Seattle Sounders FC promised its fans a friendly against one of the great clubs in the world, and on Tuesday the Sounders came through.
Manchester United, winner of 11 English Premier League titles and three European championships, will meet the third-year MLS club at 7 p.m. July 20 at Qwest Field.
“It’s great,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously, in Year One we played Chelsea and Barcelona, and I think our fans sort of grew used to that. So being able to play Manchester United, which is a club with the same caliber and the same level as those – maybe even has exceeded those clubs at certain times to a certain extent – it’s a great honor to be playing them. It’s something our team is looking forward to.”
After bringing in Chelsea and Barcelona in 2009, the Sounders played Boca Juniors, Celtic and Chivas de Guadalajara last season. However, those games proved less popular with fans and players, so the club promised only one friendly this season, but a big one.
“I think it makes a lot of sense for the club on the marketing side, but also it’s not a burden to the players,” veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “I think the guys will be excited to play this game.”
The match will be part of a five-game United States tour for the Red Devils and their star-studded roster, which includes Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Dimitar Berbatov, Nani, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) and Ryan Griggs.
Man U also will face the MLS All-Stars on July 27 at Red Bulls Arena in New Jersey; the New England Revolution on July 13 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.; the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field in Chicago on July 23; and FC Barcelona at FedExField in Landover, Md., on July 30. The last three games are part of the World Football Challenge.
“We’re looking forward to this tour,” said team manager (coach) Alex Ferguson, who was knighted in 1999 for contributions to the game. “It’s our fourth visit now to the States, and I’ve got to say there is much improvement in the standard of soccer in the United States, and the new MLS league has proven a very, very competitive league now. Last year we saw an increase in the number of supporters we have in the United States, and hopefully this is sign of good times for us. Also, it’s a chance for teams in MLS to measure themselves against teams such as ourselves and Barcelona.”
This will be Man U’s third visit to Seattle. The Red Devils lost to the original NASL Sounders, 3-0, in 1982; and defeated Celtic, 3-1, in 2003 before a crowd of 66,722 at Qwest Field.
The friendly is included as part of the Sounders season-ticket package. Individual-game tickets will go on sale June 1. Additional upper bowl seating will be opened.
The game will be played on a temporary natural-grass surface, which the Sounders also will use for league matches July 16 vs. Colorado and July 23 vs. Philadelphia.
The Sounders are off today, a one-day break in training for their league match Saturday at San Jose. Defender James Riley (concussion) has not been cleared to resume work. Defender Leo Gonzalez has received his green card, granting him permanent residence status in the United States, the club announced Tuesday. Gonzalez, who is a native of Costa Rica, will no long occupy an International Player spot on the roster.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer