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

October 4, 2010 at 10:51 PM

Sounders FC weekly release of team news and notes

Up for the Cup, Then Out on the Road

Visions of lifting the cup before a record crowd will swirl in the minds of Seattle Sounders FC players, coaches and supporters as the Rave Green host the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field on Tuesday night. First kick against the Columbus Crew is 7 p.m. PT and the title match will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.

Heading into the weekend, the focus will return to MLS action and Seattle’s opportunity to clinch a postseason berth at Kansas City. A victory over the Wizards at CommunityAmerica Ballpark would send Sounders FC to the MLS Cup Playoffs for the second year in a row. It was a 3-2 comeback victory at K.C. which clinched a playoff berth a year ago. Kickoff is 5:30 p.m. PT on KONG 6/16. Both games will also be broadcast on KIRO 97.3 FM.

Seattle is vying to become the first club in 27 years to successfully retain the Open Cup, and with over 28,800 tickets sold the audience will be the largest in the tournament’s 96-year history. A 2-1 winner over D.C. United on the road in 2009, Sounders FC brought the cup back to the Emerald City and used it to earn a berth in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League.

The Crew has been an MLS powerhouse for three years, winning two Supporters Shields and an MLS Cup in the past two seasons. Columbus, which won the 2002 Open Cup, has clinched a playoff spot and enters the week second in the Eastern Conference.

Sounders FC (12-9-6, 42 points) has won three straight in league-including two on the road-and is the hottest team in MLS during the second half of the season with an 8-1-2 record in the last 11 games. It is 6-0-2 at home in eight MLS and Open Cup matches since June 10. Seattle is 2-0-2 against Columbus in four MLS meetings.

Last week at home, the Rave Green won its first Champions League group stage match, 2-0 over CD Marathon of Honduras, and came from behind to beat Toronto FC, 3-2. The latter result pushed Seattle into fourth in the West and sixth in the overall MLS table.

Kansas City (9-11-6, 33 points) is clinging to playoff hopes after losing two in a row. The Wizards fell to Sounders FC, 1-0, in the season’s first meeting on April 17. A Seattle win or draw would clinch the season series, the first tiebreaker if the two sides finish the season level on points. Last year the regular season series was tied 1-1 with both teams winning away.

After returning home, Sounders FC plays three straight at home, beginning with an October 12 friendly against Mexico’s CD Chivas de Guadalajara. First kick is 7 p.m. PT.

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

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

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

Saturday, October 9, 5:30 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 (Friendly C)

Friday, October 15, 8 p.m. – Chivas USA, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Tuesday, October 19, 7 p.m. – CD Saprissa, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle (CONCACAF Champions League group stage/round six)

Sounders FC Factoids

— Sounders FC is 10-1-3 in its last 14 domestic (MLS and Open Cup) matches; 8-1-3 in MLS

— With 42 points through 27 matches Seattle is four points ahead of the 2009 pace (9-7-11, 38 points) and it is three wins above .500 for the first time this season

— Seattle is unbeaten in its last eight (6-0-2) at home in MLS and Open Cup play

— Blaise Nkufo has scored five goals in the last three matches, including two game-winners, and Seattle is 7-0-1 in his eight starts

— Sounders FC is undefeated in nine Open Cup-related matches, going 6-0-0 in two play-ins and four tournament matches in 2009 and 2-0-1 this season

— 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 six shutouts in the last nine games

— The 12 wins equals the 2009 total and the 11 shutouts surpasses the 10 earned last year

— Kasey Keller has played in 52 consecutive MLS matches, dating to April 25, 2009

— Sixteen of the team’s 34 goals have been scored either in the first or last 15 minutes

— Ten of the 31 goals allowed have come in the final 15 minutes

— Sounders FC is 10-2-3 when scoring first and 1-6-2 when allowing two or more goals

— Nine of the 12 MLS victories have been shutouts and in the 16 wins (16-13-8) over all competitions the average goals allowed is 0.31

— Seattle is tied for second in road wins (5) and has posted five shutouts in its last six away

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 Tuesday has been moved to 7:00 p.m. PT.

Making History

Tuesday night will be an evening for the record books. Sounders FC is the first expansion team to reach an Open Cup final in each of its first two season and its passionate fan base is breaking records as well.

