Chivas USA defenders were left feeling like the henchmen in a kungfu movie while Steve Zakuani played the roll of master.
Remember the way the Galaxy started the season? Remember how they seemed unbeatable, like they were just going to roll to the Supporters' Shield and probably the MLS Cup? That was after they started the season with 32 points in 12 matches. They lost their next match, leaving them at 32 points through 13 matches.
With their 2-1 victory over Chivas USA, the Sounders now have 32 points in their past 13. They've also won five straight matches and 10 of 13.
The question we should be asking ourselves is this: Would you rather start the season like this or end it? I'm sure we'll all be in agreement over the answer.
This may not have been the best match the Sounders have played end-to-end, but they looked sharp in the first half, taking a 2-0 lead, and that was enough against a generally punchless Chivas USA side that lacked both of their starting forwards.
Steve Zakuani got the fun started in the 9th minute with a goal that will likely win him another Goal of the Week honor. Zakuani received a pass from Jeff Parke just outside the penalty area, dribbled through FOUR Chivas USA defenders and then easily beat goalkeeper Zach Thornton. It was the first goal the Sounders have scored against Chivas USA in MLS action.
Osvaldo Alonso then doubled the lead in the 25th minute, scoring his first goal of the season off assists from Zakuani and Fredy Montero. The assist ended a seven-match pointless streak for Montero. Unfortunately, for his MVP campaign, that will be the last point Montero gets this season, as he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and will miss the finale against Houston next Saturday. Alonso's goal gives the Sounders 13 goal scorers on the season, tied for the fourth most in MLS.
Zakuani, meanwhile, now has two goals and three assists in his past five matches. For the season, he has 10 goals and six assists, more points than every midfielder other than Dwayne De Rosario (13 goals and three assists).
"Not any winger is as goal dangerous as Steve Zakuani is, I don't think there's anybody that can match his numbers," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "I wish he was American because I think he's somebody who could play for the national team. I don't know where our national team stands or how things look, but he has played very well and he has matured a lot."
Just about everywhere you look there are positive signs for the Sounders. Their 48 points eclipses their total from a year ago, and at least temporarily, puts them in tie for the fourth most points in MLS. Those points also tie them with the Chicago Fire for most points ever by a second-year expansion franchise. (That obviously ignores that the Fire entered a league that was just two years old, played 32 matches and won three matches via shootout, giving them six more points than they would have otherwise received.)
The good news doesn't end on the pitcher, either. The Sounders announced attendance of 36,356 boosts their season average to 36,173, shattering the MLS record they set last season.
Seattle is now within striking distance of FC Dallas' 50 points and their No. 3 seed in the West. Of course passing Dallas might not be such a good idea as it would likely mean a first-round date with Real Salt Lake. With things going the way they are, though, you can excuse them for not paying a whole lot of attention to how their positioning themselves for the playoffs.
Stats and Quotes after the jump.
Goals by Period 1 2 Tot
Chivas USA 0 1 1
Seattle 2 0 2
SEA--Zakuani 10 (Parke 1) 9
SEA--Alonso 1 (Zakuani 6, Montero 10) 25
CHV--Padilla 6 (Espinoza 3) 92+
Jesus Padilla, Giancarlo Maldonado (Sal Zizzo 76).
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Flores 4);SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1);FOULS: 5 (Lahoud 2,
Umana 2);OFFSIDE: 2;CORNER KICKS: 5;SAVES: Thornton 1;
26; EJECTIONS: None.
TOTAL SHOTS: 11 (Montero 4);SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Zakuani 2);FOULS: 13 (Gonzalez 3,
Marshall 3);OFFSIDE: 4;CORNER KICKS: 5;SAVES: Keller 3;
CAUTIONS: Zakuani 59,
Montero 84; EJECTIONS: None.
Referee: Edvin Jurisevic
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry, C.J. Morgante
4th Official: Yader Reyes.
Temperature: 50 and Clear.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Chivas USA Postgame Quotes - October 15, 2010
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach
General comments...) "I thought we started the game really well. Early we played really well. Our goals were two well taken goals. Good individual effort by [Steve] Zakuani off a good pass from Jeff Parke. The second was a great combination between [Fredy] Montero, [Steve] Zakuani, and the goal by Osvaldo. It was good to get him his first goal. I'm pleased for what we did for first 60 minutes. I was a little bit displeased in the last 30. Sometimes when you get to this stage and things are going well for your team, maybe you take your foot off the gas pedal a little bit and maybe that's what we did. Late goals are not something that we're ever happy about. For sure we'll work on in training field."
(On Fredy Montero yellow card...) "It means he doesn't play in Houston, so a loss in rhythm and it gives him one less game. Obviously, we have capable guys who can play. [Nate] Jaqua and [Mike] Fucito have shown themselves to be very capable and can play up front. It will give them good preparation for the playoffs. The way the referee was after Fredy [Montero] got his yellow, I have to take him out because that guy might have pulled a second yellow and turned it into a red and he would have maybe missed the first playoff game. Ozzie [Osvaldo Alonso] got stepped on pretty good by the guy who punched Leo in the other game and nothing gets called. The foul count was a bit interesting. Don't know what it is, but I think it was a little bit one sized without looking at the stats."
