano. The loss snapped a string of nine matches (6-0-3) in which Seattle was unbeaten in all competitions.Seattle opened up the scoring in the 17th minute. Fredy Montero took the ball up the right flank and served a cross to the middle of the box. Blaise Nkufo touched the ball through to Roger Levesque who beat keeper Shane Orio with a low, right-footed strike.It was Levesque’s first goal since his game-winner in the 89th minute at D.C. United on July 18 and his second goal this season. Marathon equalized in the 27th minute. Orvin Paz took a ball from Randy Diamond and touched it once before he beat Kasey Keller with a low shot to the near post.

Marathon added another tally in the 45th on a penalty kick by Nicolas Cardozo. Nathan Sturgis’ corner in the 78th minute found a darting Michael Seamon near the 6-yard box but his header hit the crossbar. Montero nearly scored in the 89th minute when he struck a bouncing ball in the box but it rolled just wide of the far post.

Academy Teams Open This Weekend

The Sounders FC Youth Academy teams will open their respective inaugural seasons at home on Saturday 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 Sunday 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 16), Osvaldo Alonso (seven games), Pat Noonan (the the last nine) and Brad Evans (the last 13). 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 26matches. Kasey Keller is the only player to start each fixture and he is the leader in minutes (2295). Fredy Montero is the only outfield player with 26 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.

Among the Leaders

Seattle leads the league in fouls suffered (314) and corner kicks (157) and is third in assists (36). Fredy Montero ranks among the top ten in goals (10; T-7th) and assists (9; T-4th). Montero is also second in shots (82) and is fourth in shots on goal (32). He is tied for third with four game-winning goals and fourth with three game-winning assists. Sanna Nyassi and Steve Zakuani join Montero with three game-winning assists. Montero is tied for fourth in fouls committed (39) and third in fouls suffered (57). Blaise Nkufo is one of five players to have a hat trick. Kasey Keller is one of six players to have started all 26 games. He ranks sixth with 2295 minutes played and second with 11 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 1, Chicago Fire 0 – September 25, 2010 – Recap

Blaise Nkufo scored the game-winning goal in the 88th minute as Seattle again used a late goal to beat Chicago before 17,477 at Toyota Park.

In the waning moments of the match, Nkufo took a ball from Steve Zakuani in the left channel and sped towards the end line. After beating the defense, Nkufo cut the ball back and fired from a tight angle. His shot deflected off a Fire defender and beat keeper Sean Johnson at the far post.

It was Nkufo’s second game-winning goal in the last two games. He has four goals for Sounders FC.

Seattle had several other scoring opportunities, including a header by Osvaldo Alonso from a Nathan Sturgis corner in the 9th minute that flashed just wide of the post.

Patrick Ianni suffered a head wound on the play. He was out of the match for six minutes getting treatment and he played the second half with his head bandaged.

With Johnson out to collect a loose ball in the 56th minute, Zakuani gained possession and quickly fired wide left from 25 on an open net.

Fredy Montero nearly scored in the 63rd minute when James Riley found him in the box. Montero’s open header from 8 yards went straight into the arms of Johnson.

Kasey Keller made five saves to earn his 11th shutout, which is one more than last year’s total. He stopped a curling free kick from Freddie Ljungberg in the 52nd minute. Keller knocked away another shot from Ljungberg in the 76th minute, pushing it wide of the right post.

The Fire produced a pair of close chances in the scoreless first half. Marco Pappa figured in both of Chicago’s threats. After breaking into the right side of the box, Pappa forced Keller to a diving stop at the right post in the fourth minute. In the first minute of first-half stoppage time his drive from 10 yards was again parried by the Seattle keeper.

About Toronto FC

The Reds have won just once in its last eight games (1-5-2), including a 3-2 loss to San Jose last Saturday at BMO Field. After conceding a goal in the 3rd minute, Toronto fought back with second-half goals by Dwayne De Rosario and Maicon Santos but Chris Wondolowski’s hat trick proved too much as San Jose walked away with the three points. Toronto currently sits in fourth place in the East with four games remaining. The club is 1-1-0 under new head coach Nick Dasovic, who replaced Preki on September 14. The Reds, qualifying as Canadian champions, are also involved in Champions League play this week. They host Group A leader Real Salt Lake on Tuesday.

Reds Notables

De Rosario leads the club with 12 goals this season (T-3rd in MLS), which is a career-high for the Canadian forward. He has started 21 of 24 appearances. He ranks seventh with 60 shots and fifth with 31 shots on goal. His four game-winning goals is tied for third in the league and he has three multi-goal games (T-3rd). In just two seasons, De Rosario has become the club’s all-time leading scorer with 23 goals and nine assists in 52 league matches. Forward Chad Barrett has added six goals and two assists and Maicon Santos, who joined the club after a midseason trade with Chivas USA, has two goals and one assist. The club’s two Designated Players have struggled to produce. Julian de Guzman has two assists in 21 appearances and Mista has five starts in nine appearances with one assist. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei has started all 26 games, making a league-best 102 saves for a goals against average of 1.19. He is yet to stop a penalty kick, allowing six goals in six attempts. Of its 31 goals allowed this season, 21 have come in the second half.

