It was free churros and haircuts all around at Qwest Field.
With the Sounders 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids Sunday, the season-high crowd of 32,526 were treated to coupons to Jack in the Box for a clean sheet and Great Clips for a three-goal performance, but most importantly, they were treated to a resurgence among the home team that has seen them garner eight points in their last four matches.
“This was a big game because they’re breathing down our necks. Now we have four points of clearance, so it’s a good position to be in,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
Nate Jaqua had two goals and an assist and Fredy Montero scored a third, adding assists to each of Jaqua’s goals and Kasey Keller recorded his fifth clean sheet of the season as the Sounders improved to 6-3-7 (25 points). The Rapids fell to 5-3-6 (21 points).
“I think we started a little sluggish, but in the second half we came out really flying,” said Jaqua, who brought his goal total to six on the season. “We were able to get three goals and keep a clean sheet in the back, which is really important for us. Overall, it felt great.”
In the 23rd minute, Seattle snared the lead. Freddie Ljungberg motioned to the crowd in the northeast corner of Qwest Field while he lined up over a corner kick. He connected on a ball into the box right to Jaqua’s head for a snap into the far corner of the goal, where Montero made sure it went in, knocking it home for his team-leading eighth goal.
After drawing 2-2 with Colorado May 23 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Sounders knew they would have to hold down forward Omar Cummings. With three goals and four assists over his last five games, he had made roughshod of the league and it looked like he would continue that run at Qwest.
In the 33rd minute, Colin Clark took a free kick from just outside the penalty box, catching Osvaldo Alonso on the arm in the box for a penalty kick.
After Keller motioned to the south crowd for support, Cummings stepped to the ball and clanged it off the right upright, keeping the score at 1-0.
“I think he got what he deserved and he didn’t score. I think it was right for the play because I don’t think he deserved a penalty for that. So that play worked itself out,” defender Tyrone Marshall said. “You know he’s a good forward and he’s going to get his opportunities. We just tried to make it as minimal as possible.”
Seattle continued to make strong defensive plays and Colorado outshot the Sounders 10-3 in the first half, but the Sounders held their one-goal lead. The second half saw a change in demeanor.
Jaqua recovered a ball at the top of the box, knocking it to Montero to the left. Montero gathered the ball, took an extra touch, then snuck the ball through to Jaqua, who juked a defender and blasted a goal past Matt Pickens to the far post for his fifth goal of the year in the 48th minute.
Jaqua added to that in the 68th minute as Seattle again turned away a flurry from the Rapids. After knocking the ball clear, second-half sub Sebastien Le Toux turned the ball up field. Approaching the box, he turned it to Montero to the left for a touch to Jaqua coming up the left side of the box. Jaqua drew Pickens off his line and blasted it over his shoulder for the 3-0 lead and his sixth goal of the year.
“We did our job which is to make sure we keep it at zeroes in the back and the boys up front did their job by putting the ball in the back of the net,” Marshall said.
Seattle held that lead until the final whistle to go unbeaten over their last four games, a time that has seen subtle changes to the Sounders lineup.
“If you want to win you can’t run around making mistakes. All the big teams don’t make mistakes and that’s why they win,” Ljungberg said. “Maybe the chemistry is getting better but I think we played well the last couple of games because of the small details.”
Added Schmid, “I thought our coordination was good. The cohesion between Ljungberg and Montero has been getting better game after game. When you’re an opposing defense and you have those two guys coming at you, it gives you something to worry about.”
The Sounders don’t play another league game until July 11 when they host the Western Conference leading Houston Dynamo. But Wednesday they travel south to face the USL’s Portland Timbers in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Kickoff is set for 7 in a game that will be broadcast on FSN.