(On Chivas USA adjustments...) "They upped the tempo in the second half. They have pride and Martin [Vasquez] is not going to let them step off the field without showing that pride. And that's okay. Players in the back of their mind say we're going to the payoffs and maybe they hesitate going into a tackle or a play, but Ozzie[Osvaldo Alonso] isn't that kind of player and he went into the tackle. Lucky for us he didn't suffer major injury there."
(On Steve Zakuani...) "Great first time ball from [Jeff] Parke into him and [Steve] Zakuani individually smoked some people with the goal. When you look at his improvement from four goals to 10 this year, his numbers are up. Not any winger that is as goal dangerous as Steve Zakuani is, I don't think there's anybody that can match his numbers. I wish he was American because I think he's somebody who could play for the national team. I don't know where our national team stands or how things look, but he has played very well and he has matured a lot. Since Blaise [Nkufo] has come, that's really helped him too because Blaise has taken him under his wing. He's grown as a player, his work rate, his defending is better, his understanding of how to play in a wide position and knowing where to be, all that is greatly improved."
(On team performance...) "Any time you win it's a good thing. When you win games and the team feels confident that you can win games. Even if you play a sloppy 30 minutes and you still win, that's a good thing. It's the confidence of going out and winning all that time that helps us most of all."
(On beating Chivas USA for first time...) "We talked about the fact that we hadn't scored against them in league and hadn't beat them yet in league. We didn't want them to be our boogie team. That's something the guys definitely wanted to go out and change."
(On who match up with in playoffs..) "It doesn't matter to me who we play. There are motivating factors for us with anybody that we match up with. If Los Angeles, we want to show that we're a better team than those two results show. If Salt Lake, that's a team we tied twice and we feel unfortunate to get that result there. If New York, it's a team we felt unlucky losing at home and won at their place. If it's Columbus, there's always motivation when we play Columbus and it's a matter of continuing to do what we've done well against them."
Steve Zakuani - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On winning tonight . . .) "Five wins in a row, one loss in the last 15 games or so. We didn't play that well tonight. I think Chivas controlled the ball. But we got goals at good times and winning 2-1 is a good result."
(On his goal . . .) "It was a great steal by Jeff Parke and he gave me the ball. It kind of opened up a little bit and like I always say when you're one-on-one with the keeper the easiest way is to go around him. Zach [Thornton] kind of stood up a little bit so I took it around him and put the ball in the goal. Second goal was a good goal. Almost like the goal we got against Philadelphia in the first game of the year for Brad Evans - carbon copy. It was very good. Happy to score my tenth goal."
(On the crowd . . .) "We said before the game it's the last game before these fans. We won't be back here until the playoffs so we wanted go out with a bang. We did it against Dallas last year, I think it's the same score line this year. So just trying to repay the fans and also beat our points total from last year. So we are happy with that."
(On second half of season . . .) "You never want to give up. I think one thing we had going for us was the fans. They were with us in the trenches. They were there with us. We have repaid them, I think. [. . .] It's been different times, different guys stepping up. We have done well. But now the real season begins: the playoffs. We just have to keep going."
James Riley - Sounders FC Defender
(On the match . . .) "Obviously unlucky giving up that last goal. It's something that we will clean up for the next game and the playoffs, definitely something we will learn from. But it's a good send off, for sure. Thanking the fans."
(On winning and keeping the rhythm . . .) "Sigi just talked about it. We wanted to keep our rhythm going into it. Although we clinched a playoff spot we have a chance to get a different seed. Different seeds have some benefits. We could get a conference championship at home. The main focus is to keep timing and rhythm."
Martin Vasquez - Chivas USA Head Coach
(On his impressions of the match...) "We have seen Seattle play and know how they are going to come out with energy. They come out and pressure you and attack you in their half and get out in transition. They get you in transition and get you in many games. We talked about it going against their forwards and midfielders, we need be on our feet, bump them, stop them, once they start running they are very difficult to stop. On the first goal we defended very poorly. The second goal I'm disappointed because the referee did not call a foul against us, they cut us on transition and scored. We knew exactly that is their strength, if you go down two to zero here it is difficult. We tried mainly in the second half to go at them with a goal. The first goal for us came to us too late."
(On the first goal of the match by Steve Zakuani...) "We gave the ball away and they cut us on transition. I think he went by three or four of our guys, I think if one of those guys bump him and stops the play there it's not a goal. We were to naïve, we talked about defending and the only chance we had was solid defense and cover. We didn't do a good job and he scored a goal."
(On his team playing until the end and coming away with a goal...) "Yeah but that has been the same story for us this season. We have given up early goals and have to try and chase the game and come up short. Knowing that we have to do better."