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Quick Review: Sounders withstand Quakes

Fredy Montero was at his lazy best on Saturday.
Fredy Montero was at his lazy best on Saturday.

Here's what we learned today: Alvaro Fernandez looks like the real deal; Fredy Montero is kinda awesome; Blaise Nkufo looks like a terror; Sanna Nyassi certainly has a knack for moments; Kasey Keller comes up big in big games.

Oh, and the Sounders are very much in the playoff race.

Honestly, I'm not sure how much of this is new as much as it confirms things most of us already believed. Well, maybe except the part about being in the thick of the playoff race.

The 1-0 win over the Earthquakes puts the Sounders in the sixth spot in overall standings with 25 points. Today they passed Colorado (24 points), Toronto (23 points) and San Jose (23 points). Granted, the Sounders are still in ninth in PPM (1.32), but the gap has closed to the point of near irrelevance behind Toronto (1.35) and they are closing in on Colorado (1.41) and San Jose (1.44). Point being that with 11 MLS matches still on the Sounders' schedule, time and form would still seem to be on their side. The Sounders have now won three straight MLS contests, haven't lost in four and have an all-competitive match unbeaten streak that stretches back six. 

Side note: The win also means the Sounders will enter the 2011 season as holders of the Heritage Cup as the "derby" expands to four teams. As fellow NASL namesakers, Portland and Vancouver will also join the fray. The Sounders claimed the 2-year-old cup via the third tiebreaker which was regular-season points at the end of play today.

But enough about all of that, let's talk about how the boys in Rave Green looked today.

The first 30 minutes was about as crisp as this team has looked all year. Several strong scoring chances went for naught before Nyassi's 26' cross found Montero's head just outside the six-yard box. The score looked almost too easy and showed that Nyassi is, in fact, capable of a quality cross from time to time. Montero has now registered a goal or an assist in eight straight MLS matches, the league's longest streak this season. Nyassi, it should also be noted, now has assists in three straight appearances -- all of them game-winners.

Although the Quakes seemed to get the better of the play shortly after the score until the end of the half, the Sounders regained the advantage a few minutes after the half. Nkufo nearly made it 2-0 on what would have been a goal-of-the-year candidate as he gathered a pass on the edge of the penalty box at 63', touched it behind his back and nearly slotted a left-footed shot into the far corner. A diving save by Jon Busch, who made several impressive stops, ruined the opportunity, though.

The other big highlight of the match was Fernandez making his debut as a 69' substitute for Steve Zakuani. Despite only practicing with his new team for a few days, Fernandez looked remarkably comfortable on the left wing. He made several nice passes and had a great opportunity to open his scoring account, but was unable to control a ball that would have given him a 1-on-1 chance inside the penalty area.

Amazingly, I'm almost overlooking the play of the defense. In the five matches that Patrick Ianni and Jeff Parke have been the centerback tandem, the Sounders have allowed just two goals. Although Parke was subbed off at halftime -- let's hope it was nothing serious -- the defense was once again solid. Keller was only forced to make a couple tough saves and San Jose was rarely allowed to build any sustained pressure.

At this point, it's getting harder and harder not to believe that this team has the talent to not only make the playoffs, but contend for an actual MLS trophy. Of course, there is plenty of work still to be done. On a day when your offense seems to be clicking -- despite scoring just once -- the midfield is controlling the play and the defense isn't allowing many chances, it's easy to get carried away.

If the Sounders can manage at least a tie on Tuesday, this would seem to be shaping up to be quite a season.

Stats after the jump; quotes are now here.

Goals by Period




Seattle Sounders FC




San Jose Earthquakes





Scoring Summary

SEA - Fredy Montero (Sanna Nyassi) 26


Seattle Sounders FC: Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke (Tyrone Marshall 45), Leo Gonzalez, Sanna Nyassi, Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani (Alvaro Fernandez 69), Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 86).


Substitutes Not Used: Roger Levesque, Terry Boss, Michael Seamon, Zach Scott.




San Jose Earthquakes: Jon Busch, Jason Hernandez (Chris Wondolowski 74), Bobby Burling, Ike Opara, Ramiro Corrales, Joey Gjertsen, Sam Cronin, Brandon McDonald (Arturo Alvarez 45), Bobby Convey, Scott Sealy (Ryan Johnson 45), Cornell Glen.