Advance ticket sales have surpassed the 81-year-old attendance record for an Open Cup final. The record crowd is 21,583 at Brooklyn’s Dexter Park 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 Major League Soccer teams joined, is 19,164 for the 2000 final between the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion. Tickets start at $15 and stadium capacity has been raised to 32,400.

And Repeating History

Seattle is bidding to become the first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion to repeat since 1982-83, when the New York Pancyprian Freedoms won back-to-back. Only the New York Greek-American club has captured three straight (1967-69).

The 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 tournament in U.S. team 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.

Silver in Their Sights

Although still in its infancy as a club, Sounders FC features several key figures with an established history of winning. Foremost is Sigi Schmid, the coach. Schmid has hoisted championship trophies eight times at the collegiate (three NCAA titles at UCLA) and professional level (a combined five trophies with Los Angeles, Columbus and Seattle). An Open Cup competitor in his youth, he first tasted victory as coach of the Galaxy in the 2001 Open Cup. Schmid’s top assistant, Brian Schmetzer, won USL-1 championships for Seattle in 2005 and 2007. Technical director Chris Henderson won MLS Cup as a player for Kansas City in 2000.

Schmid has a career record of 21-8-2 in the Open Cup, winning the tournament with the L.A. Galaxy in 2001 and with Seattle again last year.

Among the players, five-Tyrone Marshall, Patrick Ianni, Peter Vagenas, Brad Evans and Nate Jaqua-have been with MLS Cup winners and five (Jaqua, Vagenas, Marshall, Taylor Graham and James Riley) had won Open Cups before coming to Seattle. Among those with trophy-lifting experience from abroad are Kasey Keller (1997 English League Cup) and Blaise Nkufo (2010 Dutch Eredivisie).

Flashback: 2009 Open Cup Final – Sounders FC 2, D.C. United 1

Scoring twice in the second half, Seattle became the second MLS expansion franchise to win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title on September 2 at RFK Stadium. Roger Levesque scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 86th minute on an assist by Sebastien Le Toux. Both Le Toux and Levesque played for the USL-1 Sounders in 2008. It was the second goal in Open Cup play for Levesque.

Fredy Montero had opened the scoring in the 67th minute after a Freddie Ljungberg shot was initially saved by United goalkeeper Josh Wicks. The rebound was converted by Montero, who notched his first goal in Open Cup play.

D.C. United’s lone goal came in the 89th minute when a free kick was deflected off the defensive wall to Clyde Simms who booted it into the back of the net. United played a man down for the final 23-plus minutes after Wicks was ejected for fouling Montero in the moments after his goal.

Despite 18 shots from D.C. United, Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller made six saves to remain undefeated in eight career starts at RFK Stadium. Keller, whose previous seven visits had been as a starter for the U.S. National Team, was named the Open Cup tournament’s outstanding player.

Lineup: Keller; Riley, Ianni, Wahl, Gonzalez; Zakuani (Levesque 74), Vagenas, Alonso, Le Toux; Montero (Evans 78), Ljungberg.

Cup Final Tested

Osvaldo Alonso has played in the last two cup finals. He started for Seattle in 2009 and for Charleston in a loss to D.C. United in 2008. Right back James Riley played his first final for New England in 2007 as the Revs defeated FC Dallas. Nate Jaqua played in two finals for Chicago, scoring a goal in a 3-1 win over L.A. in 2006. Peter Vagenas has played in five finals (2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009) and Tyrone Marshall (2002, 2005 and 2006) three. Assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson played two for L.A. in 2001 and 2002, scoring a goal in the former.

Reaching the Final

Nate Jaqua has fueled the Rave Green’s run to the championship match. Jaqua has scored in each of his team’s games and his total of five goals shares the tournament lead with Paulo Araujo of Division 2 Miami FC.

An early Jaqua goal and successful tiebreaker penalties by Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero and Zach Scott earned a third-round advancement over Portland on June 30 at PGE Park. Jaqua’s brace against the L.A. Galaxy on July 7 powered the 2-0 victory at Starfire Sports Stadium. Two more goals from Jaqua, two assists from Zakuani and another goal from Montero sealed a trip to the final with a 3-1 semifinal win over Chivas USA on September 1.

Columbus defeated Division 2 Rochester, 2-1, and USL-2 Charleston, 3-0, to reach the semifinals. The Crew then came from behind at D.C. United to prevail, 2-1 in extra time.

