Fredy Montero found yet another way to make a name for himself in Major League Soccer and impress the crowd at Qwest Field.
With the Sounders FC leading 1-0 in the 77th minute and Real Salt Lake coming off of a stretch of 20 minutes where they pounded the offensive third, Montero took a pass from Osvaldo Alonso up the middle and carried the ball into space before uncoiling on a shot from 28 yards out.
The ball sailed through the air and looked to be drifting well over the crossbar. But then it seemed to stop in midair – as if to prepare the 28,548 in attendance for the wonder they were about to witness. Then it took a spectacular dive into the net, giving Seattle a 2-0 lead and virtually ensuring the club would improve to 2-0-0 on the season.
“At that point, they were dominating play but you have to come up with some good individual efforts and plays and that’s what Fredy gave us. Certainly that goal took a lot of pressure off of us,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It allowed us to relax a little bit even though I don’t think we ever looked relaxed in the second half.”
The goal was Montero’s third of the year after the Colombian sensation netted two goals in a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in the team’s inaugural game March 19.
But the final 2-0 tally didn’t show the pressure Salt Lake put on the Sounders FC in the second half. After being outshot 8-3 in the first half, Real Salt Lake unleashed a flurry of shots over a 20-minute stretch to start the second half.
Yura Movsisyan got free in the 49th minute but Kasey Keller turned away the shot with a dive to his right. In the 67th minute, Movsisyan hammered a left-footed volley, but it popped into the turf and over the net. Keller finished with five saves on the way to his second consecutive shutout to start his MLS career.
“The one quality this team is showing at a very early stage is the ability to compete, the ability to cover for each other and that nobody is too proud to work a little bit extra. And that’s what you need to compete for a championship,” Schmid said.
Nate Jaqua scored his first goal of the season in the 17th minute to put Seattle up 1-0, continuing his run of strong play against Salt Lake. He now has six goals in his last six games against an RSL team that reached the Western Conference Finals last year.
Alonso sent a ball up the right side, where Steve Zakuani chased it down. He ran the ball into the box, juked Nat Borchers to the ground and crossed the ball to Jaqua, who hammered it in with his left foot to give the Sounders the early lead.
It was the second time Seattle had taken a lead within the first 20 minutes of the game.
“It definitely helps because the other team has to play catch-up,” Jaqua said of the importance of early leads.
Midfielder Freddie Ljungberg came on in the 61st minute to make his MLS debut.
“We wanted to be sure I wouldn’t have a setback, but I felt very good. It was quite nice to get some tackles because my hip felt great, so it’s not a problem,” said Ljungberg, who missed the season opener after off-season hip surgery.
It may have been best that Ljungberg test his hip against a physical team like Salt Lake. In the first half, they were given three yellow cards for hard tackles, often targeting Montero, who was sent to the ground on several occasions and was even pushed into the LED boards on one side of the field, earning Jamison Olave a caution for the foul.
“From the very first goal they showed they were going to be stronger and more physical,” Montero said. “But obviously this is a matter of playing with an attitude and skill and continue to ask for the ball, continue to make the plays.”
Overcoming the physical play made Montero’s goal all the more impressive, the ultimate response to the rugged maneuvers against him.
“It was a great shot,” said Ljungberg. “It killed the game, so happy days.”
The Sounders FC hit the road for their road opener April 4 against Toronto FC.