PORTLAND, Ore. – The Sounders FC got everything they needed Friday night in topping the University of Portland 4-1 at Merlo field on the UP campus.
Former Pilots Nate Jaqua and Kasey Keller received a nice ovation when they were recognized before the game and they responded with a strong showing on the field – Jaqua with a goal in the fourth minute and Keller with a shutout for his half of play.
Head coach Sigi Schmid also got a good look at some players who are fighting for roster spots and they responded as well, as non-roster invitees Jeff Clark scored a goal and Roger Levesque set up another.
They also controlled the run of play for most of the game, finished the game without injury, got good support from a group of fans commuting from Seattle and opposition from a group of Portland Timbers fans positioned behind their second-half goal. They also had a correctible error that they can discuss on the way home Saturday – something to build off of heading into Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
“You take the positives and the negatives. There are things that we certainly need to get better on,” Schmid said.
Jaqua wasted little time rewarding the UP faithful who applauded his return to his college playground, heading a cross from Sanna Nyassi past Pilots goalkeeper Austin Guerrero for a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute.
“It was kind of nice to get that one in there right at the beginning. Sanna had a good ball and I was able to get it in,” said Jaqua who played for the Pilots from 2000-2002. “It was fun being out here, playing at Merlo. It was kind of special and credit them, they put a lot of work into the game. It was a fun night.”
Seattle dominated the ball for most of the first half, pushing the ball into Portland’s 5-4-1 formation, and used that persistence and patience to earn a 32nd minute corner kick. Recent signee Evan Brown, Seattle’s second round SuperDraft pick, sent the corner kick into the box where Patrick Ianni got his head on it. Guerrero blocked that offering right to a waiting Clark, who headed the rebound into the open side of the net for a 2-0 lead.
They carried that lead into the second half and had a new lineup by the 61st minute. And UP took advantage of the new group within minutes of entering the lineup. After a turnover, the Pilots earned a free kick from 28 yards out. That shot clanged off the woodwork, falling to Logan Emory, who knocked it into the low-left corner to cut the lead in half in the 63rd minute.
“It was a bad giveaway that resulted in their goal. It ended up being a free kick. The positioning of the ball and the goalkeeper and that we had too many guys in the wall, those were the things that we talked about,” Schmid said.
That’s when the closing group, made mostly of projected starters, found their groove. In the 70th minute, Osvaldo Alonso led Steve Zakuani with a great ball over the middle. Zakuani raced past three defenders and even got past Guerrero, but overran his angle and had to cut back, forcing Guerrero to pull him down to earn a penalty.
Fredy Montero hammered the spot kick to take a 3-1 lead in the 71st minute, marking his second successful penalty kick in as many chances.
In the 75th minute Levesque got his foot on a ball in a rush in the box. His shot bounced to Brad Evans who thumped it into the net for a 4-1 lead.
Montero was featured in the final minutes of the game, but couldn’t generate any great scoring chances. In the end, Seattle outshot the Pilots 20-5. Keller was challenged by only one shot, a shot into his chest in the 11th minute.
The Sounders FC will face the Whitecaps in a closed-door friendly at Qwest Field on Sunday before departing for Argentina on Tuesday.