If we were waiting for a statement game from these Sounders, this was probably it.
After conceding an early goal on a penalty kick, the Sounders claimed their first come-from-behind victory of the season by beating Freddie Ljungberg's Chicago Fire 2-1. Fredy Montero scored two more goals, including the game-winner in stoppage time.
The win gives the Sounders 32 points through 22 matches, fifth best in MLS. Just as significantly, the win puts them at 1.45 PPM, the seventh best mark in MLS and .16 better than ninth place Toronto FC.
The atmosphere at Qwest was absolutely electric and it was easily the most boisterous of the season. Unquestionably, a lot of that had to do with Ljungberg's return to Seattle.
The Sounders' original Designated Player received mostly cheers during his introduction, but was booed every time he touched the ball. From the pressbox, it didn't seem too out of line, although people sitting closer to the action may have had a different impression. Ljungberg, who stayed around signing autographs, shaking hands and even appeared to give his jersey to a fan, didn't seem particularly bothered by the treatment.
"I have a special relationship with people in this city and I thought the fans were just amazing," Ljungberg said. "Of course I was booed in the game, and before and after the game they were cheering so I can understand that totally, and it was a nice reception."
On the pitch, Ljungberg was not a particularly significant factor. Osvaldo Alonso was tasked with marking him for much of the match and was close enough to smell the Swede's breath throughout the contest. Ljungberg hardly ever found the ball in space and his most effective moments came on corners and other set pieces.
The entire Sounders defense, in fact, had one of its best matches. Their one glaring mistake came on the play that ultimately resulted in the Fire's goal. James Riley seemed to give up on a long pass early and was content to mark Patrick Nyarko in a one-on-one situation. As a result, Nyarko was able to make a centering pass that happened to clip Jeff Parke on the arm. John Thorrington buried the ensuing penalty for a 1-0 lead at 28'.
Other than that, the Sounders defense was nearly perfect. Kasey Keller made four saves, but only one of them -- on a corner -- really posed much of a threat. Parke and Patrick Ianni once again showed that they are becoming one of the top centerback tandems in MLS, rarely allowing forays into the penalty area and generally shutting down any attack up the middle.
On the other end of the field, the Sounders offense created numerous chances, but once again largely failed to make the most of them.
The two exceptions were on Montero's goals. The first was a combination of a great pass from Tyson Wahl and an even better play by Montero, who collected Wahl's pass, dribbled past one defender and then fired his shot between two defenders and goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
"I was pretty thankful that he finished that because it was my first assist," Wahl said. "I was pretty excited. I was sitting there cheering by myself for a minute. [. . .] It was my first career assist. I was excited."
The second goal came off another great pass from a player who has been much maligned, especially here. Off a quick throw-in, Nathan Sturgis sent a perfect curling pass into the box where Montero had, amazingly, lost his mark near the far post. Montero easily beat Johnson with a bouncing header.
"I think it can [be a defining win]," Sturgis said. "We need to win our games at home. To end the season a lot of games are on the road so it's really important for us to get three points at home so we don't have as much pressure on the road to get points. I think it was a really big game for us."
Quotes and Stats after the jump.
Goals by Period 1 2 Tot Chicago Fire 1 0 1 Seattle Sounders FC 1 1 2 Scoring Summary: CHI -- John Thorrington 1 (penalty kick) 28 SEA -- Fredy Montero 9 (Tyson Wahl 1, Patrick Ianni 1) 36 SEA -- Fredy Montero 10 (Nathan Sturgis 1, James Riley 3) 92+ Chicago Fire -- Sean Johnson, Steven Kinney, C.J. Brown, Gonzalo Segares, Krzysztof Krol, Patrick Nyarko (Calen Carr 86), Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Baggio Husidic, Collins John, Freddie Ljungberg. Misconduct Summary: CHI -- Steven Kinney (caution; Reckless Tackle) 22 SEA -- Fredy Montero (caution; Reckless Foul) 24 SEA -- Blaise Nkufo (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 43 CHI -- Freddie Ljungberg (caution; Reckless Foul) 83 SEA -- Nate Jaqua (caution; Reckless Foul) 90
Substitutes Not Used: Mike Banner, Brian McBride, Marco Pappa, Deris Umanzor, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Andrew Dykstra.
TOTAL SHOTS: 9 (Freddie Ljungberg 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1); FOULS: 18 (Gonzalo Segares 5); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Freddie Ljungberg 3); SAVES: 2 (Sean Johnson 2)
Seattle Sounders FC -- Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Tyson Wahl, Sanna Nyassi (Steve Zakuani 62), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Alvaro Fernandez (Roger Levesque 89), Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 82).
