SEATTLE - The Sounders FC are continuing their drive toward returning to their strong form of their inaugural season. And a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids Sunday night at Qwest Field has them 2-0-1 over their last three matches.
Steve Zakuani scored twice in the first 17 minutes of the match, giving him seven goals on the season, and Kasey Keller nabbed some heart-stopping saves and the Sounders FC improved to 6-8-4 on the season in front of 36,333 at Qwest Field.
Fredy Montero got things started in the 8th minute, taking the ball through traffic into the penalty box. With tight pressure from Colorado, the ball spilled to Zakuani, who shot through four defenders to beat Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens to the left post. The shot ricocheted off the post and bounced off Pickens’ back before finding itself in the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
“Fredy kept the ball alive on the first goal, kept digging in, digging in, kept it alive and eventually it was Zakuani and he finished it,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “That's what you need. We need to score goals that are nice pieces of work, but we also need to score goals where we just scrap for 'em and that's something we haven't always been getting either.”
But the celebration didn’t last.
Before the confetti settled on the field, Omar Cummings equalized, taking a Pablo Mastroeni pass up the right side and blistering a ball into the far corner of the net to make it 1-1 in the 9th minute.
Zakuani played the hero, though, and pulled the Sounder back into the lead in the 17th minute on a great run of play for the Sounders. Montero came back to nearly midfield on the right sideline to collect a ball and send it up the side of the box for Sanna Nyassi on a run. Nyassi drew out Pickens and crossed to Zakuani on a run down the middle of the box for a one-touch goal to give the Sounders the 2-1 lead.
Colorado nearly equalized again in the 19th minute when Marvell Wynne crossed a ball to Conor Casey at penalty spot, but Keller had a bead on his header and parried it over the bar for the first of his two incredible saves that secured the 2-1 victory.
The second came in the 61st minutes when Mastroeni shot the ball toward the right post, only to have it deflect off of Jamie Smith and alter the direction of a shot that would have missed wide of the net. Keller dove to his left and speared the ball off the ground with his left hand, corralling the ball into his chest.
"I have been happy with my form really, probably, since the break,” Keller said. “I think a little bit of experience comes into play on probably that first header from Conor. When he kind of had to check back to the ball I realized that the only way he is going to beat me is by looping it back over the top. I just didn’t think he was going to be able to do it as well as he did. I think having that little thought in my mind gave me that half a second that allowed me to get back to the ball. I am just happy that I am able to help the team get some points.”
Seattle held on in the game’s waning moments and walked away with their second consecutive win - the first time in the 2010 season they have accomplished that.
“Obviously we're pleased with the three points,” Schmid said. “I think the team showed a lot of grit and determination. 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.”
With the win, Seattle moves within one point of a playoff spot with 22 points on the season, just one point behind Colorado (6-5-5) and the San Jose Earthquakes (6-4-5) in the Western Conference standings.
Seattle hosts Metapan in the first leg of the preliminary round series in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday. They finish the aggregate goal series Tuesday, August 3 in San Salvador, El Salvador.
The Sounders FC’s next MLS match is a Saturday road match against the Earthquakes as Seattle looks to avenge a 1-0 loss at Qwest earlier this season.
Sounders FC - Steve Zakuani 8; Zakuani (Sanna Nyassi, Fredy Montero) 17
Rapids - Omar Cummings (Pablo Mastroeni) 9
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott, Sanna Nyassi (Roger Levesque 81), Nathan Sturgis (Mike Seamon 74), Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 70)
Rapids - Matt Pickens, Julien Baudet, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Danny Earls (Kosuke Kimura 65), Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni, Mehdi Ballouchy (Quincy Amarikwa 77), Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith (Claudio Lopez 65), Conor Casey.