Sports

Sounders like it rough-and-tumble

Seattle Sounders goalie Kasey Keller motions to fans after the MLS soccer game against the Philadelphia Union Thursday, March 25, 2010, in Seattle. The Sounders won 2-0. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Seattle Sounders goalie Kasey Keller motions to fans after the MLS soccer game against the Philadelphia Union Thursday, March 25, 2010, in Seattle. The Sounders won 2-0. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) AP

Seattle - It rained. The wind blew.

And another storm of energy, nerves and excitement brewed Thursday night. A second Major League Soccer season is under way in Seattle.

And after a 2-0 season-opening Sounders victory over the expansion Philadelphia Union in front of 36,241 at Qwest Field, coach Sigi Schmid said the city’s fever for soccer has picked up where it left off.

“It hasn’t lost its luster,” Schmid said.

Two goals in the first 43 minutes, including a like-you-draw-it-up tally from Brad Evans in the 12th minute, put the team’s goal-scoring angst at ease, at least for one night.

This was a team that went scoreless at home in five of its final six games in 2009 – enough to prompt a change in its attacking style.

Schmid changed to more of a quick-touch passing philosophy in the preseason, which produced mixed results. Seattle scored six goals in its six matches before the start of the regular season Thursday.

Yet, when midfielder Steve Zakuani and forward Fredy Montero got going in a two-man passing game on the left side early on, it produced big results.

Montero fed Zakuani along the left end-line. Quickly, Zakuani put a pass in the Philadelphia penalty box, and right at the foot of Evans.

“Any time he’s got the ball, there’s always a chance that it’s coming across,” Evans said. “I had my late run in the box, and it kind of skipped by two defenders. I caught it well with the inside of my right foot and put it to the far post.”

It whizzed by Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz, a reserve on MLS champion Real Salt Lake last season. It was the first goal Seitz has given up in eight career outings.

“That was one like you draw it up in practice,” Schmid said.

For the Union, if you can’t hang with them – and for the first 10 minutes, Philadelphia was more than equal to the task of attacking the Sounders – then go at them.

An foe taking a rough-and-tumble approach in handling Montero and Freddie Ljungberg, Seattle’s speedy forwards, is something the Sounders saw a lot of last season.

But the Union ratcheted up the tactic, earning five yellow cards, including two by Toni Stahl, who was ejected in the 40th minute.

His absence led to the Sounders’ second goal, which was of the bizarre-but-true variety in the 43rd minute.

Osvaldo Alonso rocketed a shot from the right side with so much topspin – and aided by a tailwind – it took a high hop over the entire Union defense, and appeared headed out-of-bounds.

Out of nowhere came Montero, who stuck his head out dangerously close to the left post but nudged enough of the ball to get a goal for a 2-0 Seattle lead.

How much room separated his head and the post?

“Three meters,” he smiled.

Notes

For a second consecutive season, Seattle’s Kasey Keller notched an opening-day shutout (four saves). He helped blank New York, 3-0, last season. … Ljungberg (back) had to leave early in the second half with soreness after as first-half foul by Stahl that drew the first yellow card. ... Even though Seattle played with an 11-on-10 advantage in the second half, it had to play against a pretty stiff headwind. ... The 36,241 fans marked a Sounders home attendance record for regular-season play in an MLS match.

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442

todd.milles@thenewstribune.com

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