2009 Jul 25

Sounders held to scoreless draw by Chicago while Ljungberg sees red

Seattle Sounders FC  0 - 0  Chicago Fire

Qwest Field, Seattle, WA


Seattle: Kasey Keller; Tyson Wahl, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, James Riley; Steve Zakuani (Sebastien Le Toux 75'), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis (Peter Vagenas 68'), Freddie Ljungberg (sent off 59'); Nate Jaqua (Roger Levesque 89'), Fredy Montero. Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Tyrone Marshall, Zach Scott, Stephen King.

Chicago: Jon Busch; C.J. Brown, Wilman Conde, Gonzalo Segares, Tim Ward; Marco Pappa (Justin Mapp 77'), Baggio Husidic (Brandon Prideaux 65'), John Thorrington (sent off 54'), Chris Rolfe; Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Calen Carr 86'), Patrick Nyarko. Substitutes not used: Andrew Dykstra, Dasan Robinson, Mike Banner, Peter Lowry.

Match report from Ron Stickney

The host Seattle Sounders FC and the Chicago Fire entered the match with identical records and left with identical records after a scoreless draw. When the teams met earlier in Chicago the Sounders were lucky to manage a draw. Today it was the Fire who were lucky to get the draw, due largely to some big saves by goalkeeper Jon Busch.

The Sounders briefly had a man advantage when John Thorrington was sent off for his second yellow card at 54', but just five minutes later Freddie Ljungberg was sent off for the most ridiculous of reasons, a yellow for a bad dive and then an immediate second yellow for complaining about the first yellow. It was not clear exactly what caused the second yellow for dissent. It seemed undeserved and spoiled the match. There is a rule of thumb taught to referees and usually applied at the higher levels: a second yellow card to a player should be for something worse than the first. That standard was met with Thorrington's yellow, but not Ljungberg's. It was the first time all season the Sounders had been given a man advantage and it lasted just five minutes.

Ljungberg will probably be suspended for the next two league matches, one for his fifth yellow card and one for the red card.

The Sounders rested sweeper Tyrone Marshall, who was their only player who played every minute of the two previous matches, a friendly against Chelsea and a US Open Cup semifinal. Patrick Ianni got the start at center back.

Seattle had nearly 100% of the possession for the first ten minutes, earning two of their best chances of the match. The first corner kick ended up at the feet of Fredy Montero within touching distance of the far post, but goalkeeper Busch was there too and blocked the shot wide. A nice attack saw Steve Zakuani from the left feed the ball to Nate Jaqua at the spot, who turned away from goal and served it to a wide open Ljungberg 12 yards out on the right. Ljungberg tried for the top near corner but Busch got a hand to it.

Chicago's first shot finally came at 13' when Chris Rolfe from 20 yards rolled an easy ball to Kasey Keller. A minute later Cuauhtemoc Blanco almost sprung Rolfe into the area but James Riley got there first to intercept.

At 16' Chicago defender failed to control a ball that bounced high and into the penalty area, giving Montero a chip shot over Busch that cleared the bar.

Chicago had probably their best chance at 19' when Nathan Sturgis' turnover at the halfway line let Patrick Nyarko get in close to goal on the left for a short pass in front of goal to Marco Pappa, who shot low and missed the far post by a yard when he could have done better.

Seattle's best chance came at 27' when Zakuani found Montero open on a wonderful run up the middle. Montero was wide open at the spot, but his shot missed by a yard when he ought to have scored. At 37' Montero returned a pass to Ljungberg for a cross that found Jaqua open at the far post for a double chance, but Busch blocked both the header and Jaqua's follow-up shot.

The half ended with Chicago getting a dangerous 25-yard free kick chance in the middle, but Blanco wasted it into the wall.

Halftime: Seattle 0 - 0 Chicago

The first chance of the second half was Chicago's when Pappa's shot from 20 yards was going to go just wide, but Keller pushed it wider to make sure, then Seattle defended two consecutive corner kicks well. Chicago had no good chances after that until the dying minutes.

Sounders fans were pleased to see their team get a man advantage when Thorrington earned his second yellow at 54', but just five minutes later Ljungberg self-destructed with back to back silly yellow cards, leaving 10 v 10 the rest of the match.

Zakuani got a couple of good shots just past an hour, sending the first one a yard high from 20 and forcing an overhead save on the second shot, from the arc.

Local native and defender Brandon Prideaux, who started his long pro career with the Sounders, entered the match at 65'. Prideaux is retiring after this season and will the join the University of Washington coaching staff.

At 71' Montero worked hard to put a short pass in front of Jaqua near goal, and only a sliding stab by defender Wilman Conde a yard from goal kept the net empty.

At 80' Montero got free at the 18 for another great chance but his bent shot was rejected by the crossbar near the far post. At 85' a corner kick from substitute Sebastien Le Toux was nicely headed down and towards goal by Ianni, but the man at the post cleared the ball after the bounce, and Seattle's chances were spent.

Chicago got the last chance when Prideaux headed Justin Mapp's corner kick hard off the bar.

