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

November 3, 2010 at 9:34 AM

Sounders FC’s weekly release of team news and notes

Sounders FC Faces Must-Win on the Road

Following one-week intermission, the Western Conference Semifinal series between the Seattle Sounders FC and Los Angeles Galaxy will be decided with the second leg on Sunday evening in Carson, California. First kick is 6 p.m. PT at The Home Depot Center, and the match will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.

The winner of the aggregate goal series advances to face either defending MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake or FC Dallas in the Western Conference Final. The West and East representatives will meet in MLS Cup 2010 on November 21 in Toronto.

Sounders FC (14-11-6), owner of the second-best road record in MLS, needs a one-goal victory in the second leg to force 30 minutes of extra time. A two-goal margin would push the Rave Green through to the next round. After winning the opening leg, 1-0, Los Angeles (19-7-5) advances with either a draw or a win. If the teams are tied following extra time, the series will be decided on penalty kicks.

Seattle is still searching for its first postseason win, but it has won three of its last four MLS road matches. It is 1-1-0 against the Galaxy at the HDC, having won there in 2009.

Los Angeles was 9-4-2 at home this past season yet lost two of its last three. It has won all three MLS encounters with Sounders FC this season, with Seattle taking a quarterfinal U.S. Open Cup victory en route to claiming its second straight title.

Sunday’s game can be heard live on KTTH 770 AM with Arlo White on the call. The pregame show begins at 5:30 p.m. PT with Matt Johnson, Alan Hinton, Pete Fewing and Jimmy Gabriel.

Deposits for the Sounders FC 2011 season are now available. Fans can reserve their spot today by visiting SoundersFC.com or calling 877-MLS-GOAL.

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

Sunday, November 7, 6 p.m. – Sounders FC at Los Angeles Galaxy, MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal (Second Leg), The Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.

Sounders FC Fast Facts

— Sounders FC is 13-3-3 in its last 19 domestic (MLS and Open Cup) matches; 10-3-3 in MLS

— Seattle tied for second in road wins (6) and has posted five shutouts in its last eight away

— The crowd of 35,521 for last week’s L.A. Galaxy match was the second-largest for a non-MLS Cup Final and ninth overall in postseason

— Seattle shattered its own MLS regular season attendance record, averaging 36,173. It averaged 30,943 in 2009. There have been 32 consecutive sellouts for MLS matches

— A late season five-game win streak matched the longest in MLS this season (Real Salt Lake won five straight in May)

— Fredy Montero has 12 goals (six game-winners) and 11 assists in all competitions. He was one of two players to rank among MLS top ten in both goals (10) and assists (10)

— Blaise Nkufo has scored four of his five goals on the road, and Seattle is 9-2-1 in his 12 starts

— Seattle finished with the league’s sixth-best record (14-10-6) and lost the fewest games (17) in its first two years of any franchise in the 15-year history of MLS

— Goalkeeper Kasey Keller has played in 58 consecutive MLS regular season and playoff matches, dating to April 25, 2009

— Sounders FC is 12-3-3 when scoring first and 1-7-2 when allowing two or more goals

— Nine of the 14 MLS victories have been shutouts and in the 19 wins (19-13-8) in overall competitions the average goals allowed is 0.42

— 19 of the team’s 39 goals have been scored either in the first or last 15 minutes

— 12 of the 35 goals allowed have come in the final 15 minutes

Character Has Been Built

In no uncertain terms, Sunday’s game is a must-win for Seattle. But in many ways each match during the second-half of the season was approached with just such urgency.

Three factors-a slow start (4-8-3), a demanding travel and fixture schedule and a series of injuries to key players-could have caused Sounders FC to falter. Instead, the Rave Green came together and went 10-2-3 over the final 15 games to become the hottest team in MLS entering the playoffs.

Starting central midfielder Brad Evans and 2009 MLS Defender of the Year finalist Jhon Kennedy Hurtado were lost to season-ending injuries, while Osvaldo Alonso and Nate Jaqua missed a combined 22 matches.

In addition to traveling more than any other MLS club, Seattle made four trips to Central America for CONCACAF Champions League matches. However, it was in the midst of flying 18,000 miles during September that Sounders FC caught fire, starting a club-best five-game win streak on the road in Columbus.

At Home on the Road

Whether it was the camaraderie created by traveling together, the different pace of play on grass or the more adventurous style of their hosts, playing away seemed to agree with Seattle down the stretch. It was 5-2-1 on the road since July 4, when it last paid a visit to the Galaxy. Over that stretch the defense allowed only six goals.

