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September 8, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Eddie Johnson: “All the hard work we put in week in and week out, it’s paying off.”

johnson chivas.jpgPhoto credit: Jordan Stead, The Seattle Times

Here are some quotes and stats from Sounders FC’s 2-1 comeback win Saturday against Chivas USA. Forward Eddie Johnson scored two goals, including the winner in the 89th minute, to set a franchise record with 13 goals in a season. Seattle jumped up to second place in the West with the win.

* * *

SIGI SCHMID, Sounders FC coach

(Opening statement…) “I think sometimes when you have (a 6-2 win against them) like we had down in L.A., you can pretty much stand on your head in the locker room before the game. The edge sometimes is off a little bit and you try to keep them focused and motivated, but the edge is off. Obviously, we didn’t start off well. We put ourselves behind 1-0, but I think it’s our first come-from-behind win all year. Then we showed some character in terms of coming back. Mauro (Rosales) didn’t play today because we didn’t want to take a chance with his quad. (Christian) Tiffert had to come out — it was a little bit of an ankle that’s been bothering him. We don’t have (Adam) Johansson and we don’t have (Mario) Martinez, but we’re still able to put a quality effort in there against a team that really has nothing to lose. They don’t have to play it tight. They’re going to try and win the game. They can take risks and chances. So I’m pleased with our ability to win, pleased with our ability to come back. Obviously, as hot as (Fredy) Montero has been, he draws a lot of attention. That opens up some space for Eddie (Johnson), and he gets on two good headers — a good free kick from Tiffert on the one and on the other one (it was) just a tremendous cross from Fredy Montero. It’s good to see them combine. I’m very pleased.”

(Is Tiffert’s injury serious [Ed note: The DP will undergo an MRI on the ankle]?) “We don’t think so. It’s been bothering him a little bit and it bothered him a little bit more today. It’s been getting better. Then it maybe took a step back. On Thursday, he re-tweaked it a little bit in training but he thought it would be OK for today. He’s a pretty tough character.”

(Are you any happier with a come-from-behind win than with the four-goal win like last time?) “Nah, I like them both. Four goals is a little better, a little easier on the heart and all that good stuff. Coming from behind is something that we haven’t done this year and (it was good) to show our character being able to do that. We left a little late, but that’s important, too, because the team has to know that no matter how long it goes, we’re always in it to win it.”

(Is it a fluke stat that you hadn’t had a comeback win yet this year?) “I think it’s a little bit of a fluke statistic. Last year, we put ourselves behind oftentimes and then came back and scored and won games. It’s a little bit more, maybe, because we had more offensive players on the field and we were a little exposed in the back. This year, we got off to a good start, we’ve scored early goals all the time, so we really didn’t have to come from behind, which is the ideal thing that you want to have as a coach. Then when we hit that bad streak, we came from behind to tie maybe once or twice, but not to win. So I think it’s more fluke than anything else.”

(Why do you think the two games vs. Chivas USA played out so differently?) “Each game takes on its own personality. Obviously, they played a lot more defensive here. Even thought (Nick) LaBrocca got in and scored that goal early, they really did a job of having eight guys always behind the ball. They bunkered in. They dropped their two forwards, as well. They said, ‘Okay, you can knock (the ball) around on your side of the field.’ So now you have to break down a packed defense, and that’s what teams do a lot to us here. Obviously, that’s a situation where Mauro helps us because he has that ability to break down a team when they’re bunkered in like that. We didn’t do a good job of getting wide enough in the first half to break them down. If a team jumps in like that, getting behind them wide, drawing guys out and slipping in other people in behind is what opens things up. We were playing too many balls in front of their defense and weren’t getting enough width, but they were a lot more defensive in their orientation today than they were in L.A.”

(On the team’s patience in midfield…) “I thought our patience at times was good. Sometimes I thought we were a little too patient seeing those switches balls. I think we could have seen some of those switching balls sooner. Steve Zakuani came inside an awful lot, so it was almost like Leo (Gonzalez) was on the flank more. I would have rather seen that reversed a little bit and seen Steve go at him. Right now, Steve is drifting inside, but he’s trying to find his rhythm of play again, so I’m not too displeased. We’ll keep going, at times we have to be patient, but you want to have that possession in the middle third of the field — in the attacking and middle thirds — so you can be in a position where you can break them down. If your possession is just in your defensive third, then you’re really not going to draw them out. You’re not going to break them down.”

(Eddie Johnson has nine goals off headers this year. Have you ever had someone so dangerous in the air?) “Carlos Ruiz scored a few with his head. I don’t think he got nine. I don’t think he had that many. Certainly it adds a dimension to our team. In Year 1, we had a little bit of that with Nate Jaqua. Nate got a few goals with his head and provided that dimension for us. Since Nate, (Blaise) Nkufo was there, but Nkufo we didn’t enough balls to him in the box and some of the running wasn’t there at times. We really haven’t had that option in the box for a while. He’s been very sharp in their air and I’ll take them whether they’re headers or they’re off the foot or — I don’t care — they could be off his chest. As long as it goes into the back of the net.”