Nine of the 12 MLS teams to host an Open Cup final have won the title, however the visiting team has won two of the last three years. Chicago won three of its four cups at home and both of D.C. United’s victories occurred at RFK Stadium. United is also the only team to win an MLS Cup at home, in 1997.

Modern Era Open Cup Finals (since MLS participated in 1996):

Year / Site / Atten. / Score

2009 / Washington, DC / 17,329 / Seattle 2, D.C. United 1

2008 / Washington, DC / 8,212 / D.C. United 2, Charleston 1

2007 / Frisco, Tex. / 10,618 / New England 3, FC Dallas 2

2006 / Chicago / 8,151 / Chicago 3, Los Angeles 1

2005 / Carson, Calif. / 10,000 / Los Angeles 1, Dallas 0

2004 / Kansas City, Mo. / 8,819 / Kansas City 1, Chicago 0 (aet)

2003 / East Rutherford, N.J. / 5,183 / Chicago 1, New York 0

2002 / Columbus / 6,054 / Columbus 1, Los Angeles 0

2001 / Fullerton, Calif. / 4,195 / Los Angeles 2, New England 1

2000 / Chicago / 19,164 / Chicago 2, Miami 1

1999 / Columbus / 4,455 / Rochester 2, Colorado 0

1998 / Chicago / 18,615 / Chicago 2, Columbus 1

1997 / Indianapolis / 9,776 / Dallas 0, D.C. United 0 (4-2 pk)

1996 / Washington, DC / 7,234 / D.C. United 3, Rochester 0

Cup Format Notes

If any U.S. Open Cup game is tied at the end of regulation, a 30-minute extra time period (consisting of two 15-minute halves) shall be played in its entirety. If the score is still tied at the end of the 30-minute extra time period, the game shall be decided by a penalty kick tiebreaker. Teams are limited to five foreign players on the 18-player match roster and only one assist is counted in the official records.

The Cup: Nate’s Been Great

Nate Jaqua has scored five of Seattle’s six goals in Open Cup play this season, including a brace against both Los Angeles and Chivas USA to become the tournament’s joint scoring leader. Jaqua was named the tournament’s outstanding player of both the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds by The Cup.US. He missed the first 13 MLS games this season through injury.

Open Cup History in Seattle

A Seattle team has advanced to the Open Cup semifinals each of the last four years. Sounders FC won the title in 2009 and the USL-1 Sounders reached that stage in both 2007 (against FC Dallas) and 2008 (Charleston). Prior to the Sounders FC victory over D.C. United last year, the only Seattle club to qualify for an Open Cup final was the amateur Mitre Eagles in 1987. The Eagles fell to Club Espana of Washington, D.C., on penalties following a 0-0 draw. While the NASL Sounders did not participate in the Open Cup, the A-League Sounders competed on an annual basis, beginning in 1995. They lost to El Paso in the semifinals that season, and also advanced to the final four in 1996.

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.

Defense: Another Streak to Begin?

Last week’s match was a bit of an aberration in that the signature of virtually every Sounders FC victory is defense. It marked only the second time that Seattle has allowed two or more goals in a win. It may also signal the start of another dry stretch for the opposition. After giving up three goals at New England, the defense responded with three consecutive shutouts and 295 scoreless minutes. Before that was a club-record 379-minute scoreless streak in July and August. Over the second half of the season the Rave Green is yielding only an average of 0.67 goals (eight in 12 games) with seven shutouts. The 11 shutouts is one more than the entire 2009 season. 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 seven times. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller has started 52 consecutive games and has 21 shutouts in 56 career appearances.

Playoff Race Breakdown

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, 11 teams remain mathematically alive in the race for a playoff berth. Los Angeles (53), Real Salt Lake (51 points), FC Dallas (49), New York (47) and Columbus (46) and have clinched spots. Six other teams are contending for the remaining three berths. Those teams’ remaining games are as follows:

Seattle (42 points): at Kansas City (10/9), Chivas USA (10/15), at Houston (10/23)

Colorado (41 points): at Dallas (10/9), Los Angeles (10/16), Real Salt Lake (10/23)

San Jose (40 points): at D.C. United (10/9), Houston (10/16), Chivas USA (10/20), at Kansas City (10/23)

Kansas City (33 points): Seattle (10/9), at Chicago (10/12), at New England (10/16), San Jose (10/23)

Toronto FC (31 points): at Chivas USA (10/9), Columbus (10/16), at D.C. United (10/23)

Chicago (29 points): Columbus (10/8), Kansas City (10/12), DC United (10/16), at Chivas USA (10/23)

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.