Substitutes Not Used: Tyrone Marshall, Zach Scott, Mike Seamon, Terry Boss.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Fredy Montero 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Fredy Montero 4); FOULS: 13 (4 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 2 (Blaise Nkufo 1, Steve Zakuani 1); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Nathan Sturgis 6); SAVES: 3 (Kasey Keller 3)
Goals by Period
Seattle Sounders FC
CHI -- John Thorrington 1 (penalty kick) 28
SEA -- Fredy Montero 9 (Tyson Wahl 1, Patrick Ianni 1) 36
SEA -- Fredy Montero 10 (Nathan Sturgis 1, James Riley 3) 92+
Chicago Fire -- Sean Johnson, Steven Kinney, C.J. Brown, Gonzalo Segares, Krzysztof Krol, Patrick Nyarko (Calen Carr 86), Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Baggio Husidic, Collins John, Freddie Ljungberg.
CHI -- Steven Kinney (caution; Reckless Tackle) 22
SEA -- Fredy Montero (caution; Reckless Foul) 24
SEA -- Blaise Nkufo (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 43
CHI -- Freddie Ljungberg (caution; Reckless Foul) 83
SEA -- Nate Jaqua (caution; Reckless Foul) 90
Referee: Ramon Hernandez
Referee's Assistants: -Corey Rockwell; Paul Scott
4th Official: Landis Wiley
Time of Game: 1:53
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire - August 28, 2010 - Postgame Quotes
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach
(General comments . . .) "Obviously we are pleased with the result. We are pleased with the fact that teams in this league that go down a goal you generally lose. So being able to come back after going down on the penalty kick call--which I haven't seen on the replay yet so I don't how it was per se--but obviously I thought at the time was a call at against the run of play. I thought we kept our composure. Defensively we kept our shape. They had some good speed but I thought we dealt with that well. We kept their players in check pretty much all over the field which is good defensively. And offensively I thought we created some things coming forward. There are still a little bit better that we can do. We can always do better. Certainly our two goals were very good. Great cross by Tyson Wahl on the first goal and certainly a good ball from (Nathan) Sturgis and run from Fredy Montero on the back post on the second goal so we are very happy."
(On winning late. . .) "It is pretty exciting. You do all the hard work and when you win one like that and you score late like you do, it's such an outstanding feeling. That's something that sometimes becomes defining moments for teams in a season. Hopefully this will help us in becoming a defining moment for us."
(On the return of Freddie Ljungberg. . .) "We shook hands at the end of the game. We didn't talk before the game; he was all business getting ready for the game. We shook hands after the game, not a problem. He's a great player. I have always said that. I thought we kept him in check pretty well throughout the game. I know our fans were booing every time he touched the ball. I don't think there were a lot of boos so that means he wasn't touching the ball all that much which is good."
(Was that Montero's best game he's seen him play?:. . .) "Well he got two goals. A lot of times people just measure your game by goals. I think he has played games as good, but certainly his motivation tonight was good and obviously his finishing was good tonight when he the two chances, so I was very pleased with that."
(On physical play of Chicago. . .) "They are a pretty physical team. C.J. Brown is a pretty physical player. There were a lot of knocks, bumps and bruises. There's a lot of guys that are pretty bruised in there, but that's just part of the game when you play them."
(On Osvaldo Alonso's play . . .) "Alonso, you get used to him winning the ball and covering the ground that he covers, but I thought he did a great job especially because they really played more of a 4-4-2 with a diamond in midfield and let Ljungberg play as the attacking midfielder. So Alonso had him a lot more and I thought he did a good job of getting to him and getting tight, but also helping other people to cover and when he wasn't there Sturgis was there. Ozzie, he has a huge workload that he takes into a game and he covers a lot of ground. He wins a lot of balls."
(On Montero's play . . .) "He's a player that drops off the front line a little bit, that's where he feels most comfortable. So he's a player who also is a good passer of the ball. An old coach told me a long time ago that dribblers don't make it in this game and what he meant to say by that is when you look at the great dribblers in the game whether it's a Georgi Best or a Maradona or a Messi, they are also very good passers of the ball. I think Fredy Montero has that ability and so if you are a good passer of the ball and then you can dribble as well and have something extra that is spicing on the cake kind of thing, or the icing, something like that. I get all those things confused - the icing, something like that."
Fredy Montero - Sounders FC Forward (via translator)
(On scoring game-winning goal . . .) "It was a very big goal. We have been dreaming about this situation and a goal so late in the game, giving us three points, got us closer to the playoffs."
(On scoring two goals against Chicago Fire . . .) "It's a good team and one player doesn't make the entire team."
(On his last goal . . .) "It was an excellent ball from [Nathan] Sturgis so all the credit to him. It was a deserved goal and we continue with the season."
(On his first goal . . .) "It was first of all a very intelligent placement of the ball from [Tyson] Wahl. When I first controlled the ball it was still bouncing in front of me and I thought that if I shot then it could go too high. So I managed to control it perfectly again and shot it to the goal."