Although it plays its home games on artificial turf, Sounders FC is 6-5-3 on grass this year, including victories over playoffs sides New York, San Jose and Columbus.

A Brief History of Big Road Results

In its short history, Sounders FC already owns an impressive list of achievements accomplished away from Seattle.

4/4/2009 — A 2-nil win in first road match at Toronto

8/15/2009 — Zakuani and Montero strike to end three-game winless streak at L.A. (2-0)

9/1/2009 — Seattle lifts the U.S. Open Cup with 2-1 win at D.C. United

10/3/2009 — Ends MLS record 22-game home unbeaten string for Columbus, 1-0

10/17/2009 — Rave Green comes from behind to clinch first playoff berth at Kansas City, 3-2

5/15/2010 — Late Fredy Montero goal makes Seattle first visitor to win at Red Bull Arena, 1-0

7/15/2010 — Roger Levesque 89th minute header starts four-game win streak at D.C.

9/18/2010 — Blaise Nkufo’s hat trick sparks 4-0 win, equaling Crew’s worst-ever home loss

10/9/2010 — Another playoff-clinching win, 2-1, in K.C.

Good Things Happen

Belief is a powerful weapon, and based on the past few seasons of MLS Cup Playoffs the Sounders FC must know that anything is possible. For instance, in each of the last two seasons a No. 4 conference seed, like Seattle, has advanced to the MLS Cup Final.

In 2009 Real Salt Lake won it all, over the Galaxy, and New York was runner-up in 2008. Both RSL and the Red Bulls made it out the first round by winning on the road in the second leg. New York blanked Houston, 3-0, in 2008 and RSL edged Columbus, 3-2, last year.

Since the adoption of the two-game, aggregate format for conference semifinals in 2003, seven teams have won the series after losing the opener. In 2006, Colorado did so on the road at FC Dallas. The Rapids won 2-1 in regulation, forcing extra time that ended 1-1. They then prevailed on penalties.

Fredy Sees Green

Sounders FC announced that forward Fredy Montero has received his U.S. Green Card, granting him permanent resident status in the United States, effective immediately.

As a resident, the Colombia-born Montero will no longer occupy an International Player spot on the club’s roster. There will be seven International Players remaining: Alvaro Fernandez, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Miguel Montano, Sanna Nyassi, Steve Zakuani and Blaise Nkufo.

Who Will be Mr. November?

If Sounders FC is to become the 2010 Cinderella story, the tale must unfold on the road and there’s a need for one or more heroes. As the low seed in the West, Seattle is done playing at home, but some of the top individual performances have happened away from Qwest Field.

Blaise Nkufo has scored four of his five goals on the road, beginning with his hat trick at Columbus on September 18 and his 88th minute game-winner at Chicago a week later.

Seven of Steve Zakuani’s 14 career goals have come on the road, and Fredy Montero has scored three game-winners and two tying goals away.

Defensively, Seattle posted more shutouts (6) on the road than at home (5) this season, with five in the final eight trips. Kasey Keller came away with clean sheets at New York, D.C., San Jose, Chivas USA, Columbus and Chicago this year. Keller allowed only 0.75 goals per game on the road during the second half of the season, with seven shutouts. Including regular season and playoffs, he has made 58 consecutive starts.

Crowd was Second-Largest for Non-Final

Three of the top nine crowds for matches in the MLS Cup Playoffs have now come in Seattle. Last Sunday’s conference semifinal first leg attracted a capacity crowd of 35,521. Only the attendance of 35,807 for the 2009 first leg playoff with Houston ranks higher among non-MLS Cup Final matches.

The top seven attendances were all for MLS Cup Finals, including 46,011 for the 2009 game between Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake in Seattle.

44th Match (and Counting?)

No other MLS club has played more competitive matches than Sounders FC. Combining MLS (30), Champions League preliminary (2) and group stage (6) fixtures, plus Open Cup matches (4) and playoffs (1), Seattle will be playing its 44th game on Sunday. It played 38, including playoffs, in 2009. Columbus, which was also active in the CCL and Open Cup, has also played 43 competitive matches. Over the long season Sounders FC has developed depth. Sigi Schmid has used 28 different players in MLS matches, compared to 22 in all of the inaugural season.

