PHOENIX - The Sounders FC and their supporters got their first glimpse of the 2011 schedule on Thursday. On the field against the Columbus Crew in a training game at Westside Soccer Complex, the team showed they were still in preseason form as they prepare to undertake the 34-match MLS regular season.
“It was definitely a preseason game,” said Roger Levesque, who has played right back and right midfield in training games. “It’s a learning process and the result didn’t go our way and that’s something to be disappointed about. The goal is to be ready for that first game against LA and it looks like we still have some work to do.”
After two 45-minute periods, the Crew held a 1-0 lead off of a 19th minute goal by Andres Mendoza, but in the final, 30-minute period the Crew got two more in rapid succession to take the final tally, 3-0.
The game was not without opportunities for Seattle, but they appeared to lack the spark to overtake the Crew.
Fredy Montero took a shot from distance in the first period, but it went right into the chest of Columbus keeper Ray Burse. Brad Evans also had one header go wide and another defended away.
However, Mendoza’s 19th minute goal proved the difference in that 45-minute period. He got into some space on the right side at the top of the box and popped a shot to the far post. Kasey Keller got his fingertips to it, but not enough to prevent it from going inside the far post for the 1-0 lead.
“If you ask the guys who played in the first unit, they will say they weren’t happy with their play,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think we gave up a soft goal and we didn’t create enough chances up front. I thought we were a little bit stagnant in the first group.”
The second period saw a little more enthusiasm from the Sounders
Erik Friberg swung an early corner kick in to Roger Levesque at the right post, but his flicking header attempt went high for a goal kick.
Mike Fucito also had a well-struck ball in the 29th minute, but it went wide and the Sounders continued to trail.
On the other end of the field, rookie goalkeeper Bryan Meredith was impressive with some saves, diving to stop an Emilio Renteria shot in the 16th minute and leaping to stop another shot in the 27th minute. Josh Ford also made two quick-reaction at the start of the third period, stopping an initial shot from Justin Meram, then pouncing on the put-back attempt.
However, Jeff Cunningham, the active leading scorer in MLS, proved the difference in the final period.
In the 17th minute, the veteran forward pushed the ball forward up the middle. Zach Scott and Leone Cruz converged on him right as Ford came out to stop Cunningham and Scott deflected the ball into the net for an own-goal to give Columbus the 2-0 lead.
One minute later, Cunningham knocked in a loose ball off a Columbus corner kick and gave the Crew the 3-0 advantage that held over the final 12 minutes.
It was the first defeat of the preseason for the Sounders FC (1-1-1). They conclude the Arizona portion of their preseason with a match against Chivas USA on Saturday at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona.
“We’ll take it on the chin and learn from it and move on. We definitely have a long way to go,” defender James Riley said. “It comes down to effort. We’ll look to bring a lot of energy and end the trip on a high note. As long as we are able to learn from this game and eradicate those mistakes in the next game, we’ll be fine.”
Follow the action on Saturday on the liveblog at http://sndrs.com/gjrj for the 9:30 am Pacific Time kickoff.
Sounders FC - None.
Crew - Andres Mendoza 19 (First Period); Zach Scott (own goal) 17 (Third Period); Jeff Cunningham 18 (Third Period).
Sounders FC Lineup
Game 1: Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Alvaro Fernandez, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero, O’Brian White.
Game 2: Bryan Meredith, James Riley (Zach Scott 20), Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni (Tyson Wahl 20), Danny Earls, Roger Levesque, Osvaldo Alonso (Servando Carrasco 20), Erik Friberg, Steve Zakuani (Lamar Neagle 20), Fredy Montero (David Estrada 20), Mike Fucito.
Game 3: Josh Ford, Zach Scott, Leone Cruz, Tyson Wahl, Michael Tetteh, Seedy Bah, Servando Carrasco, Jonathan Prieto, Miguel Montaño, Lamar Neagle, David Estrada.
Columbus Crew Lineup
Game 1: Ray Burse, Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Rich Balchan, Shaun Francis, Robbie Rogers, Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Dilly Duka, Emilio Renteria, Andrews Mendoza (Cole Grossman 30).
Games 2 & 3: William Hesmer (Alex Riggs 30), Josh Williams, Andy Iro, Alex Fraga, Ben Sippola, Leandre Griffit, Dejan Rusmik, Cole Grossman, Bernardo Anor, Justin Meram, Jeff Cunningham.