Substitutes Not Used: Joe Cannon, Justin Morrow, Steven Beitashour, Brad Ring.




Misconduct Summary:

SJ - Sam Cronin (caution; Reckless Tackle) 15

SJ - Ramiro Corrales (caution; Reckless Tackle) 80

SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 91+


Referee: Edvin Jurisevic

Referee's Assistants: Eric Boria, Ian Anderson

4th Official: Ricardo Salazar

Time of Game: 1:52

Attendance: 10,351

Weather: Sunny and 72 degrees

Sigi Schmid – Sounders FC Head Coach
(On the team’s result . . .) “Today I was pleased with how we played. I thought our soccer was good. I thought we moved the ball around really well. (Jon) Busch made some fine saves. I thought Blaise [Nkufo] was going to get his first goal tonight.”

(On the team’s work ethic . . .) “The guys realize their situation. I think at the beginning of the year we were patting ourselves on the back after what we accomplished last year. I think everyone came to the realization that we have to put in the effort. I kept telling them if we put in the effort, the soccer will show.”

Fredy Montero – Sounders FC Forward
(On the team’s result . . .) “These points are vital for us, especially fighting for the playoffs. As a team we’re doing well right now and we want to keep working hard. Everyone is working together and stepping up their game collectively.”

(On progress as a team . . .) “What we are doing right now is we’re growing as a club as the Seattle Sounders. We are being rewarded for the hard work that we are putting in every day.”

Kasey Keller – Sounders FC Goalkeeper
(On the team’s recent run of positive results . . .) “The thing about this league is that you have so much parity. You get yourselves on a good run, you shoot up the table, regardless of where your position is. We said for weeks that all we needed to do was get on a good run. The good run is here. What you’re seeing is a spirit within this team that you didn’t see for ten games.”

(On the team’s new signings Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez . . .) “You saw Blaise [Nkufo] today play 85 minutes. He is still trying to get himself to full match fitness. He tracked back and held the ball well. Alvaro [Fernandez] came in and didn’t skip a beat. When you bring in quality players, they will show.”

Frank Yallop – San Jose Head Coach
(On the result . . .) “I’m disappointed. I thought it was definitely our worst performance this season, including [Real] Salt Lake. From the whistle it just didn’t seem like we had any idea or any scrap in us so it was really disappointing. I like to give players a chance and the players that come out aren’t necessarily playing badly; some guys just look good at training so you give them a shot. The players have to take it and earn their right to play.”

(On what went wrong . . .) “I’m just disappointed from the whole club side of this. It’s a massive game and we just lay down and die really, especially in the first half it didn’t look like we had any cohesion at all. We worked hard all week, talked about what we want to do with the ball and all the things that go into playing well and I’m just disappointed. You have to give Seattle some credit, they’re a good side, they play well and defensively they were solid. We just didn’t move the ball correctly and we were reacting to everything and not anticipating. Our counterattack seems a bit better away from home, but when we come home we’ve got to do it as well.”

Ike Opara – San Jose Defender
(On moving forward . . .) “[We need] to put a full match together, [to] keep the intensity [up] from the first whistle to the final one. That’s what I think we’re going to have to focus on. [It] just shows that in the second half when we bring the intensity, we can play with just about anyone. Hopefully next week we get the result.”

(On the goal by Fredy Montero . . .) “We allowed Fredy [Montero] too much time to turn and that was my fault. After he laid the ball off he made a run to the middle and Sam [Cronin] and I just didn’t track and that’s inexcusable in the box. You have to live and learn.”

Sam Cronin – San Jose Midfielder
(On how the team puts the loss behind it . . .) “That’s the only choice we have. There’s still a lot of season left. It was still an important game for us but we still have a lot to play for so we have to put it behind us, get ourselves ready for Colorado.”

(On what the team can take from this game . . .) “Probably that we can’t just show up and expect to win games. Home or away we have to have that mentality and [we] really can’t afford going into a game with that mentality and have a great team jump on you like that. We’ll make it better for the next time.”

Josh Mayers has much more complete transcripts. Here's the link to the players. Here's Sigi's quotes.

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