(Any thoughts on next week’s match at Portland?) “It’s a game we’re looking forward to. The Cascadia Cup is important to us. We felt a little hard done in our last game down there. I didn’t think we played real well. The game got away from us as a game, and also emotionally got away from us a little bit, so we’re looking forward to going down in front of the Timbers Army and putting on a result. We want to put ourselves in a position to win the Cascadia Cup, but also want to put ourselves in a position (to) solidify second place. We want three more points. We want to put ourselves in a position where if San Jose falters, we’re right there and they know it, and we still have a six-point game against San Jose coming up in two weeks, as well. Next week’s going to be a hard week. We play Portland on Saturday — it’s a ridiculous schedule because we have Portland on Saturday, we have a reserve game on Sunday, we have Honduras on Wednesday, we have San Jose on Saturday and another reserve game on Sunday. So it’s basically five games in eight days. How we’re going to manage that we’re not quite sure. If any of you have boots please bring them to reserve games and we might stick to in there. But it’s a game we’re looking to. We always look forward to playing Portland.”

(Can Zakuani play week after week, or do you have to consider his health?) “Physically, no. We don’t. … Having coached for a long time, when players come back from a long injury layoff like his, there’s a little bit of a spike when you first come in, and then you sort of hit a little bit of a valley again. That valley I know is going to come. It’s going to come next week, or the week after, or three weeks from now. I’m not quite sure. Then we have to get him through the valley and then he’ll be back into form. His best soccer is probably not until next season. His best, best soccer, because it usually takes you about half the time you were out for you to find your best soccer again — between a third to half the time. He still has a huge upside and he’s got a lot of capabilities, and when he broke in the second half there, obviously that was very close to a goal. [Dan] Kennedy did a good job coming off the line and cutting the angle.”

EDDIE JOHNSON, Sounders FC forward

(Can you take us through your first and second goals?) “Just set pieces. … We practice week in and week out. Tiffert’s a great deliver of the ball. I was just trying to get on the end of it. We practice who’s running to the first post, second post … and we try to set picks for each other and try to get in between gaps and attack the ball. It was just a well-delivered ball. I think James Riley mistimed the ball and it was able to fall to me and I was able to get my head on the end of it. It was a good buildup. I think Zakuani got fouled out wide and we were just being dangerous offensively, trying to create stuff, drawing fouls when we can in dangerous areas, because we know we have good guys who can take free kicks. The second goal, I knew when Fredy gets it out wide, he always gets his head up. We were pushing for the three points and it was just a well-delivered ball by Fredy — and I like heading the ball. If it would’ve come to my foot, I probably would’ve been a little more nervous. It was a great ball by Fredy and I’m just trying to get enough pace on it and get it down. I didn’t expect him to get to it. I tried to head it down as hard as I can and use the weight of the ball that was coming at the same time and it bounced my way.”

(On having an MLS-high nine goals off headers…) “I’ve always been a decent header of the ball. It’s just practice. Fortunately, I’m in a team where we got good guys who are good out wide and serve some great balls into the box. I think that’s one of my strengths and I think the guys are starting to realize that. We’re starting to develop an understanding of each other when we’re on the field. It’s just something where you’re always going to better yourself as a player. You always want to add things to your game. I think the now thing is: ‘Eddie only scores on headers.’ … As long as we’re winning games here, I’ll score the rest of the season with my head if the ball comes to my head. We set high expectations here within this club, and when I first got here I knew what the expectations were. If anyone is saying that this isn’t a good league, they’re lying. To go over to Europe and come back four years later and see the growth and see how far the league has come, how every team has their own identity. You can win 6-2 but then come here and only win 2-1. That says (a lot about) the growth in this league and … the games are going to be difficult. I think their focus coming in game was trying to shut Fredy down. I knew it would free me up, because he scored a hat trick against them last time. It’s about just being patient for 90 minutes and believing in each other on the field. It was hot today, we started off slow, but we know over the course of the game it’d start to come to us and we’d play our football and get our opportunities, and we took our chances when we got them.”

(What do you think about setting a franchise record for goals in a season?) “(It’s about) winning games as a team, trying to get better as a team week in and week out. … Everything else is a bonus. That’s a bonus. I couldn’t ask for a better team to share that with. They’re the reason why I’m getting my goals. All the hard work we put in week in and week out, it’s paying off. It’s a humbling moment, but I couldn’t have asked for a better team to share it with.”

FREDY MONTERO, Sounders FC forward

(Can you take us through that play when you set up the game winner?) “It was a pass forward from (Alex) Caskey to me. I mean (in the) 80-something minute, I just want to get quickly to the line to make a good cross, and it was good because Eddie was right at the right place. He got a second goal and three points for us.”