Among the Leaders

Seattle finished the regular season leading the league in fouls suffered (362) and corner kicks (171). It finished second in assists (44) and seventh in goals (39). Fredy Montero took 91 shots (T-3rd) with 34 on goal (7th). His four game-winning goals is tied for fifth. He committed 44 fouls (T0inh) and suffered 60 (4th). Steve Zakuani and Montero each scored ten goals (T0inh) and had four game-winning assists (T0inh). Montero’s ten assists is tied for fifth. Kasey Keller finished tied for third amongst goalkeepers with 14 wins. Keller’s 11 shutouts is tied-second and he is fifth with 82 saves.

About the Galaxy

The L.A. Galaxy ended the regular season with the best record in Major League Soccer (18-7-5) and won the Supporters’ Shield for the first time since 2002, which was the club’s first championship season. The club went 9-4-2 at home during the regular season and is 20-6-1 all-time at home in the playoffs. The Galaxy have won the most playoff games of any MLS team (29; five more than D.C. United) and have scored 25 more playoff goals than any other club (85). L.A. started the season on a 12-game unbeaten streak (10-0-2) and won five of its last seven (5-2-0) going into the playoffs. The club led the league in assists (46) and finished second in goals (44). Including the regular season and playoffs, the Galaxy is 17-1-0 when scoring first and have not lost (16-0-0) when leading at the half (0-5-1 when trailing at the half). L.A. has scored 27 goals at home this season (2nd in MLS) but has allowed 19 (compared to seven goals allowed on the road). The Galaxy lead the league in first-half scoring (25 goals) and with its win in Seattle on Sunday night L.A. improved 11-3-0 in one-goal games.

Galaxy Notables

Landon Donovan is the all-time leading scorer for the MLS Cup Playoffs (17) and is tied with Jaime Moreno for the most game-winning goals (5). Donovan has taken the most shots on goal (38) and is tied for most multi-goal games (4) in playoff history. In the regular season, the Galaxy possessed one of the most dangerous offensive attacks, featuring Donovan (16 assists; 1st in MLS) and Edson Buddle (17 goals; 2nd). Buddle finished the season second in the league in shots (96) and shots on goal (43) but no teammate has half as many attempts. With his strike on Sunday, Buddle now has eight game-winning goals on the year. Outside of Donovan and Buddle, the leading goal scorer is Jovan Kirovski with four goals and the leading set-up man is rookie Michael Stephens with eight assists. David Beckham returned to action on September 11 after sitting out much of the season with an Achilles injury. He had two goals and one assist in his seven appearances, scoring most recently against FC Dallas on the final day of the regular season. Dema Kovalenko is the most cautioned player in the playoffs, receiving 14 yellow cards in his 35 playoff appearances. In five playoff matches, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts holds the best goals against average (0.60) of any keeper who has played at least 300 minutes in the playoffs. Ricketts earned 11 shutouts (T-2nd) this season and led the league with 18 wins.

LA is Home (or Close to It)

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

Assistant coach Ezra Hendrickson played for the Galaxy (1997-2003) and Chivas USA (2005). Assistant coach/scout Kurt Schmid attended UCLA, and he was an assistant coach for two years at UC Irvine and also coached for West Coast FC. Technical director Chris Henderson played (1989-90) for Sigi Schmid at UCLA.

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

Midfielder Brad Evans played at UC Irvine (2003-06), defender Patrick Ianni played for UCLA (2003-05), as did David Estrada (2006-09), and central defender Tyrone Marshall played for the Galaxy (2002-07). Evans and Wahl also played for USL PDL club Orange County Blue Star.

Been There Before

This will be Seattle’s sixth visit to The Home Depot Center, where it is 1-3-1. In each of the first two visits the Sounders FC fell to Chivas USA. Peter Vagenas, who played nine seasons for the Galaxy, has played 73 times at HDC since it opened in 2003.Nate Jaqua has played 19 times at the HDC, including the 2003 MLS Cup Final when his Chicago Fire fell to San Jose, 4-2. Sigi Schmid, Ezra Hendrickson and Brad Evans were with Columbus when the Crew defeated New York, 3-1, to lift the 2008 MLS Cup at Carson.