SFC/TFC Connections

Tyrone Marshall spent two seasons playing for Toronto FC (2007-08) before Seattle obtained him in a 2009 pre-season trade. Patrick Ianni and Chad Barrett played one season together at UCLA in 2003-04. Ianni and Nate Jaqua were teammates of De Rosario while playing in Houston. De Rosario also played with Seattle forward Roger Levesque in San Jose in 2003 and 2005. Three players in the match hail from Gambia: Seattle’s Sanna Nyassi and Toronto’s Emmanuel Gomez and Amadou Sanyang.

Previous Sounders FC-Toronto FC Meetings

Sounders FC 2, Toronto FC 0 – April 4, 2009 – BMO Field (Match 3)

An early strike by Freddie Ljungberg and another by Steve Zakuani just before the break earned Sounders FC a win in its first road game and became the first MLS expansion team to win its first three games. Making his first start, Ljungberg scored in the 15th minute by finishing a give-and-go from Nate Jaqua. Ljungberg and Jaqua also figured in the second goal. Ljungberg fed Sebastien Le Toux who, in turn, found Jaqua for a shot from 15 yards. The ball caromed off a TFC defender and Zakuani converted the rebound in the 45th minute. The victory came despite some harsh playing conditions: a record crowd for TFC and strong winds. In addition, Sounders FC was without forward Fredy Montero, the top MLS scorer, due to illness. Seattle’s defense also weathered pressure by the Reds midway through the second half with Kasey Keller preserving the shutout with a near-post save of Pablo Vitti. Ljungberg made his first career MLS start. Zakuani tallied his first professional goal just before the half concluded. Scoring in his third game, Zakuani matched Freddy Adu (2004) and Maurice Edu (2007) for the earliest goal scored by a top choice from a SuperDraft.

Sounders FC 0, Toronto FC 0 – August 29, 2009 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field (Match 24)

Held scoreless for the third consecutive home match, Seattle settled for its 10th draw in its final MLS match before the U.S. Open Cup Final in Washington. Toronto FC put Sounders FC on its heels at the outset. Dwayne De Rosario caused the defense a scare in the opening three minutes. The Reds’ best opportunity came from midfielder Nana Attakora who hit the crossbar in the 23rd minute of the match from a shot just outside the box. Seattle defender Tyrone Marshall exited the game after a collision in the 40th minute with De Rosario and was replaced by Patrick Ianni. In the second half, Sounders FC began to assert itself. A pass by Nate Jaqua released Freddie Ljungberg in the 63rd minute but his shot was tipped over the crossbar by TFC keeper Stefan Frei. Seattle nearly took all three points in added time. First, Sebastien Le Toux took a feed from Brad Evans and forced a save from Frei. In the 93rd minute, Osvaldo Alonso forced another save from Frei from close range at the left post.

Sounders FC 0, Toronto FC 2 – April 25, 2010 – BMO Field (Match 6)

After a strong first-half showing Seattle allowed two second-half goals and dropped the second leg of the two-match road trip in the rain and wind. Dwayne De Rosario scored the game-winner in the 58th minute and assisted on the second Reds score. De Rosario dispossessed Osvaldo Alonso at the top of the box and fired a shot into the right side netting of the far post. After another Sounders FC turnover in the 76th minute De Rosario also figured in the game’s second goal. He found O’Brian White who was isolated against Kasey Keller. Stefan Frei thwarted Seattle with foot saves off Nathan Sturgis and Brad Evans early in the second half, then kept the shutout intact by batting down a close-range blast from Fredy Montero in the 83rd minute. Sounders FC had the advantage in total shots, 11-5 (4-3 on goal) and 7-5 on corners.

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

Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the USL Sounders 4-0 victory over Atlanta for the 2007 championship. Greg Howes scored twice for Seattle at Starfire…Blaise Nkufo is the fifth Seattle player to win Goal of the Week. Earlier winners were Fredy Montero (twice), Leo Gonzalez and Roger Levesque…Steve Zakuani has assisted on Blaise Nkufo’s last two goals, giving him five assists for the season. Zakuani had four assists as a rookie…Sounders FC is 8-5-1 against East teams this season…Brad Evans is eligible to return to league play on October 2 against Toronto FC. Evans was placed on the club’s Disabled List on August 17 and was removed on September 16. His last appearance was June 10.

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