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

March 21, 2011 at 2:59 PM

Sounders FC weekly release of team news and notes

ssfc fans france.jpgThis collection of notes courtesy of the team. These pictures courtesy of Sounders FC fans Zaki and Devin.

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Sounders FC Seeks Fresh Start, First Win Versus Houston

Determined to earn its first points of the year and begin the spring portion of the schedule strong, Seattle Sounders FC returns home to face the Houston Dynamo under the Friday night lights. Kickoff is 7 p.m. PT on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, and Fox Soccer will televise the match live.

If building anticipation makes for more euphoric celebration, Sounders FC (0-2-0) is due to send its already big and boisterous crowd into a frenzy. Seattle has applied plenty of attacking pressure in its first two outings only to come up empty handed in 1-nil losses to last season’s conference champions, L.A. and New York.

It was a winter cold spell to which the Rave Green and its supporters are unaccustomed, having been unbeaten and un-scored upon previously in the month of March.

Houston (0-1-0), easily recognizable for its orange attire, has already played a few memorable matches against the Rave Green in a series which stands all square at 2-2-2 in MLS regular season and postseason play. It was against the Dynamo that Sounders FC secured its first comeback win in 2009, then just days later, a berth in its first U.S. Open Cup final with an extra time victory in the tournament semifinal. Houston extracted some revenge in the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs, winning the aggregate series on an extra-time goal by former USL-1 Sounders striker Brian Ching.

Friday’s match will be called by Arlo White on 97.3 KIRO FM and it can also be heard on La Gran D 99.3 FM.

Sounders FC travels to the Bay Area to face the San Jose Earthquakes on April 2 at 7:30 p.m. before hosting the Chicago Fire in its first afternoon game on April 9. Tickets are available at www.SoundersFC.com and by calling 877-MLS-GOAL.

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

Friday, March 25, 7 p.m. – Houston Dynamo, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Saturday, April 2, 7:30 p.m. – at San Jose Earthquakes, Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.

Saturday, April 9, 1 p.m. – Chicago Fire, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Saturday, April 16, 1 p.m. – at Philadelphia Union, PPL Park, Chester, Penn.

Friday, April 22, 6:30 p.m. – at Colorado Rapids, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.

Reinforcements on the Way

Whereas the winter yielded little, spring promises much to those clad in green. Between offseason surgeries and injuries sustained in preseason, Seattle has been without several key performers so far. Winger Steve Zakuani, last year’s co-scoring leader with 10 goals, missed the New York match and was less than full throttle against L.A. because of hip injury but figures to be back against Houston.

Among those who may also be available for selection are forward Nate Jaqua (hip), and midfielders Brad Evans (hamstring) and Pat Noonan (hip). Jaqua scored nine goals and nine assists in 2009, his last full season. Evans started 39 of the franchise’s first 43 matches, and Noonan has scored 41 career goals. Central defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado has started and gone the full 90 in each of the first two games. Hurtado, a finalist for 2009 Defender of the Year, had missed the final 20 matches of 2010 with a torn ACL.

Youth Movement

Much like its nucleus of players, Sounders FC is a young club, learning, maturing and moving forward with each match. It’s a formula which can produce a winning combination and solid foundation for years to come. But before that there can also come times of frustration.

In the first two matches its starting compliment of midfielders and forwards consisted entirely of players ages 25 and under: Osvaldo Alonso (25), Servando Carrasco (22), Alvaro Fernandez (25), Erik Friberg (25), Fredy Montero (23), O’Brian White (25) and Steve Zakuani (23). The group’s average number of career MLS matches is 31.6 games. The youth movement extends beyond the starting XI; Sigi Schmid has brought off his bench both Lamar Neagle (23/2 MLS games) and Miguel Montano (19/7). Carrasco, Friberg and Neagle made their MLS debuts last week.

Home Remedy

Backed by the best and most plentiful fans in America, Sounders FC is coming to the best ground to turn things around. Only once has Seattle lost consecutive home matches and altogether its record on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field is 15-7-9, with a plus-16 goals differential. Since July 25 of last season, the club is 5-1-1 at home, the Galaxy loss having snapped a seven-game unbeaten run. Houston has yet to win in Seattle, going 0-3-1, including playoffs and cup ties.