MLS Cup Playoff Bracket

Western Conference Semifinals, First Leg

Real Salt Lake 1 at FC Dallas 2, October 30

Los Angeles Galaxy 1 at Seattle Sounders FC 0, October 31

Western Conference Semifinals, Second Leg

#3 FC Dallas at #2 Real Salt Lake, 7 p.m. PT, Saturday, November 6 (Fox Soccer)

#4 Seattle Sounders FC at #1 Los Angeles Galaxy, 6 p.m. PT, Sunday, November 7 (ESPN2)

Eastern Conference Semifinals, First Leg

Columbus Crew 0 at Colorado Rapids 1, October 28

New York Red Bulls 1 at San Jose Earthquakes 0, October 30

Eastern Conference Semifinals, Second Leg

#4 San Jose Earthquakes at #1 New York Red Bulls, 5 p.m. PT, Thursday, November 4 (ESPN2)

#3 Colorado Rapids at #2 Columbus Crew, 1 p.m. PT, Saturday, November 6 (TeleFutura)

Last Match Recap: Sounders FC 0, L.A. Galaxy 1 – October 31, 2010 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Edson Buddle scored in the first-half and Donovan Ricketts made eight saves as the Galaxy won the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal. Sounders FC lost for the first time at home in eight (5-1-2) MLS matches while L.A. beat Seattle for the third time this season.

The Galaxy struck in the 38th minute when Buddle took down a high ball from Omar Gonzalez in the midfield. Buddle touched it once, spun left on Seattle defender Patrick Ianni and cracked a looping shot from 30 yards that beat Kasey Keller to the far post.

Seattle finished with a 15-10 advantage in shots (8-5 on goal) and forced Ricketts into seven first-half saves.

Nathan Sturgis sent a corner kick into the box in the 24th minute that Ianni headed through. The ball dropped to Fredy Montero in a crowd in front of goal but his shot was deflected over the crossbar by Ricketts.

Earlier, a free kick by Sturgis in the 18th minute nearly resulted in a goal but Jeff Parke’s header missed wide of the far post. Three minutes later a Sturgis free kick from 22 yards was parried by Ricketts at the near post.

Sounders FC nearly scored a late equalizer when Steve Zakuani and Blaise Nkufo combined on the left flank and played Nate Jaqua into the box. Jaqua struck a low shot from 15 yards that Ricketts saved.

Keller made four saves, including a tip save in the 7th minute on David Beckham’s curling free kick from the left wing.

Parke left the match in the 65th minute with a sprained left ankle and was replaced by Tyrone Marshall. It was Marshall’s 27th career playoff appearance.

Seattle’s Montero and Nkufo were both issued yellow cards. Juninho, Dema Kovalenko and Jovan Kirovski were cautioned for L.A.

It was the final home game of the season for Sounders FC, which went 8-5-3 at home in MLS regular season and playoff matches.

Previous Sounders FC-Galaxy Meetings

Sounders FC 2, Galaxy 0 – July 7, 2010 – Starfire Sports Stadium (U.S. Open Cup)

Nate Jaqua scored two second-half goals as Seattle won a quarterfinal match in front of a capacity crowd, extending its unbeaten run to eight straight in cup-related matches.

After a scoreless first half, Jaqua struck in the 50th minute. Miguel Montano took a ball from Michael Seamon and blasted two shots, the later bouncing off the crossbar. With keeper Josh Saunders off his line, Jaqua headed the rebound into an open net.

Just 12 minutes later, Montano crossed the ball to the far-post where Jaqua headed in his second goal of the match. Jaqua has scored in three straight Open Cup appearances, including a goal in the 89th minute of last season’s semifinal match against Houston as well as the goal in the July 1 third-round match at Portland. The Timbers extended Seattle to penalty kicks after the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Terry Boss got his first start in goal for Sounders FC and made two saves to earn the shutout.

Sounders FC 1, Galaxy 3 – July 4, 2010 – Home Depot Center

Steve Zakuani’s second-half strike was not enough for Seattle as it lost for the third straight match. Before a capacity crowd of 27,000, the Galaxy extended its lead to nine points in the West on goals by Edson Buddle, Juninho and an own goal by James Riley.

Los Angeles, entering on a two-game winless streak, welcomed back Buddle and star midfielder Landon Donovan from their duty with the U.S. National Team at the World Cup. Donovan connected with Buddle in the 19th minute for the game’s first goal. Donovan swung a corner kick into the box where Buddle headed it into the top corner.

Juninho added a tally in the 48th minute, making it 2-0 on a 30-yard strike into the top corner of the net for his first career MLS goal.

In the 66th minute, Zakuani closed the gap. He took a ball from Fredy Montero, split the Galaxy defense and slid a shot into the corner.

Seattle appeared to be on the verge of pulling level, but in the 74th minute Freddie Ljungberg’s shot was saved by Donovan Ricketts and three minutes later the Galaxy restored its lead. A driven ball through the crease from Alan Gordon was deflected by Riley into his own net.

Sounders FC was outshot 15-9 (5-4 on goal) and surrendered 11 corner kicks. Seattle matched a club record for fewest corner kicks in a game with one.

