SEATTLE - The Sounders FC may have played bigger matches than their meeting with the Chicago Fire Saturday night at Qwest Field.
None, however, carried the drama that Seattle’s 2-1 win brought to the equation.
In a match that saw the celebrated return of Freddie Ljungberg to Seattle, Fredy Montero stole the show with two goals, including an exclamation point in stoppage time to punctuate the Sounders victory.
“It is pretty exciting,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “You do all the hard work and when you win one like that and you score late like you do, it's such an outstanding feeling. That's something that sometimes becomes defining moments for teams in a season. Hopefully this will help us in becoming a defining moment for us.”
Seattle conceded a first-half lead to Chicago when Jeff Parke was whistled for a handball in the box when a backpass from Patrick Nyarko caromed off his thigh and into his arm. John Thorrington converted on the penalty, going to the top right corner for the 28th minute lead.
Although they hadn’t had a comeback win in the 2010 season, the Sounders never wavered in their confidence and kept pressing for the equalizer.
It didn’t take long though.
Patrick Ianni darted out to midfield to pick off a free ball, then passed to Tyson Wahl on the left sideline and Wahl tight-roped the painted line to keep the ball in play. He whipped a ball into open space at the top of the box, leaving Montero alone behind the Chicago defense. He touched the ball down off a bounce, hesitated to let the defense race past him, then blistered a shot inside the far post to even the score at 1-1 in the 36th minute.
That score held into stoppage time, but like a rising tide it felt to the 36,386 in attendance that the game-winner was just around the corner.
Two minutes into stoppage time, it came off the head of Montero.
James Riley took a quick throw-in to Nathan Sturgis on the right sideline. Sturgis turned away from the net and put the ball on his left foot while Riley charged up the sideline to occupy the nearest defender. Sturgis saw Montero all alone at the far post and Montero nodded the cross past Sean Johnson to give Seattle the lead.
“I think any team, any situation you can get a quick restart and sometimes in that situation the defense kind of shuts down a little bit and aren't really paying attention, aren't seeing guys behind them,” Sturgis said. “I think anytime you can get a quick restart or anything to change the pace of the game that you can catch defenses off guard.”
For Montero, it was his team-leading tenth goal of the year, putting him third in MLS behind just Edson Buddle with 13 and Juan Pablo Angel with 12.
“It was a very big goal. We have been dreaming about this situation and a goal so late in the game, giving us three points, got us closer to the playoffs,” Montero said.
Kasey Keller finished with three saves to earn the victory as the Sounders move to 5-0-2 in their last seven MLS matches, improving to 9-8-5 on the year and putting them sixth overall in the MLS playoff picture.
“We need to win our games at home. To end the season a lot of games are on the road so it's really important for us to get three points at home so we don't have as much pressure on the road to get points,” Sturgis said. “I think it was a really big game for us.”
Seattle’s next MLS match will come next Saturday in Gillette Stadium against the New England Revolution, but they have the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinal first on Wednesday night at Starfire Stadium against Chivas USA. SoundersFC.com will be hosting a live webcast of that match with kickoff slated for 7:30.
Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (Tyson Wahl, Patrick Ianni) 36; Montero (Nathan Sturgis, James Riley) 92+.
Fire - John Torrington (PK) 28.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Tyson Wahl, Sanna Nyassi (Steve Zakuani 62), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Alvaro Fernandez (Roger Levesque 89), Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 82).
Fire - Sean Johnson, Steven Kinney, CJ Brown, Gonzalo Segares, Krzysztof Krol, Patrick Nyarko (Calen Carr 86), Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Baggio Husidic, Collins John, Freddie Ljungberg.