Who is Number 1?

Hank Liotart, Shannon Murray and Sebastien Le Toux. There’s your answer. And the question: Who’s No. 1?

Hank Liotart, Shannon Murray and Sebastien Le Toux. There’s your answer.

And the question: Who’s No. 1?

Or to be more specific, Who was the first player to be signed by the Sounders, Versions 1, 2 and 3?

While Wednesday was Le Toux’s big day, it seems fitting that to recognize the previous generations of Sounders on whose shoulders he and others will stand. Liotart was one of the lads who lit Seattle’s fire back in 1974. Murray’s signing signaled the start of a reawakening 20 years later.

Sure, the announcement of Le Toux was a bit anticlimactic, coming after weeks of speculation. But there’s no arguing that the Frenchman is the right man to first carry the flag of Seattle Sounders FC.

Le Toux is everything Adrian Hanauer said he would seek in building his squad. He’s young (24), versatile and exceptionally athletic. He reads and plays the game rapidly.What’s more, says his coach, he’s got character.

“You can’t ask for a better example,” states Brian Schmetzer. “Last year, when we moved him up to forward, he was determined to meet that challenge. He worked out on his own to provide the things we needed from him.”

Initially a defender, then an outside mid, Le Toux was moved up top and flourished at forward, scoring 17 goals in all competitions and tying for the top mark in USL Division 1. The Sounders won the league title and he was voted MVP.

“He met the challenge last year and we think he’ll do it again in MLS,” says Schmetzer.

Now another answer: Roy Sinclair, James and Jason Dunn and, well, no one knows. The question: Who’s next?

“I truly believe that the top half of our roster is better than the bottom half of some MLS teams,” Schmetzer contends. “There’s not that much difference.”

Schmetzer says that as many as 10 of Le Toux’s teammates may be offered MLS contracts by Sounders FC, although probably not until after the USL season is completed in the fall.

That’s the Spirit

Each of the USL Sounders would love to follow in Le Toux’s footsteps to MLS, and the best way to do it is by winning games, and there’s a big one Saturday night.

A relatively big crowd is expected at Qwest Field for the Sounders’ home opener, and with the foe being archrival Portland, there promises to be plenty of passion displayed, both on the field and off.

Undefeated in four games, the Timbers are playing on the road for the first time. Seattle is coming off its first win, 2-0 at Atlanta. Youssouf Kante, the recently signed French midfielder, could make his debut following completion of his visa paperwork.

Before the game, the Sounders will be unveiling their fourth championship banner under the stadium’s west roof.

Kickoff is 7. General admission tickets are available at the stadium box office beginning at 10 a.m.

The Sounders’ remaining home games, beginning next Wednesday against Rochester, will be played at Starfire Sports Complex.

Up and Down

Without a doubt, there are a lot of frayed nerves around England as the Premier League’s Judgment Day arrives.

With a win Sunday at Wigan, Manchester United will repeat as champion, if only by superior goal difference. Anything less and a Chelsea victory over Bolton would seal a most remarkable comeback for the Blues.

At the other end of the table, tere’s a distinctly local angle to the fight for Premier League survival. Between keepers Kasey Keller and Marcus Hahnemann, both Puget Sound area natives, only one’s club will be back in the top flight next fall. Keller’s Fulham can clinch a place with a win at Portsmouth. Hahnemann and Reading must get three points at cellar-dweller Derby to take advantage and eliminate the threat of Birmingham.

Since returning from long absence due to injury, Keller has posted three shutouts to enable the Cottagers to win four and draw twice in his nine starts. Brian McBride, who also missed much of the season, has contributed three game-winning goals during that stretch.

Meanwhile, Hahnemann has had little help and Reading is reeling, not only winless but also scoreless in the last six games. Hahnemann’s been forced to make more saves than any other EPL keeper for the second year in a row.

Turn On, Tune In

If you have yet to watch a match in Hi-Def, take a gander Saturday night (that is to say, set the TiVo, since you’ll be otherwise detained down at Qwest). High Definition broadcasting is an eye-popper, especially when compared to some grainy Serie A games on analog. This particular match (HDNet, 7:30), between the Galaxy and Red Bulls, also has no shortage of on-field wattage.

New York’s lineup features teenage sensation Jozy Altidore and (hopefully) Juan Pablo Angel. The L.A. 1-2 punch of Landon Donovan and David Beckham is really clicking. And be on the lookout for some Hollywood types, not to mention our friends Joe and Drew.

All Premier League matches are set for 7 o’clock Pacific time Sunday morning. Chelsea hosts Bolton (Fox Soccer Channel) while United is at Wigan (Setanta), where tickets are going for nearly $900 and the worldwide TV audience could surpass 400 million. Join the crowd for a fraction of that by going to a pub and watching both games simultaneously.

Next Wednesday’s lunch hour offers the UEFA Cup Final (FSC, 11:45) between Zenit St. Petersburg and Rangers from Manchester. Can the traveling legions of leather-lung Glaswegians lift their injury-riddled Gers to an upset and their first European trophy? Stay tuned.


Tickets for the Brazil-Canada international match on May 31 are on sale at Ticketmaster.com and at the Qwest Field box office. As of May 8, over 22,000 tickets had been sold. Late next week Brazil is expected to announce a travel squad which includes Kaka, the reigning world player of the year…Cambridge United, whose directors include Adrian Hanauer, has advanced to England’s Nationwide Conference playoff final, May 18 at Wembley Stadium against Exeter. Hanauer watched the U’s win their semifinal and plans to be at Wembley for the final. Cambridge is seeking promotion into League Two, England’s fourth tier…The Sounders women will open their season at home next Thursday at 7 against Ventura County at Starfire… Behind the playmaking of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Columbus (5-1-0) is off to the fifth-best start in MLS history. Through the first 39 league games, no team has lost after scoring first (32-0-7)…The state’s three PDL men’s teams–Spokane, Tacoma and Yakima–are now in action… Behind the playmaking of Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Columbus (5-1-0) is off to the fifth-best start in MLS history, along with Chicago. Through the first 39 league games, no team has lost after scoring first (32-0-7)…Former U.S. World Cup keeper Tony Meola is now selling his own line of gloves and shirts while playing indoors for New Jersey of the MISL…Rangers have an opportunity to win three more trophies, yet a heavily congested schedule (six matches in 15 days) and mounting injuries will make it a longshot wager.