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Sounders get tough, topple Rapids

SturgisBallouchy (GettyImages)


The blood streaming down Conor Casey's bald head said it all. The Seattle Sounders weren't just good in their 2-1 home win against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, they were physical. As in bringing the pain.

Being the aggressor has never been a hallmark of either of coach Sigi Schmid's first two Sounders teams. But the Sounders brought some fight with them to Qwest Field on a warm summer night in the Pacific Northwest, and it made a major difference. 

"I think the team showed a lot of grit and determination," Schmid said. "In the beginning of the year we had some games when we played some good soccer and didn't come out with anything, but now we get points and sometimes it means rolling up your sleeves and the team certainly did that."

Casey is one of the most physical forwards in MLS, but he was the one lying on the turf bleeding in the game's final moments, the victim of a mid-air collision with Sounders defender Patrick Ianni. Both players went up for a ball, but it was Casey who got the worst of it.

Casey had to leave the field as the Rapids finished the game with 10 men, albeit for maybe two minutes. And that wasn't the only show of force the Sounders put forth. Oft-fouled forward Fredy Montero and the slender yet feisty Osvaldo Alonso, the Sounders' invaluable holding midfielder, also hit back on the Rapids. Alonso took a bump from Casey and got right up and in the star's face.

Even Sanna Nyassi, at 5-8 and 145 pounds, threw his weight around when going after a ball in the corner during the second half. Some of the play was perhaps foul-worthy, nevertheless, referee Yader Reyes let them play and both teams committed 12 fouls a side.

Nyassi assisted on the second of two Steve Zakuani goals. Zakuani was electric in getting himself in position to score, and was almost matched in output by the Rapids' Omar Cummings.

Without starter Leo Gonzalez in the lineup because of yellow-card accumulation, the already-depleted Sounders defensive unit went with rarely-used Zach Scott at outside back. Scott struggled to contain Cummings, who scored to tie the game at 1 not a minute after Zakuani's first goal, and Cummings was disruptive for much of the match. But Seattle managed to keep him from another goal, as well as all of the Rapids, for 92 minutes.

Kasey Keller had a couple of key saves, and Ianni and Jeff Parke kept the dangerous Casey at bay.

Blaise N'kufo, the team's second designated player until the expected departure of Freddie Ljungberg any day now, made his MLS debut quietly and didn't figure in any scoring.

"We need to get used to (N'Kufo) a little more, we need to find him," Schmid said. "Sometimes early crosses can be a little more effective with him because he finds those spaces, those seams in between the central defenders so that's something we've got to look for. He did everything I needed from him or wanted from him and gave everything he had."

Seattle is now undefeated in its last three league matches, and finds itself just one standings point out of a playoff spot at present though it has played two more games than two teams in front of it, Toronto FC and Colorado, and three more than San Jose, the third team with 23 points to the Sounders' 22. And this week, Sounders FC has three games in seven days as it opens CONCACAF Champions League play at home against Isidro Metapan of El Salvador Wednesday, followed by a Saturday game on the road against the Earthquakes.


Here are the highlights from Sunday night's match:


  1. You guys might think that’s what’s going on but that’s not exactly the way it is. And more importantly, if you think Seattle is better off without Freddie then either you’re nuts or you just plain don’t know football. And just so you know… he doesn’t hate MLS, doesn’t hate Seattle, doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t hate his team, and they don’t hate him. And also, he’s not holding himself off the match day rosters or holding out on training with the rest of the team. That’s ALL front office…

    So stop speculating and just wait for what’s gonna happen to happen. This is a mutual thing that could benefit both parties. And if it doesn’t work out then FL will be right back in the thick of it with Sounders.

  2. @Dizzo – this is spot on.

    I think most of the top five you mention stem from FL10’s unwillingness to “subjugate” himself to an MLS team. He was a big reason why SSFC exceeded expectations last year, but no one in Seattle thinks he needs to stick around. His set pieces are plain embarrassing. He does not make Montero a better player (and Montero has looked amazing in the last few games. He and Zak are the core of this team) and the constant arguing with the referees is pretty sad.

    Way too soon to make predictions, but Nkufo already looks like a solid addition. He, Montero, Zak, and even Nyasi looked great last night attacking and moving the ball around. SSFC may miss the playoffs, but they are a lot of fun to watch again. I wish FL10 the best at his next destination.

  3. To me, the most telling intriguing part of the match was the impact that Kufo had. Despite not seeing much of the ball, his positioning allowed Montero quite a bit of room to operate. I thought Montero looked far more effective last night than he has most of this year and last.

    Now if Seattle could learn to kill a game by controlling possession, we wouldn’t spend 60 minutes bunkered down clinging to a lead.

  4. I’d rather see Marshall playing in the CCL and Open Cup games. I think Parke and Ianni have been playing much better all year.