Bright Horizons

No team in North and Central America has traveled more than Sounders FC and yet the Rave Green has taken 13 of a possible 18 points in its last six MLS road matches, going 4-1-1 and allowing just three goals. 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.

Nobody’s Hotter

Seattle’s 26 points from its last 11 games (8-1-2) is the best in MLS, three more points than FC Dallas (23, 6-0-5), which is unbeaten in 18 matches overall, and five more than Real Salt Lake (21, 5-0-6). Six 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).

Target: 1.5 Points

It’s been the target all along. Sigi Schmid has told anyone who will listen that 1.5 points per game would push Seattle into the playoffs. After a very slow start, Sounders FC has not only met that standard but surpassed it. With three consecutive wins it is now averaging 1.56 points through 27 games. Forty-five points is the objective and Schmid’s team is only three points away with three 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.

Blaise on Fire

Down the stretch, striker Blaise Nkufo continues to work wonders for Seattle, scoring five times in the last three matches. Nkufo hammered home a header from a Nathan Sturgis free kick against Toronto FC for the go-ahead goal in the 26th minute. Nkufo, who joined the Sounders FC on July 15, opened his MLS account with a hat trick at Columbus on September 18, then added an 88th minute winner at Chicago on September 25. He has now scored with either foot and his head. His current streak is the longest since Fredy Montero scored in five straight games midway through the 2009 season. Seattle is 7-0-1 in Nkufo’s eight MLS starts.

Nyassi: On a Good Note

When Sanna Nyassi meets his Gambia teammates later this week he will do so with a big smile as no doubt word has gotten around that he bagged his first MLS goal. Nyassi struck the third blow in the win over Toronto FC, sending a left-footed screamer into the webbing from the edge of the box. The strike came a day after it was announced the 21-year-old winger had been called in to the Gambia team for Saturday’s bout with Burkina Faso in an African Cup of Nations qualifier. Nyassi did not play when called in for a similar qualifier last month, but he has one goal and two caps for the Scorpions.

A Beast in the East?

Sounders FC has yet to clinch a playoff berth but it’s quite possible that if it does, it could wind up in the Eastern Conference bracket. And that might be just fine with Sigi Schmid & Co because Seattle is now 9-5-1 against East teams this season. Those qualifying teams finishing below fourth in the West will be placed in the East for the MLS Cup Playoffs. Real Salt Lake was the No. 8 seed in 2009 and moved to the East. RSL went on to win MLS Cup. In 2008, the New York Red Bulls were the low seed and placed in the West, and proceeded to advance to the cup final.

Stevie Z Strikes Again

Somewhat overshadowed by the goal rush of Blaise Nkufo has been the increased productivity of Steve Zakuani. The left winger has contributed either a goal or an assist in four of the last five matches. With nine goals and five assists he has now more than doubled his rookie totals of four and four. He has done so despite taking fewer shots. Zakuani is now 12th in MLS goal scoring.

Sigi’s Own Oktoberfest

Once again Seattle is flexing its muscles when the matches mean the most, and that should come as no surprise to followers of Sigi Schmid and his teams. Already the all-time victory leader for MLS in both the regular season (137) and playoffs (19), Schmid has a knack for shifting his sides into a higher gear as they go down the stretch drive. His teams win at a rate of .632 (11-6-2) in October regular season games. Add to that his career record of 10-2-2 in October playoffs and his teams succeed at a rate of .697 in the month. Sounders FC is now 4-0-0 in October regular season games, and it drew its only postseason match.

