Things are about to get interesting for the Sounders FC at the forward position. While the battle for playing time in the midfield has been rampant in the early-going, the forward positions looked locked down by O’Brian White and Fredy Montero – at least until Nate Jaqua and Mike Fucito return to full health and the emergence of Mauro Rosales notwithstanding.
Well, Jaqua is nearing 90-minutes fit and White lunged forward in that position battle on Saturday with his first goal in a Sounders FC uniform, heading in a cross from Steve Zakuani in the 42nd minute of Seattle’s 2-2 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Maybe this goal will spur him on,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “The goal was important for him because it keeps his nose in front.”
The goal is a peak into the potential of the young forward who earned the MAC Herman trophy during his junior season at the University of Connecticut in 2007. Some of that is lost in the two tumultuous seasons he spent with Toronto FC in 2009 and 2010.
Last season he appeared to turn the corner early on with a goal on April 25 in Toronto against the Sounders and another May 8 against Chicago, but that was his last goal in MLS until Saturday. After spending much of the season coming off the bench for a struggling Toronto FC team, he found himself in a starting role for the Sounders FC after a hot preseason that saw him net three goals and three assists in eight appearances.
“It’s just a good feeling to feel like you’ve been rewarded and you’re more eager to score more,” White said. “That is motivation. The more you score – you love scoring, so you try even harder to score.”
A scoring complement to Fredy Montero at forward has been a key to success for the Sounders FC. In 2009, Jaqua finished the year with nine goals and seven assists in that role to help Seattle to the playoffs and in the second half of 2010, Blaise Nkufo scored five goals in 11 matches as the Sounders rallied to a second playoff appearance with an incredible run in the late season.
A good scoring tandem up front could ignite the Sounders back to the level where they expect to compete. At 0-2-2 to start the season, they certainly expect better results despite strong play at times.
“The past couple of games, I came really close,” White said. “I just keep working harder and harder and I know more will come. With goals come victories, so it’s just getting the attitude of winning and scoring.”
White will have a chance to follow up his first Seattle goal on Saturday when the Sounders host the Chicago Fire at 1 pm at Qwest Field.