SEATTLE - A loss, Sigi Schmid said, was not the result the Sounders FC deserved at MLS First Kick Tuesday night at Qwest Field. However, the LA Galaxy got a goal from Juninho and Seattle was unable to equalize and so a loss was the result they would have to settle for in the season opener.
The Sounders put six shots on goal in the match, with Fredy Montero accounting for three of those, but none could find their way past Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
“A tie, I think probably would have been a fair result, but it is what it is,” Schmid said. “I was proud of the effort, I thought the effort was good. The soccer at times was good. It still could get better, but that’s a coach talking.”
The first of Seattle’s chances came in the ninth minute when Montero tested Saunders with a shot from distance, but Saunders lunged to his right to make the save of the early effort.
After that, whether it was a 25th minute header by Alvaro Fernandez or a 32nd minute shot off a corner kick by Montero, Saunders came up with the stops. Even when he wasn’t getting to the ball, he was winning the game of inches as efforts by Seattle were missing just wide of the net. In the 43rd minute, Erik Friberg blasted a shot from the top of the box that narrowly missed outside the right post and in the 71st minute O’Brian White missed just outside the post on a shot from six-yards out.
“He played well tonight. One of them we hit him with it, but he did alright,” Schmid said of Saunders. “He made some saves, but there’s the other chances that we just put wide as well that we needed to put in. Friberg’s chance where he was very unlucky and O’Brian White’s chance in the second half were two very good chances.”
On the other side, LA was playing their game - even without the services of striker Juan Pablo Angel, who missed the match with the flu. The Galaxy defended the Sounders, then tried to catch them up the wings with Landon Donovan and David Beckham on the counter attack.
In the 58th minute, it was that defend-and-counter approach that got them on the board. Todd Dunivant made the stop at midfield, then carried up the left side before finding Juninho in space 35 yards out. He took a touch, then blasted a shot that blazed its way inside the near post for the 1-0 lead.
“We didn’t close him down and he spanked a ball past me,” said goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who saved the only other shot on goal from the Galaxy. “He’s a guy that has a history of doing that to us and we didn’t close him down and make him deviate from that plan. Other than that, I was relatively happy with the way things were going on in front of me.”
In the locker room, the Sounders were down after suffering their first opening night loss in their three-year history, but they weren’t about to throw their hands up in panic.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but the effort was there and we created chances,” said White, who made his Sounders FC debut with 79 minutes before giving way for Federal Way’s Lamar Neagle to make his MLS debut. “Even though losing is negative, it’s a positive that we created chances.”
Added Steve Zakuani, “It was an even game and I would even go as far as to say we had better chances, but we weren’t as clinical. They leave with the three points so fair play to them. But there’s 33 games left and nothing is decided in March concerning the playoffs, so we’re still optimistic. The most important thing is that we’re creating chances. If their keeper didn’t have to do any work, that’s one story. But we had some good chances, so that’s optimistic. The hardest thing to do in football is to score, so that’s our last phase and that’s what we are pushing toward.”
The Sounders will head to the road for their next match on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. Kickoff is slated for 4:30 pm Pacific Time.
Sounders FC - None.
LA Galaxy - Junínho (Todd Dunivant) 58.
Sounders FC - Erik Friberg (caution) 44; Leo Gonzalez (caution) 46+.
LA Galaxy - Chris Birchall (caution) 24; David Beckham (caution) 93+.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Alvaro Fernandez (Roger Levesque 63), Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Steve Zakuani (Miguel Montano 84), Fredy Motnero, O’Brian White (Lamar Neagle 79).
Galaxy - Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo, Todd Dunivant, David Beckham, Chris Birchall, Juninho, Landon Donovan, Chad Barret (Jovan Kirovski 79), Mike Magee (Michael Stephens 76).