Boss Starts for Puerto Rico

Sounders FC was without goalkeeper Terry Boss for the Toronto FC match after Boss was called in to the Puerto Rico National Team. Boss started in Puerto Rico’s 3-1 win over Anguilla on Saturday in a Caribbean Championship Stage One match. A second game will be played Monday night versus Saint-Martin in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

Boss, 29, now has five caps. He is expected to return to Seattle in time for Tuesday’s Open Cup final. Kevin Guppy, a member of the MLS emergency keeper pool, served as Kasey Keller’s backup versus TFC. Boss has made four starts in all competitions, including a shutout of Marathon in a CONCACAF Champions League group stage match last week. He has appeared in one MLS match, as a second-half substitute in a 2-2 draw at Dallas on April 22

Forza Fucito

Move over Montero and Nkufo. The Seattle player with the best strike rate is rookie Mike Fucito. Fucito scored a brace to fuel the 2-0 Champions League win over Marathon last week, raising his total to four goals in 226 minutes over all competitions. In fact, the Harvard graduate is now 11th among goal scorers in the CCL. Fucito scored unassisted after winning the ball deep in the Marathon half and then added a beautifully curled free kick in the second half. He had scored a goal and forced an own goal at Monterrey the previous week. Fucito’s first professional goal was a game-winner in stoppage time against Kansas City on April 17.

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 30 consecutive sellouts of MLS matches. Seattle is averaging 36,160 this season and has already surpassed (506,244) last year’s total attendance (464,145) for league matches with one date still to play.

With over 28,800 tickets already sold, the Open Cup final will be played before a record crowd on Tuesday. 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.

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.

Shooting for Third

Sounders FC still has a shot at taking third place in Group C of the Champions League when it hosts Costa Rica’s CD Saprissa in the sixth and final round on October 19. Seattle was eliminated from contention for next spring’s knockout round by Saprissa’s 2-2 draw with group leader Monterrey on September 28. Unbeaten (4-0-1) Monterrey has clinched first place with 13 points. Saprissa (2-2-1) has seven, followed by CD Marathon (2-3-0, 6 points) and Sounders FC (1-4-1, 3 points).

Last CCL Match: Seattle Sounders FC 2, CD Marathon- September 29, 2010 – Recap

Mike Fucito scored both goals as Seattle earned its first win in the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Fucito chased down a bouncing ball in the 21st minute and chested it through the Marathon backline. With just the keeper to beat, he blasted a left-footed shot from 16 yards inside the far post.

In the 68th minute, Fucito sent a curling free kick around the wall and into the top corner for his second goal of the game. Moments later, Fucito left the game after sustaining a right ankle sprain.

Fucito has four competitive goals for Sounders FC this season. At Monterrey on September 22, he scored Seattle’s second goal and his shot in the 27th minute led to an own goal.

Miguel Montano had a pair of shots in the 52nd minute. First, he stole the ball and shot from 8 yards, forcing a save from keeper Orlin Vallencillo. Seconds later, Montano rocketed a shot from outside the 18-yard box that hit Vallencillo and nearly rolled across the goal line.

Terry Boss earned his second shutout in his fourth competitive start.

The two sides were even with 11 shots, but Seattle had seven on goal compared to two for Marathon.

Midfielder Peter Vagenas entered the match in the 62nd minute. It was his first action since a preliminary round CCL match with Metapan on July 28.

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 three remaining regular season games, Sounders FC will play one CCL group stage match 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 nine competitive matches between now and November 21, the date of MLS Cup 2010.

Sounders FC traveled nearly 18,000 miles for five matches in MLS and Champions League play in September and flies 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.

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 17), Osvaldo Alonso (seven games), Pat Noonan (the the last 10) and Brad Evans (the last 14). 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 27matches. Kasey Keller is the only player to start each fixture and he is the leader in minutes (2385). Fredy Montero is the only outfield player with 27 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

Sounders FC leads the league in fouls suffered (328) and corner kicks (163) and it is second in assists (38). Fredy Montero has 10 goals (T-9th) and nine assists (T-5th). His 86 shots are second in the league and his 34 shots on goal is fourth. He is tied for fourth with four game-winning goals. He has committed 39 fouls (4th) and has suffered 58 (T-3rd). Kasey Keller is tied second with 11 shutouts.

Last Open Cup Match: Sounders FC 3, Chivas USA 1 – September 1, 2010 – Recap

Nate Jaqua scored two goals and Steve Zakuani had two assists as Sounders FC beat Chivas USA in a semifinal match at Starfire Sports Stadium. Fredy Montero scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the 58th minute, giving Seattle a 2-0 lead in front of a capacity crowd of 4,547.

Jaqua staked Seattle to an early lead with a goal in the 11th minute. A Montero pass put Zakuani behind the Chivas USA defense on the left flank and he cut to the end line. Zakuani’s cross met Jaqua in front of goal for a one-touch shot that beat keeper Zach Thornton.

