WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Sounders FC walked into RFK Stadium in our nation’s capital after a 10-day break, but the result was exactly the same as their previous trip to DC, a 2-1 victory over a strong DC United squad.
Seattle got goals from Steve Zakuani and Fredy Montero while Kasey Keller had two saves to push the Sounders to an unbeaten record at 3-0-1 in their last four road matches.
Seattle got off to a fast start when Pete Vagenas sent a long ball to Zakuani up the left side. With no one but Josh Wicks to beat, Zakuani nutmegged the DC keeper for his fourth goal of the season to put the Sounders up 1-0 in the fifth minute.
“When you get a goal that early that helps your team settle,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We felt that going into the game the first 15 or 20 minutes were going to be really important. We wanted to make sure we matched whatever they threw out there and that goal helped us.”
The first half saw continued pressure from both sides with great defensive efforts and physical play from both sides keeping the score at 1-0 heading into halftime.
“It’s always going to be physical from the standpoint that teams are fighting for their lives now because everybody wants to get into the playoffs,” Schmid said. “The main thing is that our team believed in itself and that its going to be a physical game and they know that they are on that (playoff) borderline as well.”
DC put some pressure on the Sounders to start the second half and Rodney Wallace capitalized by knocking in a redirected shot for the equalizer in the 54th minute.
United continued to put on the pressure, but Keller put a stop to any DC efforts and the score remained tied going into the late stages.
“Emilio got in and was unlucky not to score and other than that the rest of the shots came from distance,” Seattle defender James Riley said. “I thought we had a lot of quality chances in the first half and could have been up by more than one and their goal comes off a ricochet, it’s not like they went right through us.”
Riley turned that DC pressure into an attack, slipping the ball to Montero on the right side and Montero blistered a bending shot inside the far post to beat Wicks for his 11th goal of the season in the 84th minute.
“Obviously Montero can strike a great ball and when he turns around and gets all of it it’s difficult for keepers to handle it. He hit it well, it beat him near post and it was good because it was a turning point in the game where they certainly had a little more of the game; they were starting to dominate the game or more possession for sure,” Schmid said.
The win improves the Sounders to 9-6-10 (37 points) on the season, moving them ahead of the Colorado Rapids for third in the Western Conference standings and fifth in the MLS playoff picture. DC United drops to 8-6-12 (36 points) with the loss.
“We knew we had a lot of away games coming up at the end of the season and it’s nice to be able to catch that away form,” Keller said. “People enjoy coming to our house to play because of the atmosphere and the crowd. So we have to continue to stamp our authority at home as well. But very happy that we got that road monkey off our back and are now feeling comfortable leaving Seattle.”
Seattle was playing without midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, who was suspended because of yellow card accumulation, and had defender Tyrone Marshall and midfielder Brad Evans both coming off the bench late in the game.
The Sounders will face Chivas USA in their next match, a noon kickoff on Saturday at Qwest Field.