Tyson Wahl - Sounders FC Defender
(On his assist . . .) "It's been a while since I played a game so it took me a couple touches to get my feet under me. I controlled the ball and saw they had a pretty high line. Fredy [Montero] was just waiting to cheat it and there was a lot of space to whip it in there and so I just whipped it in. It skipped off the turf pretty nicely and he finished up his second chance on it. I was pretty thankful that he finished that because it was my first assist. I was pretty excited. I was sitting there cheering by myself for a minute. [. . .] It was my first career assist. I was excited."
(On starting and playing full 90 minutes . . .) "We have a deep team so I have been, I feel like, a little unfortunate this year but I have tried to stay fit, just waiting for my turn and my call-up, been running a lot. Like I said, after the first twenty minutes, once I got my feet under myself I felt good. It was nice to get a team win too at the end there."
Nathan Sturgis - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On his assist . . .) "The ball went out of bounds and James [Riley] was running to it. So I tried to get out there before they could react and close me down. I got the ball, turned and saw guys in the box so I just tried to hit a good cross. Fortunately it got over everyone and got to Fredy on the back post."
(On the game-winning goal . . .) "I think any team, any situation you can get a quick restart and sometimes in that situation the defense kind of shuts down a little bit and aren't really paying attention, aren't seeing guys behind them. I think anytime you can get a quick restart or anything to change the pace of the game that you can catch defenses off guard."
(On how open Fredy Montero was . . .) "They kind of lost him. They had defenders back there but I guess they maybe misjudged the ball and didn't see him at the back post. That happens sometimes."
(On the win . . .) "I think it can [be a defining win]. We need to win our games at home. To end the season a lot of games are on the road so it's really important for us to get three points at home so we don't have as much pressure on the road to get points. I think it was a really big game for us."
Carolos de los Cobos - Fire Head Coach
(On his general impressions from the match...)"I think our team played good. It was a very good game. Both teams played really good football. It was a shame, with what is happening with the last couple of matches, us losing in the final few minutes. Part of the time of maturing of some players, the young players they are learning. This situation is normal."
(On his team's plan to stop Fredy Montero...)"Fredy Montero is a very good player. We talked how to go about defending him this week, before the match about his mark and ability to move. We can't lose the mark and lose his position because he can take advantage of our situation. It is a shame because our team played really good. I'm sad for the result. I'm also excited because the players made a hundred-percent effort and they played really good."
Freddie Ljungberg - Fire Midfielder/Forward
(Opening statement . . .) "Of course it's special to come back, you know. I have a special relationship with people in this city and I thought the fans were just amazing. Of course I was booed in the game, and before and after the game they were cheering so I can understand that totally, and it was a nice reception. About the game, of course we're devastated, we lost the game due to marking. There were misses , and they scored two goals, which we're extremely upset about in the locker room. But that can't happen, especially when we play so well for 90 minutes and concede in the last second, the 90th and some extra minutes. We felt we played well. We kept the ball more than Seattle. They're kind of a more straight forward, long ball system and hoping for the second ball so we kind of felt we could control it if we kept the ball which we did some moments in the second half which we were happy with. That's why it's hard, it's devastating to concede on a long ball and marking we were missing in the box."
(On being fouled by Montero . . .) "It's football. I wasn't here to do any messages in any way. We're here to play and we're all professionals so we're all great friends with each other so I don't think so."
(Adjusting to his new teammates in Chicago . . .) "Normally it takes a while but my new team has been absolutely great and they want to play in a certain way and Carlos (de los Cobos, Fire coach) is very adamant about the way he wants to play, and keep the ball on the floor. And that's an easy system for me to play, that's how I want to play so I've gotten into it quite well. I've had a great record and played some great football. Unfortunately same thing-we conceded three corners and today we conceded three crosses or long balls and so at the moment we need to go back and concentrate on marking and I think we'll get even more wins."
Sean Johnson - Fire Goalkeeper
(On his impressions from the match...)"Over the course of 90 minutes we played very well. It was 1-1 until the 90th minute. It is heart breaking to give up the game winning goal in stoppage time. I have to do a better job of managing the game. You never want to lose a game like that, after fighting so hard."
(On his view of the Sounders first goal...)"The ball was played right across. We did well to recover and get behind it. We were unlucky and he had a good strike on it, not much we could do about it."
(On the game winning goal....) "Not sure it was marking or me coming towards the ball, we can't leave guys open at all. We will get it right."
(On increase pressure playing in front of a large crowd...)"I wasn't any more nervous for this match than any other one. It was a great atmosphere, I like playing in front of big crowds. They have great fans and a great atmosphere. With 36,000 fans, you can't ask for more. I think at the end of the day you have to focus on the game."