    I’m really hoping that Hurtado’s recovery is going well. He’s the real heart of the Sounders back line and we sure miss him!

  5. There are a few reasons that may be behind the rift between the Sounders and Ljundberg.

    Only some are based on his play.
    1) FL clearly wanted to play the CAM role for the Sounders. He played that role with very mixed success.
    2) Sigi moved him to the Right Wing spot more this year, but he seems unhappy there and consistently drifts to the center.
    3) He insists on taking all of the Sounder’s set pieces, but is consistently bad at it.
    4) He has very little on field chemistry with his teammates…particularly Freddy Montero.
    5)His numbers, both assists, goals and shots on goal are down this year.

    The end result is that, despite his obvious talent, the Sounders often play better with him off the pitch.

    Then there are some other reasons not based on his play:
    1) He got into a small spat in the off-season with the Captain Kasey Keller about not showing up to training camp.
    2) He hates the MLS and the physical level of play. He is consistently the most fouled player on the pitch (right behind Montero).
    3) His frustration is often taken out on officials to bad effect for his team.
    4) The Sounders have been plagued by injuries requiring more from FL to win games (and they often haven’t won games).

    The impression is that he is fed-up with the team and the feeling is mutual.

    Finally, his contract runs out at the end of the year. The FO doesn’t want to offer an extension right now. FL wants the security of a long-term contract while the international window is still open. The FO would like to get something (probably allocation dollars) for FL before his contract runs out.

    It makes financial sense for both sides for him to explore other options. However, that doesn’t excuse him not playing or training with the team. He’s more of a liability than ever at the moment.

  6. It is funny, we (Rapids fans) think that every year. Maybe they can be the Dark Horse, maybe it will all come together, maybe they will make some noise. Every year it is the same story- They start decently, lay an egg in the middle of the season, and almost make the playoffs but ultimately fail. Thanks for the kind words, but they just don’t have “it” and it is a good bet that they never will especially now that the league is getting harder and harder to win. You have to finish your chances in big moments and the Rapids are amazing at missing chances, it is maybe the only thing they do well.

  7. First, everyone is happy with what he did last year. Brought in fans, contributed on the field.

    There are two groups this year.

    a.He is worthless, whiner, who can’t handle the physical MLS, and quits playing all the time. Get rid of him, as soon as possible.

    b.He is older, wants more than the Sounders will give him for an extension. Sad to see him go.

    I don’t think either group thinks that it is better for the Sounders that he stays.

    IF they do…they are wrong.

  8. Agree Peter, Cummings finishes anything and Colorado wins.

    The Sounders were not convincing; Colorado would probably be better served playing one of Pablo or Jeff L., but I thought the Rapids were the better team last night.

  9. Cummings did well on his goal and was dangerous, but really, with a chump like Zach Scott marking him, he should have scored two more. Scott was awful, but Cummings looked even worse because it exposed what a one-dimensional player he is. The dude is all speed and no ball control. Whenever he was one-on-one and he needed to beat a man on his own, you could tell he had no ideas, and he’d promptly give it away.

    Good job by Seattle putting a couple of wins together. Hopefully we’ll see Brad Evans and Tyrone Marshall back in the mix soon.

  10. If you watched last night’s game, you saw something a lot different than I did. I thought the Sounders were clinging for the last 60 minutes+, and Colorado certainly had their opportunities to tie the match (especially Omar Cummings, anytime he got near the ball I was holding my breath). I left the game last night thinking, “Well, the Sounders lost or tied games this year they shouldn’t have, so they might as well win one they shouldn’t have” and “Colorado is a really dangerous team, we were lucky.” To be honest, if I were a Colorado fan, I would be excited about this team. Everyone is talking about LA, and to a lesser extent NY, and Colorado strikes me as a team that can sneak in under the radar and win it all with a strong play-off run. Very dangerous team.

  11. Here we go again….for the fourth year in a row….The Rapids will go from in the middle of the pack to watching the playoffs from home…..As a Rapids fan I have to say that the Rapids just plain suck….Again.

  12. With FL10 it seems the Sounders managment put everyone on notice before the transfer period because the team wasn’t playing well. No one was immune. Freddie’s contract expires in November and I think he just wants to make sure he has somewhere to play next year. The Sounders were not going to extend his contract with the team playing so poorly, as a result Freddie went looking else where. Funny thing is though, I would have thought he would be gone already given the media hype around his departure, but no announcements yet make me think maybe he isn’t getting any other good offers…

  13. Could someone explain the rift between the Sounders and Ljungberg ? Why isn’t he playing? Were expectations not met because they expected him to score lots of goals? He’s a winger providing for others, not a striker that you depend on for goals. If you knew what kind of player he is, then the expectations would not have been so high.

  14. “he was the one laying on the turf…”

    should be…

    “he was the one lying on the turf…”

    (personal pet peeve)


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