(The season isn’t over yet but do you have any thoughts on Johnson passing your record for goals in a season?) “Well, it is always good when you have in your team somebody who can score goals. In the past, I was the guy who had to score goals, but we didn’t make the final. Hopefully this year it’s going to take us together to take the Seattle Sounders to the final.”

(This was your first comeback win this season. What was different this time?) “Well, our motivation was to win this game, to be in second place and every single moment we were thinking about that. The hard work paid off at the end of the game with the second goal and we are really happy for those three points.”

CHRISTIAN TIFFERT, Sounders FC midfielder

(How’s your ankle?) “I’ve had the problem since the first game against Chivas — what was it? Two weeks ago? In training and in the games, my (German) mentality is to keep going, but today at 1-1 it’s better to bring a healthy player because I wanted (us to win). I was not fit. In the last minutes, I had pain. Now we’ll (have an MRI), and we’ll see.”

(On your assist to Johnson on the free kick…) “Sometimes it works, sometimes not. I said it last time, it’s not so important if your statistics are 10 assists or eight or nine — it’s not important. We want to win a championship as a team. It’s not important if Tiffert has 10 assists, Montero 10, we want to win games. Before the game, we said that we want to come in second place. That was the aim. We did it against a very defensive team. But if you want to win a championship, you have to win such games against teams when they’re staying in their own box. It was good to win in the last minute.”

(Was it tough to adjust to their new, more defensive style of play?) “What can you do as a Chivas team? You (gave up) six goals two weeks ago. What can you do? You come here to Seattle and want to play defense. I thought Chivas wanted to counterattack. The first goal was a counterattack and for 80-, 85 minutes play defense with no chance to score a goal. It’s not easy, but if you win the game, then everything is good.”

ROBIN FRASER, Chivas USA coach

(On the game…) “I thought we started off very well. We made it difficult for them to get attacking chances against us and we obviously created some space for ourselves and scored an early goal — a good goal. It was a great start and then slowly but surely we got less and less confident on the ball, which led to more turnovers, which led to the rest of the game.”

(On Chivas USA’s defense and on their missed offensive opportunities…) “It was certainly an improvement over what we’ve seen the last few weeks. We certainly worked a lot at it over the last number of weeks and through this week. So to come out and be solid and not give up a ton of opportunities was definitely better and we felt better about that. But you have to be able to play on both sides, right? We defended fairly well. … I have to give them credit — they fought really hard. On the attacking side, we just weren’t good enough. When you keep giving good teams opportunities, they’re going to obviously create chances.”

JAMES RILEY, Chivas USA defender

(On coming back and playing in Seattle…) “Obviously kind of mixed emotions. It’s fantastic to come back and play in front of a crowd that I did for three years. I have a lot of good memories with this team and club and organization. But obviously, we were a bit hard done. I thought we could have gotten out of there with a point. Our backs are against the wall like a wounded animal, so we’re scrapping for anything right now. We’re scrapping for playing time, for wins, for jobs next year. I thought we came out and competed. Obviously good teams sometimes find a way to win consistently and they did that today with two great goals.”

* * *

SOUNDERS FC 2, CHIVAS USA 1

Scoring summary:

CHV – Nick LaBrocca (Shalrie Joseph, Miller Bolanos) 8′

SEA – Eddie Johnson (Christian Tiffert) 29′

SEA – Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero) 89′

Seattle Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Brad Evans (Cordell Cato 84), Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert (Alex Caskey 61), Steve Zakuani (Andy Rose 75), Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson.

Substitutes Not Used: Josh Ford, Marc Burch, Sammy Ochoa, Jeff Parke.

TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 5; FOULS: 7; OFFSIDE: 2; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 3.

Chivas USA – Dan Kennedy, Jorge Villafana, Rauwshan McKenzie (Jose Erick Correa 90), Danny Califf (Tristan Bowen 63), James Riley, Shalrie Joseph, Miller Bolanos, Nick LaBrocca, Ben Zemanski, Juan Agudelo (Laurent Courtois 67), Casey Townsend.

Substitutes Not Used: Tim Melia, Bobby Burling, Cesar Romero, Marco Delgado.

TOTAL SHOTS: 7; SHOTS ON GOAL: 4; FOULS: 14; OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 2; SAVES: 3.

Misconduct summary:

CHV – Shalrie Joseph (caution) 66′

CHV – Casey Townsend (caution) 77′

Referee: Kevin Stott

Referee’s Assistants: Mike Rottersman, Jeremy Hanson

4th Official: Kevin Terry, Jr.

Attendance: 38,934

Time of Game: 1:53

Weather: Partly cloudy and 73 degrees

All statistics contained in this box score are unofficial.

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