It’s How You Finish

While it’s unwanted, the slow start can all be forgotten over the next 32 matches if Seattle finishes strong. In the magical first season, Sounders FC got off the mark with three straight wins. Last year it went 1-1-1. In both cases Seattle qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs but was eliminated in the first round. In each of those seasons the team that eventually raised the MLS Cup was a slow starter: Real Salt Lake began 3-6-3 in 2009 and Colorado went 3-3-1 in 2010.

Wanted: Goals, Glorious Goals

To capture the three points, of course, you must first put the ball in the net, and no one can argue that Sounders FC has not created its share of opportunities. Seattle has fired 21 shots, including 11 on goal and another against the frame. Historically, when the Rave Green gets on the scoresheet it is 26-6-12. The consecutive shutouts are the first in 21 games and there has only been one stretch of three consecutive scoreless games, that ending on August 8, 2009. In the three previous instances of consecutive games held scoreless, Sounders FC has ended the string by scoring multiple goals with an average of 2.3.

Life, Final Season Begins at 41

Off to an auspicious start this season is veteran backstop Kasey Keller. Now in his 20th and final professional season, Keller’s string of shot-stopping feats seems to know no end. He made three full-stretch stops last week, including a saved penalty kick off New York’s Thierry Henry. It was the second MLS penalty save for Keller, who at age 40 last season earned MLS Save of the Year and MLS All-Star accolades. Opponents have missed four of nine penalties against him overall. Now 41, he has started 61 of the team’s 62 matches (57 in a row), posting 21 shutouts and allowing only 1.04 goals per game. Keller’s first MLS assist came against Houston last season.

Excelling Against Houston

Some Sounders FC players have fared quite well in previous Houston matchups. Seattle’s career scoring king Fredy Montero has scored the opening goal in both MLS home wins over the Dynamo, including a quick turn and finish from Keller’s punt to put the Rave Green ahead in last year’s 2-nil victory. Nate Jaqua, who played two seasons for Houston, delivered a last-minute, game-tying goal against his former team in the 2009 Open Cup semifinal and also scored in a 1-1 draw in Texas later that season. Patrick Ianni, another former Dynamo, scored the spectacular overhead winner at home in 2009 and Alvaro Fernandez opened his MLS scoring account with a late goal at home in 2010.

Beach Championships Begin in Brazil

The Beach Soccer Club World Cup are underway in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Sounders FC is battling to finish among the top four of its group to qualify for the knockout stage.

Seattle can clinch a place in Thursday’s quarterfinals with either a draw or win against Brazil’s Santos on Tuesday. Sounders FC earned its first win, 4-0 over Sporting Portugal, on Monday. Osmar Moreira put the Rave Green ahead in the second minute. Morerira and Francisco Cati each scored twice while keeper Nico Jung posted the shutout.

In its first game Seattle was beaten, 3-2, by Russia’s Lokomotiv Moscow. Francisco Velasquez and Yuri Morales scored. On Sunday, Brazil’s Corinthians edged Sounders FC on penalties (2-1) after the match ended 2-2. Seattle had taken a 2-nil lead on early goals from Morales and Cati.

Sounders FC is third in Group A with three points. Semifinal games will be played on Friday and the championship match on Saturday.

Series Notes

Sounders FC last met the Houston Dynamo in the 2011 preseason in Orlando. Seattle used two second-half goals to come-from-behind and draw with the Dynamo, 2-2, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on February 22. Fredy Montero converted a penalty kick after O’Brian White was fouled in the box and rookie Michael Tetteh netted the equalizer in the 70th minute. Cam Weaver and Brian Ching scored for Houston.

The sides are even at 2-2-2 in MLS regular season and postseason play. Next to the L.A. Galaxy, Sounders FC has played no opponent more than Houston (seven times in its first two seasons, including playoffs and cup). In 2010, Montero and Alvaro Fernandez scored in a 2-nil victory at Qwest Field while James Riley’s goal wasn’t enough in the second meeting when Seattle lost, 2-1, at Houston. The goal marked Riley’s first tally since 2005 and he also assisted on Nate Jaqua’s equalizer in 2009. Houston bounced Seattle from the 2009 MLS Cup playoffs behind Brian Ching’s extra time goal and Seattle ousted Houston, 2-1, in the 2009 U.S. Open Cup.

