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Keller Extinguishes Fire

Three key saves from the Sounders captain sealed Seattle's first victory of 2011 as O'Brian White and Steve Zakuani both scored their second goals of the season.

SEATTLE - The Sounders FC were not about to walk out of Qwest Field without a victory on Saturday afternoon.

Through four matches, they had played impressive soccer, but had only two draws to show for it.  Saturday, O’Brian White scored in the seventh minute and Steve Zakuani added the game-winner in the 25th minute as the Sounders blasted past the Chicago Fire 2-1 for their first win of the season.

“We decided we weren’t leaving without the three points,” said White, who scored his second goal in as many matches, adding an assist on Zakuani’s goal too.

While White and Zakuani handled the scoring load, Kasey Keller stole the show in the second half, finishing with three dramatic saves to hold on to the one-goal lead in the second half.

Diego Chaves tried to add to his first-half goal in the 58th minute when he got into a rebounded ball off a Chicago free kick, but Keller sprawled out to make the save.

Three minutes later, it was Gaston Puerari getting out on a break, but Keller met him near the top of the box and dragged his feet behind him as he ranged to his left to stop the shot from Puerari.

In the 66th minute, an attempted Sounders clearance was defended back toward the net and Keller made another diving stop to keep the ball out of the net.

“It was world class.  That was Kasey Keller from his prime,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.  “As you finish out a career, to be able to still manage and come up with performances like that is a tremendous tribute to the work that he does on a daily basis.  I thought those three saves were big time.”

Those saves sealed a victory for the Sounders after two early goals gave them the first-half lead, though Chicago quickly bounced back with an equalizer moments after White scored in the seventh minute.

For Seattle’s part, Mauro Rosales sent in a long cross from the right side, finding White running on the near post for a header that snuck inside the near post to beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson for his second goal of the season and a second assist of the year for Rosales.

However, Chicago wasn’t so easily put away.  Just a minute later, Patrick Nyarko slipped a ball into the middle to Chaves, who knocked it inside the far post for his third goal of the season, evening the score at 1-1 in the eighth minute.

Erik Friberg nearly reclaimed the lead for Seattle in the 23rd minute, but his volley attempt went high over the open side of the net, but the game remained knotted for only a few minutes more.

In the 25th minute White pushed Zakuani forward with a ball up the left side.  Zakuani evaded rookie defender Jalil Anibaba and slid the ball past Johnson with a left-footed shot inside the near post for his second goal of the season and a 2-1 lead.

“Steve’s game is to take his defender, so I waited until I saw his defender commit and I made a move and he scored a great goal,” White said.

Seattle held possession in the second half and Keller came up big with four saves on the night to earn the victory.  The win lifts Seattle to 1-2-2 (5 points), while Chicago falls to 1-1-1 (4 points).

The win was vital for the Sounders, as they now embark on a journey that will see them play four of their next five on the road, beginning next Saturday at PPL Park against the Philadelphia Union.

“We have some tough games away coming up now and so it’s good to get that win and get some points on the board,” Zakuani said.  “The confidence is there and hopefully we carry it on to the road stretch now.”

Sounders FC -
O’Brian White (Mauro Rosales) 7; Steve Zakuani (O’Brian White) 25.
Fire - Diego Chaves (Patrick Nyarko, Gaston Puerari) 8.

Sounders FC -
James Riley (caution) 32; Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 47+; Servando Carrasco (caution) 90.
Fire - Dasan Robinson (caution) 71.

Sounders FC -
Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Erik Friberg, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales (Nate Jaqua 64), O’Brian White (Servando Carrasco 81).
Fire - Sean Johnson, Jalil Anibaba, Dasan Robinson, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares (Dominic Oduro 83), Logan Pause, Marco Pappa, Michael Videira, Patrick Nyarko (Orr Barouch 90), Gaston Puerari, Diego Chaves.