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

March 28, 2011 at 6:30 PM

Sounders FC weekly release of team news and notes

ssfcfan1.jpgThis batch of news courtesy of the club. This picture provided by Colin after climbing up Mount Rainier.

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Bay Area Visit the First of Three April Away Matches for Sounders FC

Foreign soil has proved fertile for past success and Seattle Sounders FC will be playing three of the next four matches on hostile ground, beginning Saturday night against the San Jose Earthquakes. First kick is 7:30 p.m. PT at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. and the game will be broadcast live on KING 5.

Sounders FC (0-2-1) collected its first point in the MLS standings by coming back to tie Houston, 1-1, at home last week. The Rave Green dominated most of the match, establishing new records for shots in a half (15) and a game (26) and tying the mark for corner kicks (12).

San Jose (1-1-0) features Chris Wondolowski, the MLS scoring king of 2010 and scorer of two goals in last week’s 2-0 win at FC Dallas.

Seattle leads the series 3-2-0, including a 1-nil win at San Jose last summer on the strength of a Fredy Montero header. The season series was split, with the Quakes taking the first meeting in the Emerald City, 1-0.

Arlo White will call the play on both KING 5 and 97.3 KIRO FM. The game is also being aired on La Gran D 99.3 FM.

Seattle returns home on April 9 to face the Chicago Fire at 1 p.m., then goes on the road in consecutive weeks to play Philadelphia Union on April 16 and the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids on April 22.

For Sounders FC tickets go to www.SoundersFC.com or call 877-MLS-GOAL.

Upcoming Competition Schedule (All times Pacific)

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.

Saturday, April 30, 7 p.m. – Toronto FC, Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field, Seattle

Answers on the Road

Sometimes fortune can be found where and when its least expected. For Sounders FC, playing on the road has provided big payoffs in the past. On three different occasions, Seattle has started a healthy unbeaten run by winning away.

The surge to claim a playoff berth in 2009 was started by consecutive 2-1 wins at D.C. United, first in the U.S. Open Cup Final and later in league play. Those victories kick-started a stretch in which Seattle went 5-1-1 in all competitions.

Last year it was yet another visit to Washington, D.C. that proved to be a turnaround. Winless in its previous four games (0-3-1), Seattle beat United to start a four-game win streak. Two months later in Columbus, the first of five consecutive wins came at the expense of the Crew.

A Different Look

So far, 15 different players have featured in the starting XI, with the biggest shakeup coming for the Houston match. Sigi Schmid made four changes following the loss at New York, with injuries factoring in two of the moves. It was Schmid’s boldest personnel move in the last 10 MLS regular season games. New to the lineup were Patrick Ianni and Zach Scott on defense and Steve Zakuani and Brad Evans in midfield.

Seattle continues to go with young guns up top. In the first three matches its starters in midfield and in the attack has been comprised exclusively of player’s ages 25 and younger: Osvaldo Alonso (25), Servando Carrasco (22), Brad Evans (25), Alvaro Fernandez (25), Erik Friberg (25), Fredy Montero (23), O’Brian White (25) and Steve Zakuani (23).

Seeing their first action of the season were Evans, Ianni, Scott and forward Nate Jaqua, who played the final 29 minutes.

Broken Records

The Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field could have been confused for a shooting gallery against the Dynamo. Sounders FC peppered the visitors’ goal with 26 shots, far surpassing the previous club record of 20 total shots, set against D.C. United in 2010. That included a new mark of 15 shots in the first half. Mix in 12 corners to tie, and standard, statistically and territorially it was a mismatch. However, Houston nearly stole all the points by virtue of first-half goal. Seattle pounded away until finally netting its first goal of the season in the 80th minute.

Individually, Fredy Montero matched his own record for shots (7), first set against Philadelphia at home last year. O’Brian White fired six shots and Erik Friberg took 10 corner kicks, each tying for No. 3 on the team list. Montero has put three shots on goal in each of the first three matches.