Biggest Crowd Yet for First Kick

Sounders FC fans have filled the seats for 33 consecutive MLS regular season and postseason matches, and the gathering of 36,433 for First Kick 2011 versus the Galaxy was the biggest yet. Seattle again led the league in 2010, breaking its own attendance record by averaging 36,173.

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

41,047 (October 12, 2010) — Seattle v Chivas Guadalajara, friendly

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

36,433 (March 15, 2011) — Seattle v Los Angeles

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

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

About Houston

The Dynamo opened the 2011 MLS season with a 1-nil home loss to Philadelphia Union on Saturday. A goal by the visitors in the 5th minute proved to be the game-winner despite Houston’s 14-7 advantage on shots (3-4 on goal).

In 2010, Houston missed the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since moving to Texas in 2006. The summer months proved challenging as the club went on a 10-game winless stretch (0-6-4) from May to August, followed by a four-game losing streak in September. Overall, Houston won just two games from May 22 to October 16 but ended the season with two straight wins. Last season, the Dynamo went 3-9-3 away from home with a -13 goal differential. The team ranked among MLS’ top five in goals (5th with 38) and corner kicks (3rd with 152) in 2010.

Dynamo Notables

Houston’s offense featured a balanced attack in 2010 with 15 different goal-scorers. Brian Ching, who missed the 2011 season opener with a hamstring injury, led the team with seven goals last season and scored on Seattle in preseason play. All-Star midfielder Brad Davis finished with 12 assists in 2010 (top five in MLS) and his five goals were second-most on the team. Forward Dominic Oduro emerged as a scoring threat with five goals and three assists. Goalkeeper Tally Hall made three saves on Saturday night. Hall started five games in 2010, posting one shutout with a 1.6 goals against average. He has just one win in his first six league starts, allowing nine goals. Backup keeper Tyler Deric, 22, was in net the last time the two teams met. Aside from Ching, Colin Clark (knee) and Francisco Navas Cobo (hamstring) were held out of Saturday’s match.

SEA/HOU Connections

Houston features several personalities with Northwest ties, including two former A-League/USL-1 Sounders. Forward Cam Weaver was the Sounders’ top scorer in 2005 as a rookie out of Seattle University. Weaver had helped the Redhawks win the NCAA Division II championship in 2004. Forward Brian Ching starred at Gonzaga and made the all-league team with the Sounders in 2002. Mike Chabala played his collegiate career at Washington. Goalkeeper Tally Hall is a native of Gig Harbor, Washington. Dominic Kinnear, the Dynamo head coach, played for the Sounders’ 1995 A-League championship team.

Two members of Sounders FC came north from Houston during the 2009 offseason. Nate Jaqua played parts of two seasons for the Dynamo, scoring 10 goals and six assists in 29 regular season appearances during 2007 and 2008. Jaqua, who came to Sounders FC via the expansion draft, scored two game-tying goals against the Dynamo in 2009. His 89th minute goal in the July 21 U.S. Open Cup semifinal sent the match into extra time and he also scored the 70th minute equalizer in an MLS meeting on August 23, 2009.

Patrick Ianni was obtained in a January 26 trade for a conditional pick in the 2010 SuperDraft. Ianni spent his first three pro seasons wearing orange, making 35 league appearances for the Dynamo from 2006-08. He scored the game-winner on a second-half overhead kick in a 2-1 Seattle home win on July 11, 2009.

Recap: Sounders FC 0, L.A. Galaxy 1 – March 15 – Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field

Juninho scored in the second half to give the Galaxy the win in MLS First Kick 2011. It was Seattle’s third straight year being featured in the First Kick matchup, of which it had won both previous openers.

Fans contributed over $22,000 to the American Red Cross for Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami relief.

Sounders FC dropped its first home opener since entering the league in 2009 and fourth straight loss to L.A. in MLS regular season and postseason play.

The Galaxy got the game-winner in the 58th minute when, following a change of possession at midfield, Todd Dunivant fed Juninho and the young Brazilian fired a shot off the outstretched hands of Kasey Keller and into the back of the net from 20 yards out.

