Seattle Sounders 3 - 0 San Diego
Memorial Stadium, Seattle
4 SEA - Nguyen (Steidten)
68 SEA - Howes (Sawatzky)
82 SEA - Howes (Sawatzky)
Seattle: Bill May; Ali John Utush, Craig Waibel, Scott Jenkins, Kieran Barton, Tim Steidten; Dick McCormick (Kei Kinoshita 49), Andrew Gregor; Viet Nguyen (Chad Brown 84), Greg Howes, Darren Sawatzky (JP Capodanno 84).
San Diego: Thomas Tate; David Banks, PJ Brown (Geoff Huber), Jason Annicchero; Mike Slivinski (Anthony Farace 82), Leighton O'Brien, Carlos Farias, Mauricio Alegre (Carlos Calderson 85), Shandley Phillips (Mugurel Dumitru 80), Nate Hetherington; Jerome Watson.
After beating the San Diego Flash away 2-1 two nights earlier, the Seattle Sounders won the home leg of the two-match series 3-0 to add to their lead over second-place San Diego in the Pacific Division. Viet Nguyen scored an early goal from Tim Steidten's cross for the match winner, then rookie Greg Howes added a pair in the second half to put the match away. Darren Sawatzky played a major role in all three goals, dummying the cross on the first goal and assisting on both of Howes' goals.
For the first time at home, coach Neil Megson used the 5-2-3 lineup that he pioneered on the last two road matches at Vancouver and San Diego. Five backs, but they all have a license to go forward. Dick McCormick and Andrew Gregor as the only midfielders. Nguyen, Howes and Sawatzky as forwards. The lineup paid dividends early this evening.
4' Nguyen (Steidten). Steidten overlapped up the right touch line and carried the ball unmarked into the corner. He rifled a low cross parallel to and 5 yards from the goal line. At the near post with his back to goal, Sawatzky made space for himself and when it looked like he would shoot he instead let the ball run by for Nguyen, on a far-post run, who slammed the ball into the back of the net from 5 yards. Seattle 1-0.
Nguyen had the next two chances as well. First, he intercepted a San Diego square pass on the offside line and carried to the bye line before miskicking his attempted cross and sending it behind the goal. Inside the penalty area on the left, Nguyen looked pass but tried a quick shot that was just wide of the far post. Seattle continued their monopoly on shots as McCormick, then Gregor volleyed off-target.
The 27th minute saw San Diego's first shot when Jerome Watson outleaped two defenders to head a shot at the lower far corner, but goalkeeper Bill May was there for the save. Then San Diego generated chances from a pair of corner kicks. On one, Shandley Phillips dropped the corner kick to an unmarked Carlos Farias 25 yards from goal. Farias' attempt was blocked, but ran past the crowd for ex-Sounder Jason Annicchero, who shot well wide of the near post from 12 yards. O'Brien sent another corner kick to Farias, whose diagonal centering cross was directed wide of the far post by Watson's hip.
Nguyen had the next shot, a header from Scott Jenkins' far-post throw-in, easily saved by goalkeeper Thomas Tate.
San Diego had a good chance when Annicchero whipped in a cross from the right touch line to an open Nate Hetherington inside the penalty area, but Hetherington headed wide of the far post.
In the final minute, Seattle's Howes fought up the middle with the ball and got by the last defender for a shot that just missed the top far corner.
Halftime: Seattle 1 - 0 San Diego
The first minutes of the second half saw yellow cards for Kieran Barton and Nguyen a minute apart, then Seattle avoided any further misconduct. Kei Kinoshita came in for McCormick in the 49th minute.
San Diego took a pair of fine shots in the 51st minute. From the top left corner of the penalty area, Farias aimed a shot nicely at the top far corner, but May retreated to slap it wide for a corner kick. On the corner kick play, Leighton O'Brien sent the kick up the touch line for Mauricio Alegre, whose far-post cross was headed powerfully on goal by Annicchero. May smothered the shot at his feet for a save.
After 15 minutes of no threats, Alegre was cautioned for tripping Nguyen, and on the free kick play Nguyen's shot to the lower near corner was comfortably saved by Tate.
68' Howes (Sawatzky). From in front of the San Diego bench Jenkins curled in a cross to target Sawatzky at the arc. Sawatzky headed the ball wide for an unmarked Howes, who dribbled in several steps and put a low shot past Tate and inside the far post. Seattle 2-0.
Two minutes later in the center circle Farias took down Nguyen with a two-footed, cleats-first challenge to the front of Nguyen's legs. Referee Jayson Transtrum promptly showed Farias the red card. Farias had been sent off on the first leg of the two matches due to a pair of yellow cards in the final 5 minutes.
The momentum shifted San Diego's way for awhile. PJ Brown headed a cross in front of goal, and May had to leap high to pull the ball off Watson's head. O'Brien's 23-yard free kick up the middle was deflected over the goal off the top of the Seattle's wall. Hetherington tried to redirect a cross on goal but put it wide of the far post.
82' Howes (Sawatzky). On a counterattack, Sawatzky's through ball put Howes free to dribble up the middle from 45 yards. Howes stayed a couple of steps ahead of the retreating defenders, and the tireless Sawatzky sprinted past them as well. With Howes advancing at the right post and Sawatzky running at the left, Tate got caught in between leaving Howes room to score inside the near post. Seattle 3-0.
San Diego came close at 87' when Watson's hard, diving shot from 18 yards hit the underside of the crossbar and came back out, bouncing about 8 yards from goal.
Seeing his first minutes for the Sounders in front of a home crowd, JP Capodanno, called up from the Sounders select, entered for the final 6 minutes. Capodanno almost created a goal in added time when he carried to the goal line just to the right of goal, held the ball waiting for someone to make a run, and sent a short drop pass to Howes for a chance at a hat trick from 5 yards, but San Diego's defense pressured the shot wide of the near post.
Final: Seattle 1 - 0 San Diego
Referee: Jayson Transtrum; Asst. Refs: Fred Mabbott, Dean Ajir; 4th Official: Jon Young