Playing with Abandon

The statistics told only part of the story. Yes, the 26 shots and 12 corners were more than the first two games combined, and the 15 first-half attempts were more than the full-time totals in the first two outings. Yet those numbers were merely symptomatic of the frenetic pace, the tenacious character displayed by Rave Green players winning balls, connecting passes and breaking apart Dynamo attacks. Houston was forced to chase virtually the entire night, attempting just six shots.

Give the Orange credit, they bent only so far. Tally Hall made seven saves, including a spectacular stop of O’Brian White’s first-half header. A defender cleared another shot by White off the line and the crossbar stopped Jeff Parke’s rebound header on the same sequence.

Zakuani on the Mark

It was winger Steve Zakuani who finally pierced the Dynamo defense, scoring his 15th career goal. Zakuani has now scored in three of his last four regular season home games, dating to a 3-2 win over Toronto FC last season. He also scored the club’s final goal of 2010 in a playoff loss to L.A. Zakuani’s goal came on the end of a corner kick by Erik Friberg which caromed off two players before finding him at the back post.

April has been a productive month for Zakuani, with four goals and an assist in nine appearances. That includes road goals scored at Toronto (2009) and last year at Real Salt Lake and Dallas. The fourth strike came at home versus San Jose in 2009.

Patrick of Lodi

A week ago it was a matter of a hometown lad, Tally Hall of Gig Harbor, who helped Houston earn a draw on the road. Perhaps it’s Patrick Ianni’s turn to do the same. Ianni hails from Lodi, California, less than two hours’ drive from San Jose, and he’s coming off a firm performance in central defense during his first start of 2011. He’s one of three northern California products on the Seattle roster, joining David Estrada (Salinas) and Taylor Graham (Fair Oaks).

Reserve League Opener on Sunday

Sounders FC plays its first MLS Reserve League match against San Jose on Sunday. The match starts at 11 a.m. at the Quakes’ Nutrilite Training Facility in San Jose. Seattle’s reserves beat Gonzaga 7-0 with seven different players scoring goals on Sunday at Starfire. The first Reserve League home match will be May 9 against Chivas USA at Starfire Stadium.

Sounders FC Weekly on Saturdays

Fans can catch up with the latest news and information on the Rave Green each Saturday morning at 8 a.m. with Sounders FC Weekly on 710 ESPN Seattle. Matt Johnson hosts the one-hour program which will run throughout the season.

Forward Blaise Nkufo Retires

Blaise Nkufo, the veteran striker with over 450 professional appearances and 200 goals during a 17-year career, has announced his retirement, Seattle Sounders FC announced today.

Nkufo, 35, joined Sounders FC on July 15, 2010 and went on to score five goals in 11 MLS matches. All five goals came during the first three matches of an eventual four-game win streak. Nkufo became the first Seattle player to register a hat trick, scoring three times in a 4-0 victory at Columbus.

Prior to joining Sounders FC, Nkufo represented Switzerland in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, completing his international career with 27 caps and seven goals. He played the previous seven seasons for FC Twente in Enschede, Holland. Twente won the Dutch Eredivisie in 2010 and Nkufo scored a club record 114 career goals in league play.

Among the Leaders

Seattle leads the league in shots (47), shots on goal (18), fouls committed (42), offside (12) and corner kicks (15) and is second in fouls suffered (38). Fredy Montero is first in shots (14) and O’Brian White is second (10). Montero (9) and White (4) are also first and second in shots on goal. Montero leads the league in fouls suffered (10) and Leo Gonzalez is first with eight fouls committed and two yellow cards. Erik Friberg is second in MLS with 10 corner kicks. Kasey Keller is seventh in goals against average (1.00). Seattle is one of two teams to have played three games in the first two weeks of the season.

Series Notes

Sounders FC is 3-2-0 all-time against San Jose. In 2010, the road team proved victorious as both sides won its away match, 1-nil. The last meeting was on July 31 when Fredy Montero netted a first-half game-winner. Jeff Parke left the game with a head injury and Alvaro Fernandez made his club debut just two days after signing. The Quakes captured the three road points in the first meeting of 2010, beating Sounders FC 1-0 at Qwest Field on May 22. Chris Wondolowski scored the early game-winner despite Seattle’s advantage in shots (18-3) and corner kicks (11-3). Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado sustained a knee injury in the final minutes of the match and missed the remainder of the 2010 season.