It was the first time Sounders FC scored against Chivas USA. It was scoreless in four previous MLS matches.

The second goal was also created by Zakuani, who juked his defender and drove the ball low across the middle. Montero tapped it past Thornton from 6 yards out for his 12th goal in all competitions.

Chivas USA pulled a goal back in the 68th minute when Jesus Padilla converted on an assist from Justin Braun. Padilla had come on as a substitute 14 minutes earlier.

In stoppage time Jaqua cemented the victory with his second goal of the game and fifth of the tournament. Roger Levesque, who entered the match as a substitute in the 82nd minute, served a cross from the right flank that Jaqua headed home past a helpless Thornton.

It was the first win over Chivas USA in competitive play.

About Columbus

The Crew is squeezing the Cup final into an already crowded schedule. Columbus clinched a playoff spot with a scoreless draw at home to San Jose last Saturday and it must return to the Midwest on Friday to play at Chicago. Columbus is back in the Open Cup championship game for the first time since 2002 when it beat the L.A. Galaxy, 1-0. The Crew advanced to this year’s final with wins over Division 2 side Rochester Rhinos and the USL-2 Charleston Battery. In the semifinal, the Crew was minutes from elimination when Andy Iro’s shot deflected off a United player for the equalizing own goal in the 89th minute. In extra time, Guillermo Barros Schelotto made the game-winning penalty kick as Columbus held on for the victory, 2-1. Columbus is 4-6-6 against West foes in MLS play this season and is 4-4-5 on the road. It will be seeking its first win over Sounders FC (0-2-2). The Crew has played two of its last three matches on turf.

Since MLS began participating in the U.S. Open Cup, only three road teams have won the final (2003 Chicago Fire, 2007 New England Revolution and 2009 Seattle Sounders FC). The home team is 28-7-3 in the 2010 tournament, but visiting teams are 3-0 in shootouts.

Crew Notables

Guillermo Barros Schelotto leads the Crew offense with eight goals and eight assists. He also leads the team with 58 shots (25 on goal) and four game-winning goals. Steven Lenhart, the goal-scorer at Seattle in the first meeting of the year, has added six goals and two assists. Forward Emilio Renteria has emerged as a force on the Crew offense, recording four goals and one assist in 18 games this season. Midfielder Eddie Gaven has started all 25 appearances and has three goals and three assists. The Crew has also added a new striker into the mix. Peruvian forward Andres Mendoza made his MLS debut on September 4 and scored his first MLS goal as a second-half substitute on September 11. He has no starts in his five appearances. Goalkeeper William Hesmer has started all 27 games, logging a league-best 2430 minutes. He has allowed 29 goals (1.07 GAA). Hesmer has earned a club record 11 shutouts (T-2nd in MLS). Robbie Rogers hasn’t played since having arthroscopic knee surgery on August 13.

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 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 and Hendrickson played his final three seasons for the Crew.

James Riley played collegiately at Wake Forest (2001-04) where he was teammates of Hesmer (2001-03) and Brian Carroll (2001-02). Schmid coached Frankie Hejduk at UCLA (1992-94). Chad Marshall played with Roger Levesque and Taylor Graham at Stanford in 2002.

Last Meeting: 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 an advantage in shots 16-14 (8-5 on goal).

Previous Sounders FC-Columbus 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 from a Pat Noonan cross. 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, which was later voted MLS Goal of the Week. 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

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. Freddie Ljungberg 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. 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 Fredy 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. Seattle had a 16-7 advantage in shots (3-3 on goal) and 9-4 on corner kicks.O’Rourke received his second yellow card in the 85th minute, forcing Columbus to finish the match with 10 men.

Last MLS Match: Sounders FC 3, Toronto FC 2 – October 2, 2010 – Recap

Blaise Nkufo scored in his third consecutive game and Sanna Nyassi’s first career goal proved to be the match-winner in front of the 30th consecutive sellout crowd.Seattle also got a goal from Steve Zakuani, his ninth of the season, in winning its third in a row. It equaled its win total from last year and is now 8-1-2 in the last 11 matches.