It was a match in which Seattle saw plenty of chances but could not finish. Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders made six saves on 11 Sounders FC shots.

Seattle almost equalized several times in the second half. In the 61st minute, Osvaldo Alonso sailed an open shot over the goal from the top of the box. O’Brian White narrowly missed from short range in the 72nd when he attempted to redirect a Steve Zakuani cross into the net but couldn’t sneak it in the left corner of the goal. White led Sounders FC with four shots, the other three in the first half, two of which were on goal.

Fredy Montero had two of his three shots in the first half. In the ninth minute, he fired from outside the box but Saunders blocked it. A second attempt in the 32nd minute off an Alonso corner kick allowed Montero a chance from 10 yards but again Saunders saved.Erik Friberg was able to control a deflected Los Angeles clearance in the 43rd minute, only to miss the right corner from 18 yards.

L.A. registered 10 shots, with two on goal as Keller made one save on the night.

Recap: Sounders FC 0, New York Red Bulls 1 – March 19 – Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

Juan Agudelo scored the game’s lone goal with 20 minutes remaining as Seattle fell for the first time in New York.

Agudelo, 18, netted the winner in the 70th minute when he chased down a long ball from Teemu Tainio, shrugged off a challenge and struck it with the outside of his right foot and into the side netting. It was Agudelo’s first career MLS goal.

Seattle conceded a penalty kick in the 8th minute after Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was whistled for a tackle on Agudelo in the box. Thierry Henry stepped up to the spot and hit a low strike to the right corner. Kasey Keller dived to his right and deflected the ball across the endline for a corner kick.

It was Keller’s second penalty save in MLS play. He last saved a penalty kick against Real Salt Lake on September 9, 2010.

Sounders FC had several scoring opportunities, nearly equalizing in second-half stoppage time. Fredy Montero swung a free kick into the box that forced a save from goalkeeper Greg Sutton and Lamar Neagle’s rebound attempt missed high.

Montero played a give-and-go with Alvaro Fernandez in the 39th minute but Montero’s hard shot from the right side was blocked by Sutton.

Just before the halftime whistle, Montero beat a New York defender in the box but his shot from the endline hit the outside of the right post.

A pair of Sounders made their MLS debuts on Saturday night. Argentine midfielder Mauro Rosales, who signed with the club on Friday, replaced Fernandez in the 68th minute and rookie Servando Carrasco, Seattle’s third selection (27th overall) in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, started at central midfield.

Argentine Midfielder Mauro Rosales Joins Seattle

Argentine midfielder Mauro Rosales signed and was added to the roster on the eve of the New York match and made his MLS debut against the Red Bulls. He first joined Sounders FC in late February during the club’s preseason training in Florida.

Rosales, 30, has been capped 10 times (one goal) by Argentina and was a member of the gold-medal winning team at the 2004 Olympic Games, the 2001 FIFA U20 World Cup and the 2004 Copa America runners-up. He played the past four years for Buenos Aires giants River Plate.

Rosales scored 39 goals in 234 league matches for Newell’s Old Boys, Ajax and River Plate.

Rosales has played nearly 400 matches over all competitions in South America and Europe. He was a member of two Ajax teams which twice won the Dutch Cup and Dutch Super Cup. Rosales played for River Plate when Los Millonarios claimed the 2008 Argentine Clausura.

Midfielder Miguel Montano Re-Signs, Keeper Josh Ford Signs

Prior to First Kick Sounders FC made two roster moves, re-signing midfielder Miguel Montano and signing goalkeeper Josh Ford. Montano returns for his second season and Ford was Seattle’s first pick and 11th overall in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft.

Montano, 19, was first acquired by Sounders FC on loan from Argentina’s Quilmes on April 30, 2010. He is the youngest player to appear in an MLS match for Seattle, making his debut against the L.A. Galaxy on May 8. He went on to appear in six league games, starting one, and collected two assists in U.S. Open Cup play. He contributed three assists during the 2011 preseason. Montano appeared in 12 competitive matches altogether and also made his first appearance for the Colombia Under-20 National Team in 2010.

