SEATTLE - On a night when 46,065 packed CenturyLink Field and ESPN broadcast the match nationwide, Roger Levesque stole the show with his first career MLS brace as the Sounders FC topped the New York Red Bulls 4-2.
Levesque, who played 130 matches in the USL with the Seattle Sounders between stints with the San Jose Earthquakes and the inaugural season for the Sounders FC, came on as a substitute in the 58th minute and made a quick impact, scoring off a corner kick in the 67th minute and picking the ball off of goalkeeper Greg Sutton and putting it in the open net in the 78th minute to seal the win for Seattle and extend their unbeaten streak to five matches.
“I’m so proud of him,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “Nobody works harder. He’s a great team player, a great guy in the community. You love to see great people have success and Rog came on and made a difference for us today, which was tremendous.”
Erik Friberg and Osvaldo Alonso scored in the 11th and 12th minutes, respectively, to give the Sounders the early 2-0 lead in front of their record home crowd. However, New York crept back in with a goal from Dane Richards and an own goal.
Seattle’s early goals both came off of corner kicks.
On the first, Mauro Rosales sent the ball into the box and it was defended from the near post to Friberg at the top of the box. He cut to his left, then chopped back to his right, curling the ball around Stephen Keel and inside the far post for his first goal in a Sounders FC uniform.
One minute and 50 seconds later, Rosales bent a corner kick to the far post, where it was headed by Keel to Alonso at the top of the box for a left-footed volley that took a deflection before finding the netting inside the far post for his second goal in two home matches.
“One of the things that we felt was that they had given up a lot of goals on set pieces and corners and we wanted to take advantage of that a little bit, which we did,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
In the 31st minute, New York pulled one back when Richards took a pass from Joel Lindpere and got just enough room at the corner of the box to float a shot to the far post that took a slight deflection that was just enough to put it out of the reach of Keller, who finished the night with two saves.
“I shouldn’t have cut my fingernails before the game,” Keller joked. “Maybe I just could have had enough to claw it out.”
That score held until the half and, although New York dominated first-half possession, Seattle was in control of the match.
It stayed that way until Jan Gunnar Solli got to the endline and cut the ball back to the middle, where it deflected off Zach Scott and into the net for an own goal to equalize at 2-2 in the 58th minute.
Just after the goal, Levesque subbed on for Mike Fucito and made his impact.
In the 67th minute, Alonso just missed on a shot from 12 yards out that Sutton knocked over the bar for a corner kick. But Seattle was again able to take advantage of New York’s set piece defense.
Leo Gonzalez bent the ball to the near post, where Levesque went on a diagonal run to meet the ball for a flick-on header that went inside the far post for his first goal of the season.
His second would come in the 78th minute when Solli played a soft ball back to Sutton that Levesque pounced on, taking the ball off the feet of an indecisive Sutton and knocking it into the empty net for the insurance goal.
“I got in two good spots and the ball went in. If you always find yourself in front of the goalie, you give yourself a good chance,” said Levesque, who has five career MLS goals. “He took a little extra touch and the ball got caught up in his feet. And then I got a good bounce in behind him. Hopefully I don’t miss that one.”
Seattle held on until the final whistle to improve to 7-4-7 on the season, going 3-0-2 in their last five matches. The win moves them into second in the Western Conference behind the LA Galaxy. The Red Bulls remain atop the Eastern Conference at 5-3-8.
The Sounders will look to continue their streak Sunday against the New England Revolution at CenturyLink Field. However, they will do so without Gonzalez and Alonso, who both will serve suspensions for yellow card accumulation.
Sounders FC - Erik Friberg 11; Osvaldo Alonso 12; Roger Levesque (Leo Gonzalez) 67; Roger Levesque 78.
Red Bulls - Dane Richards (Joel Lindpere) 31; Own goal (Zach Scott) 58.
Sounders FC - James Riley (caution) 52; Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 60; Leo Gonzalez (caution) 90.
Red Bulls - Teemu Tainio (caution) 28; Austin Da Luz (caution) 50; Dwayne De Rosario (caution) 93+.
Sounders FC - Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Alvaro Fernandez (Servando Carrasco 72), Fredy Montero (Nate Jaqua 81), Mike Fucito (Roger Levesque 58).
Red Bulls - Greg Sutton, Jan Gunnar Solli, Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller, Mehdi Ballouchy, Teemu Tainio (Corey Hertzog 89), Joel Lindpere, Austin Da Luz (John Rooney 79), Dane Richards, Dwayne De Rosario.