The Reds’ Dwayne De Rosario struck first with a goal in the 16th minute. Streaking down the left channel, De Rosario took a ball from Maicon Santos and beat two Seattle defenders as he shot inside the near post from 8 yards. He is now tied second in MLS with 13 goals.

Sounders FC equalized in the 21st minute. Osvaldo Alonso played a through ball down into the middle of the box. Zakuani took it, went around onrushing goalkeeper Stefan Frei and rolled the ball into an empty net. It was Alonso’s third assist.

Five minutes after the equalizer, Sounders FC took the lead for good. Following a Chad Barrett yellow card in the 25th minute, Nathan Sturgis swung the ensuing free kick into the box and Nkufo, in a crowd, whipped a header inside the near post from 8 yards.

Seattle added another tally in the 59th minute. A Toronto defender mishit a clearance of Zakuani’s left-wing cross and Nyassi blasted the rebound past the keeper with his left foot from just inside the box.

It was Nyassi’s first goal in league play and also proved to be the game-winner.

Toronto pulled a goal back in the 88th minute when Chad Barrett headed in a Nicholas Lindsay cross.

Seattle held a commanding advantage in shots 17-8 (7-2 on goal) and on corners, 6-2. Seattle is now 2-7-1 this season when allowing the first goal and 7-4-3 at home.

About Kansas City

The Wizards lost its second straight on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls, 1-0. After conceding an early goal, Kansas City could not capitalize on 26 shots (12 on goal). New York keeper Bouna Coundoul made a career-high 12 saves to earn the clean sheet. Despite the loss, Kansas City has won four of its last seven (4-2-1). It trails San Jose by seven points for the final playoff spot with four games remaining.

Wizards Notables

Kei Kamara leads the team with 10 goals (T-9th), four game-winners, and has recorded five assists in his 25 appearances. Davy Arnaud and Teal Bunbury have both added four goals and Ryan Smith has tallied three. Smith has seven assists to top the club. Kamara has taken 75 shots (31 on goal) while his nearest teammate, Arnaud, has taken 49 (24 on goal). Goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen has started all 26 games, earning nine shutouts. He has allowed 31 goals (1.19 GAA).

SEA/KC Connections

Teal Bunbury, the No. 4 selection by the Wizards in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, was a college teammate of Seattle’s Steve Zakuani at Akron. Kansas City’s Chance Myers and Sounders FC rookie David Estrada were teammates at UCLA. Sigi Schmid coached Jimmy Conrad at UCLA from 1996 to 1997, when Conrad was also a teammate of Peter Vagenas. Schmid coached Kei Kamara at Columbus from 2006 to 2007. Seattle defender Tyson Wahl spent two seasons with the Wizards and made 32 appearances before being taken by Seattle in the expansion draft. Defender Taylor Graham played for Kansas City from 2003-04. Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson played for Kansas City from 1999-2000, winning the MLS Cup in 2000. He was a teammate of Wizards coach Peter Vermes in 2000 and also while with Colorado from 1997-98. Henderson spent the 2007 season as an assistant coach with the Wizards. Sounders FC head fitness coach David Tenney spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons in the same capacity with Kansas City.

Sounders FC 1, Kansas City Wizards 0 – April 17, 2010 – Recap

Michael Fucito scored the game-winning goal in second-half stoppage time for the victory over the previously undefeated Wizards. Fucito struck in the 92nd minute. Brad Evans took a quick throw-in which skipped twice before the rookie got his right foot around it and blasted it past Jimmy Nielsen and inside the near post from 10 yards.

Fucito had entered the game as an 85th minute substitute for Steve Zakuani. It was his first MLS goal and it came in his second appearance. Evans was also a substitute, entering the game for Pat Noonan in the 70th minute.

Just seconds after taking the lead, Seattle’s Kasey Keller made a diving save on an 18-yard shot from Chance Myers. In the 50th minute Keller rushed off his line to deny Jack Jewsbury from 16 yards. .

Previous Sounders FC-Kansas City Meetings

Sounders FC 0, Kansas City Wizards 1 – April 11, 2009 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Davy Arnaud scored in the 80th minute to lift the Wizards over the shorthanded Sounders FC, dealing Seattle its first loss. Seattle played a man down for 60 minutes after Kasey Keller was sent off in the 30th minute of the match for a handball outside the penalty area on a shot by the Wizards’ Herculez Gomez. Fredy Montero nearly put Seattle on board twice, first with a chip to test Kevin Hartman late in the first half, then in the 60th minute when his indirect free kick skimmed off the crossbar. Arnaud’s goal was the first in 350 minutes against the Sounders FC defense. He beat substitute goalkeeper Ben Dragavon from 20 yards following a square pass from Jack Jewsbury. In the 88th minute, Nate Jaqua’s header for the equalizer, from a near-post cross by Steve Zakuani, flashed just wide left. Montero finished with six of the team’s nine shots.