Sounders FC 0, Galaxy 4 – May 1, 2010 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

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

Galaxy opened the scoring in the 22nd minute with a goal by Jovan Kirovski. Michael Stephens took a ball from Donovan and found Kirovski making a run from the left side. Kirovski’s right-footed strike from outside the box deflected off Kasey Keller into the goal. L.A. scored a second goal in the 52nd minute when Omar Gonzalez headed in a Donovan corner kick. A third tally came just minutes later off a Donovan free kick as he served the ball into the box where Todd Dunivant headed home. Donovan added a fourth strike in the 67th minute off a one-touch shot from Edson Buddle.

Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso left the match in the 35th minute with a right hamstring strain. Colombian midfielder Miguel Montano saw his first MLS action, entering the match in the 58th minute for Fredy Montero.

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

Sounders FC 2, Galaxy 0 – August 15, 2009 – Home Depot Center

Seattle broke a 336-minute scoreless drought to end a three-game winless skein and post its first road win in nine matches. Sounders FC got its first break in the 16th minute. Galaxy midfielder David Beckham was shown a red card after a studs up midfield tackle on former teammate Peter Vagenas. Sounders FC played much of the match up one man.

Steve Zakuani scored in the 22nd minute, the team’s first goal since July 11. Brad Evans beat Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter and crossed the ball to the far post where Zakuani knocked it past Donovan Ricketts.

Seattle scored its second goal in the 54th minute after a corner kick by Vagenas was headed by Nate Jaqua and volleyed in by forward Fredy Montero. Each team lost a man in the final minutes. Tyrone Marshall was ejected on a second yellow and the Galaxy’s Eddie Lewis was sent off for a rough tackle on James Riley three minutes later. Seattle played the match without two of its MLS All-Stars. Midfielder Freddie Ljungberg sat out because of illness while defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado missed the match due to yellow card suspension. Seattle wore its blue kit for the first time at Los Angeles.

Sounders FC 1, Galaxy 1 – May 10, 2009 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

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

Academy: Okoli Honored, Sounders FC Back Home

Sean Okoli was named the U.S. Soccer Development Academy U17/18 Week Seven Performer of the Week for his two goals and assist in road victories over the L.A. Galaxy and Chivas USA. Okoli scored twice at Chivas USA and assisted on one goal against the Galaxy.

This weekend the academy teams return home for their first matches against Northwest Division foes. The San Jose Earthquakes and California Odyssey visit Starfire on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The U18s play at 12 noon both days, followed by the U16s at 2:30 p.m. PT.

It’s the first of three consecutive weekends of play for the teams. They travel to northern California on November 13-14 for a pair of matches, and then host Crossfire Premier on November 20.

Sounders FC Roster

The following players are currently training with Sounders FC: Goalkeepers (4): Terry Boss, Kevin Guppy+, Jordan Jennings*, Kasey Keller; Defenders (10): Taylor Graham, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Tyrone Marshall, Jeff Parke, James Riley, Zach Scott, Tyson Wahl, Jamel Wallace*. Midfielders (8): Osvaldo Alonso, David Estrada, Brad Evans, Alvaro Fernandez, Sanna Nyassi, Michael Seamon, Nathan Sturgis, Peter Vagenas; Forwards (9): Mike Fucito, Blaise Nkufo, Nate Jaqua, Roger Levesque, Miguel Montano, Fredy Montero, Pat Noonan, Ty Perdido*, Steve Zakuani.

*invitee; +MLS emergency goalkeeper

Throw-ins

James Riley won the final MLS Goal of the Week, giving Seattle four straight such wins to end the season. Riley connected on a blast at Houston. It was the ninth GOW award for the Sounders FC this season, more than any other club…Friday, November 5, marks the 27th anniversary of the Tacoma Stars’ inaugural indoor game, a 6-2 home loss to the L.A. Lazers in 1983…Seattle is the first club to be held scoreless in its first three MLS Cup Playoff games. Colorado was shut-out in five consecutive games between 1998-2000. Chivas USA and Tampa Bay were blanked in four straight…Players drawing a yellow card in each of the two legs of the semifinal face a suspension for the conference final, should their team advance. Following the semifinal series, caution totals are reset to zero. Five players were issued cautions last week during the first leg: Seattle’s Fredy Montero and Blaise Nkufo, and Juninho, Dema Kovalenko and Jovan Kirovski of Los Angeles…Sounders FC supporters will gather Saturday night at approximately 9 p.m. at Kilkenny’s Irish Pub in Redondo Beach.

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