Ford 23, was a four-year starter at the University of Connecticut. He was named the 2010 Big East Goalkeeper of the Year and also earned first team College Soccer News All-American and All-Big East first team honors as a senior. Ford holds the Huskies’ school record for career shutouts (50), consecutive starts (85) and wins (54).

Reserve League Schedule Announced

Major League Soccer is re-launching its Reserve League this year. The MLS Reserve League will provide essential developmental opportunities to players and is made possible by the growth of first team rosters from 24 in 2010 to 30 players in 2011. MLS clubs previously fielded reserve sides from 2005 through 2008, benefiting players such as 2010 Budweiser Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), Omar Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz, and Kosuke Kimura of the defending MLS Cup Champion Colorado Rapids.

The new MLS Reserve League will be split into East, Central, and West divisions with teams facing each divisional opponent twice for a total of 10 games per team. Clubs may schedule additional games for their reserve squads against non-MLS opponents. The games featuring two MLS reserve teams begin March 20 and conclude October 16.

Seattle Sounders FC will play its first Reserve League game at San Jose on April 3. Seattle is scheduled to play five home matches at Starfire Stadium. The first home date is May 9 against Chivas USA. Sounders FC will also host the Portland Timbers (May 15), Vancouver Whitecaps FC (June 7), L.A. Galaxy (June 13) and the San Jose Earthquakes (October 11). The team’s complete Reserve League schedule is at SoundersFC.com.

Sounders FC Announces TV and Radio Schedule

Sounders FC has announced the complete TV and radio schedule for the 2011 season, including 10 national television broadcasts.

All Sounders FC Major League Soccer (MLS) league matches not aired nationally will be carried live in high definition on KING-5 or KONG-6/16 with Arlo White calling the action. White returns for his second season as the “Voice of the Sounders FC” after spending the previous nine years with BBC Radio Sport in England. Former University of Washington soccer captain Erin Mayovsky joins the Sounders FC broadcast team, serving as sideline reporter and also providing pregame and halftime commentary. KING-5’s Chris Egan hosts the Sounders FC pregame and halftime shows with Alan Hinton and Peter Fewing supplying insight. All locally broadcast matches will also be aired either live outside of Seattle or on a delayed basis throughout Northwest on FSN/ROOT SPORTS (Comcast channels 627 & 30).

KONG-TV airs Sounders FC Weekly every Sunday at 10:35 p.m., with the third season premier on Sunday, March 20. Andrea Nakano goes in-depth to bring fans all the news and insights on the team. Fans have the opportunity to submit questions to their favorite players on www.King5.com.

Ten Sounders FC Spanish language TV matches will be aired on THIS-TV/KOMO 4.2, Comcast channel 114, a Univision sister station. Play-by-play will be provided by Univision Seattle’s Jamie Mendez. Joining him for color commentary and providing unique insight will be former USL Sounder Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar. Alcaraz-Cuellar provides six years of professional soccer experience in the Pacific Northwest.

News Talk 97.3 KIRO FM will carry 33 out of 34 matches on radio, including an increased one-hour postgame show on select matches with host Matt Johnson and analyst Jimmy Gabriel.

All 34 matches will be carried live on Spanish radio, with 27 on La Gran D 99.3 FM and seven broadcasted on ESPN Deportes. Rene Aleman, Noe Menendez and Victor Hernandez call the action for La Gran D 99.3 FM.

Throw-ins

A year ago on March 25, Sounders FC opened the 2010 MLS season by beating Philadelphia Union, 2-0…Right back James Riley played in his 150th career game against L.A…Back to back 29th birthdays this week: Jeff Parke on Wednesday, March 23, and assistant coach/scout Kurt Schmid on Thursday, March 24…David Estrada will be signing autographs and taking pictures at Seattle Bank in Bellevue (11120 NE 33rd Pl. Bellevue, WA 98004) on Tuesday, March 22 from 4-5 p.m. Fans can take photos and upload them to display on their debit cards…Patrick Ianni will be at the “Soccer Dreams” book launch event at Elliott Bay Books (Capitol Hill) on Sunday, March 27 from 1-2 p.m. “Soccer Dreams” is a children’s book based on Sounders FC. A portion of the proceeds will be allocated to provide scholarships to local youth for the Sounders FC camps.

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