Sounders FC 3, Kansas City Wizards 2 – October 17, 2009 – CommunityAmerica Ballpark

Seattle clinched a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs, coming from behind with two goals within a seven-minute span of late in the second half. Tyrone Marshall opened up the scoring with a goal in the 28th minute. Freddie Ljungberg’s corner kick was deflected by Wizards keeper Kevin Hartman and Marshall knocked in the rebound for his second goal of the season. Kansas City struck back early in the second half with two quick goals. Zoltan scored the equalizer in the 51st minute and Josh Wolff gave his team a 2-1 lead in the 54th by chasing down a Davy Arnaud ball at the far post. A few minutes after coming on as a substitute, Roger Levesque tied the game in the 69th minute following another Ljungberg corner kick, this time flicked on by Marshall to the far post. Ljungberg was again the catalyst on the match’s deciding goal in the 76th minute. He won the ball on the right flank, cut in along the endline and then found Nate Jaqua running down the middle.

Sounders FC 1, Kansas City Wizards 0 – July 7, 2009 – Starfire Sports Stadium

A penalty kick by Sebastien Le Toux in the 89th minute sent the Sounders FC into the final four of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup before a standing room crowd. The penalty was called by referee Abiodun Okulaja after forward Fredy Montero was knocked down in the box by Wizards keeper Kevin Hartman. Le Toux, who had come on as a substitute in the 72nd minute, went to the spot and calmly sent his shot low into the left corner past Hartman’s reach. The Wizards finished with 10 men after Santiago Hirsig received his second yellow card during added time of the second half. Seattle finished with a 12-6 advantage in shots and keeper Kasey Keller made only one save in posting the shutout.

Academy Teams Unbeaten in First Weekend

The Sounders FC U16 Academy team won its first two matches at home while the U18s settled for a pair of draws during the inaugural weekend of play in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The U16s debuted with a 2-1 win over the San Diego Nomads on October 2 at Starfire Sports Stadium. Ian Lange converted a corner kick from Austin Sweeney and Ian Cooke got the winner in the 65th minute. A day later came a 3-1 win over the San Diego Surf. Jordan Schweitzer and Stefan Bangsund each scored on penalties and Michael Steele chipped the keeper for another.

For the U18s, Ryan Herman posted the shutout in a scoreless draw with the Nomads. Against the Surf, Sonders FC rallied from two goals down to finish 2-2. Sean Okoli started the comeback in the 42nd minute and added a penalty kick in the 88th as Seattle overcame playing with nine men in the final minutes following a pair of red cards. General manager Adrian Hanauer, technical director Chris Henderson and head coach Sigi Schmid were among those in attendance on Sunday at Starfire.

Play for both teams resumes October 23 and 24 in southern California with matches against the academy teams of the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA.

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 30 consecutive MLS matches. Tickets are available for the final CONCACAF Champions League home match, 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

A win at Kansas City would match the single season record of four straight, set on August 8 against Houston…Kasey Keller earned his third straight MLS Save of the Week for his denial of Marco Pappa at Chicago on September 25. Keller has 75 saves-three shy of his 2009 season total. Keller was not credited with a save against Toronto…The most fouled team in MLS, Seattle gets plenty of deadball opportunities on offense, and it has now scored two goals in the last three games off set plays. Blaise Nkufo scored from a corner kick in Columbus and headed in a free kick vs. Toronto…By going one more MLS match card-free, James Riley will have his total rolled back to three…Osvaldo Alosno, who had the assist on Steve Zakuani’s goal, got his first assist since April 22…Nathan Sturgis now has a goal and two assists in the last six games…Saturday is the 17th anniversary of then-future A-League Sounders and SeaDogs forward Jason Dunn scoring a record six goals for eventual NCAA Division II champion Seattle Pacific University in an 8-4 win over 6th-ranked Tampa on October 9, 1993.

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