The sides met three times in 2009 as Seattle won two and lost one. In their first ever meeting, Seattle dropped San Jose, 2-0, at Qwest Field on April 25, 2009. Steve Zakuani scored and assisted as Seattle snapped a two-game losing streak. The clubs next met on June 13, 2009 when Seattle won 2-1 with Montero and Freddie Ljungberg each contributing a goal and an assist. In the return match on August 2, Sounders FC suffered one of the worst losses in franchise history, 4-0 at San Jose. After conceding an own goal in the first 90 seconds, Seattle played a man down for the final 67 minutes and allowed three second-half goals.

About San Jose

San Jose (1-1-0, 3 points) is even in its first two matches of the season, dropping its season opener at home to Real Salt Lake, 1-0, and winning on the road at Dallas last Saturday, 2-0. Despite being outshot by FC Dallas 19-6 (6-2 on goal), Chris Wondolowski netted two first-half goals to capture the three road points. With the shutout, San Jose improved to third in the league with a goals against average of 0.50 and have currently not allowed a goal in 116 minutes of game action. In 2010, the Earthquakes finished the season at 13-10-7, going 7-5-3 at home. The 46 points were enough for the final spot in the MLS Cup playoffs where they fell to Colorado in the semifinals after ousting New York.

Earthquakes Notables

The San Jose attack is led by the 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski. After being blanked by RSL in the season opener, Wondolowski scored a brace against Dallas in a 2-0 road win on Saturday. His first goal, a chest-trap volley, came in the 5th minute and is nominated for MLS Goal of the Week. His second strike came in the 23rd minute. Wondolowski has scored the last 12 regular season goals for the Quakes, dating back to September 15, 2010, and no teammate scored more than three goals last season. Defender Chris Leitch assisted on both of Wondolowki’s goals and Tacoma native Joey Gjertsen, who has started both games this season, assisted on the second goal. Midfielder Bobby Convey recorded 10 assists last season and scored twice against New York in the playoffs. Ryan Johnson, Wondolowski’s partner up top, has played all 180 minutes in the first two games. Johnson scored one goal with eight assists last season. Goalkeeper Jon Busch made five saves on Saturday to earn his first clean sheet of the season. Overall, he has made six saves in two games, allowing one goal, and currently boasts a 116 minute shutout streak.

SEA/SJ Connections

Seattle’s starting right back James Riley was selected by San Jose in the 2007 expansion draft following three years in New England. Sounders FC took him from the Earthquakes in the 2008 expansion draft. Riley played in 24 games for San Jose, starting 23. Sounders FC forward Roger Levesque started his professional career with the original MLS Earthquakes before he joined the USL-1 Sounders. Levesque was selected by San Jose with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft and played a total of four MLS games for the Quakes (2003-05). San Jose defender Chris Leitch played under Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid in 2006 for Columbus, starting 18 of 24 appearances. Earthquakes assistant coach Ian Russell is a former USL-1 Sounder who helped form the nucleus of two championship teams in San Jose from 2001-03. The former University of Washington standout played a total of six seasons in the league, playing for the USL-1 Sounders in 1998 and ’99. San Jose’s top scorer Chris Wondolowski played on the Houston Dynamo (2006-09) alongside Patrick Ianni (2006-08) and Nate Jaqua (2007, 2008). Tacoma native Joey Gjertsen played the 2001 season for the Tacoma Titans and two seasons for Evergreen State in 2003-04. Levesque and Taylor Graham each played at nearby Stanford University (1999-2002) and Tyson Wahl played at California (2002-05). Former University of Washington forward Ellis McLoughlin recently signed with San Jose and has appeared in both matches this season, logging 35 minutes as a reserve. McLoughlin briefly trained with Sounders FC in 2010.

Seattle Hosts Mexico-Ecuador on May 28

The Federacion Mexicana de Futbol (FMF), together with Soccer United Marketing (SUM), has announced that “El Tri” will host Ecuador’s national team on Saturday, May 28 at 4p.m. ET on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. The game will be presented by AT&T.

Tickets are on sale at www.Ticketmaster.com, by calling 1-800-745-3000 or at all usual Ticketmaster locations.

The match against Ecuador marks Mexico’s return to Seattle after more than three years, when they defeated China 1-0 at Qwest Field on April 16, 2008 in front 56,416 fans. Mexico and Ecuador last faced off at the Omnilife Stadium in Guadalajara in September 2010, when Ecuador won 2-1.

Recently, Ecuador qualified for two consecutive FIFA World Cups (2002 and 2006), making an immediate impact on international soccer. Led by their captain and defender Ivan Hurtado (Barcelona/ECU) and their head coach Reinaldo Rueda, Ecuador is preparing for this summer’s Copa America in Argentina, where they will face Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela. Ecuadorian national team standouts include goalkeeper Juan Francisco Cevallos (LDU Quito/ECU), defender Walter Ayovi (Monterrey/MEX) and Edwin Tenorio (Deportivo Quito/ECU).

The Mexican national team, under the direction of new head coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, kicked off its 2011 U.S. Tour in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome on February 9 with a 2-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Upcoming matches of the U.S. Tour include games against Paraguay in Oakland and Venezuela in San Diego on March 26 and 29 respectively. The Oakland game is sold out.

Spring & Summer Camp Dates Set

Sounders FC will host 52 soccer skills camps for boys and girls ages 4-15 throughout the state of Washington this spring and summer, the club announced.

The camp program features an extensive 11-week summer camp schedule and three spring break camps. The spring break soccer camps will be held from April 4-8 at the Everett Soccer Arena, Arlington Soccer First Indoor Arena and the Starfire Sports Complex. The camps are presented by adidas and Group Health.

The Sounders FC camp system is ideal for beginning and intermediate players. Sounders FC offer a half-day program for ages 4-15, and a full-day camp for ages 7-15. All campers will learn from Sounders FC Academy, college, professional and former players and coaches.

The camps will feature top of the line curriculum, as well as special appearances by Sounders FC players and technical staff. In addition, all campers will receive an adidas soccer ball, camp T-shirt and be invited to an annual Sounders FC Camper Appreciation Day, where campers will have the opportunity to watch practice and meet the team.

A new feature of the camps this year is the SUBWAY Skills Challenge which will be conducted at each camp location this summer. One boy and one girl at each camp will win the SUBWAY Skills Challenge and be awarded a $10 SUBWAY cash card. The Skills Challenge winners from each camp will be entered to win the grand prize, free SUBWAY for a year. Two grand prize winners will be selected and recognized at Camper Appreciation Day.

Supporting partners include Brotherton Cadillac, Bruce Titus Eastside Subaru, ROOT Sports, SUBWAY and Xbox 360.

The Sounders FC Youth Development Program, in partnership with Washington Youth Soccer, is a five-week training program designed for the serious soccer player (ages 8-14) looking to take their game to the next level. Training is open to all goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, and strikers.

The Sounders FC also offer a High School preparation camp which is designed to prepare players (ages 13-18) for their upcoming High School soccer tryouts. The camp will focus on fitness, fine tuning footwork, and game play to ensure each player is going into tryouts in top form. The boys High School prep camp was held in February, while the girls High School prep camp will be held in early August.

For information and to register for camp visit www.SoundersFC.com.

Throw-ins

Kasey Keller has now started 58 consecutive regular season matches, dating to the first-ever meeting with San Jose, a 2-0 home win on April 25, 2009…In seven games when Seattle has shot 18 or more times, its record is 3-2-2…Tuesday, March 29 is the 25th birthday for forward Mike Fucito…Last week’s attendance of 36,204 marked Seattle’s 34th straight sellout for an MLS match…

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