Final: Seattle 0 - 0 Chicago

          SEA  CHI
Shots:     15    9
Saves:      2    6
Corners:    8    5
Fouls:     17   15
Offsides:   4    0

28' SEA: Hurtado cautioned for delaying a Chicago free kick
39' CHI: Segares cautioned for persistent fouling of Ljungberg
40' CHI: Thorrington cautioned for dissent after being whistled for handling
54' CHI: Thorrington cautioned for a tactical foul on Ljungberg and sent off for his second caution
57' SEA: Ianni cautioned for a foul on Blanco
59' SEA: Ljungberg cautioned for a dive
59' SEA: Ljungberg cautioned for dissent regarding the first caution and sent off for his second caution

Referees: Baldomero Toledo; David Bragg, Jeff Hosking; Alejandro Mariscal

Attendance: 32,405

Post-Match Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid

Opening statement: "I thought we had enough chances to win the game. We went at them early on. I thought we created a lot of things. Overall I wasn't displeased. At halftime I told the guys just continue to play the way we'd been playing, we'd been creating chances, and to make sure we didn't get caught on the counter. They had one good chance at the end where they hit the post, I'm not sure if it came off our head or theirs. But outside of that I thought we had more of the game for sure. We were a little surprised to see Busch in goal because I thought he was with the national team. I thought Evans was with the national team too; I didn't see him out there today. We're a little bit surprised at that, how that works. Obviously they got the red card on the foul from behind and I just had the feeling, I told our coaches on the bench, that somewhere, somehow today we're going to get a red card. It was going to happen."

On what happened on the Ljungberg red card: "I'm not going to go into it because I'm going to get into trouble if I go into it. It was a decision by the referee. I noticed he had a nice chat at halftime with Blanco. He was walking away and Blanco called him back and he turned around. It was tough for me to get a word in but he found time for Blanco at halftime."

On team's performance against Blanco: "I thought we did a pretty good job on him today. I thought in Chicago he really had an outstanding game against us and was really dominant. I thought today we really didn't give him that many good looks. He's an outstanding player so he's always going to find two or three or four passes that he can make but I think we really limited him. I didn't think we gave him a lot of looks forward and a lot of chances to play people in."

On assessing the team going into the All-Star break: "I think right now the key for us is we've got to do a better job of finishing opportunities. I think we've created opportunities when we played Chelsea a week ago, but that clinical finishing still has to happen for us. There's times when we over hold it, over pass and we need to finish better. There's been very few games, especially recently, where I felt that we haven't created enough chances or that the opponent has created more than us. So finishing is definitely the key. Defensively our ability to hold the ball, our ability to balance people off offensively, we do a pretty good job of that. I'm pretty pleased with most of what we've done. It's just a matter of when we dominate games, the key to the sport is when you dominate games you've got to score goals and when you get dominated not to give any goals up. We're doing a good job of not giving the goals up in the periods of time when we dominate, but we're not turning our domination into the goals that we need and that's what happened today. If we get better at that, then we'll have even more success."

On the team's finishers, Jaqua and Montero: "The combination there is as good a combination as there is in the league. We had three solid opportunities in the first half. Ljungberg's that he put over the top, there was the ball played inside to Montero that Busch came off his line, Montero hit it over him but put it wide, and there was the header by Jaqua. And that's not to count the other one that's right by the post as well, so that's four. Then in the second-half there were some equal opportunities as well. It's there some days it doesn't go in for you. As a coach you become concerned if your team's not creating chances, but we're creating chances so that's the good news."

On rules on Ljungberg: "I know with the red he misses a game for sure."

On whether a player of Ljungberg's experience should be able to argue a call: "I think when you look at the NBA and some other sports that are around, there's a certain respect factor that's given to an established player. And when you look at the game internationally I think the same thing happens. Obviously there was respect given to some of the experienced players on the field, unfortunately they weren't in a green uniform. I don't know what he said. I asked the referee what he said and he would not go into it. He just said it was too much, and I said well, what was it, and he said, it was too much."

On the call that led to the second yellow: "I thought there were a number of fouls, they committed tactical fouls. When you look at a play where Vagenas steals the ball right in front of our box and is starting to break out, and Rolfe pulls him back by the shirt, that's a tactical foul, stopping a counter attack and there's no yellow card given. That to me makes no sense. It's obvious to see he realizes his team is going to be short-handed so he's going to give a foul away, a foul I thought was a card in that particular case. That's why I get confused sometimes. I thought our guys - Montero and Ljungberg - continued to get fouled, all defenders are the same, it's not going to be any different."

Freddie Ljungberg, Seattle midfielder

On actions that led to second yellow card: "There was nothing after the first yellow. You could see that I go down on the side, away from him. I got suspended because of that. It was my fifth yellow so I got pissed off about that. I knew what he is like. He's been fretting me the whole game. I hit my chest and made conscious to not scream anything abusive at him. And then I hear some whistles behind me. But, I have got to just rise above it. I can't control him. Like I said, that's the way it is."

On whether he should have walked away after first yellow card: It's an important game and there were a lot of things wrong in that game, things that players from the other team were laughing behind his back sometimes. It's not the way a game should be. If I would not have cared, if I would have just walked away and didn't care, I wouldn't care to win the game. And that's not me. I always want to win."

Nate Jaqua, Seattle forward

On Sounders FC effort against Chicago fire: "They are a good team as well. But I think we played some good soccer and created good chances. From that side of things, I am definitely happy about it. We needed to just be a little sharper in the final third."

On play of Sounders FC before MLS All-Star break: "We are a team that got thrown together. Many of these guys have never played together before. From that side of things, I think every game, up to this point, I feel like we have improved. We are understanding each other better. I think we are playing offensively a lot better. I think defensively we have been real good. But, now, we are getting the offensive side of things."

Steve Zakuani, Seattle midfielder

On match against Chicago Fire: "We had a chance, several chances. In the second half, Fredy hit one off the crossbar. I hit one just over the bar. Nate had a good shot. We had chances after chances. We wanted to win the game but we will take the point. We are still at the top of the west. They are a very good team and we are happy we played well against them."

On Sounders FC fatigue: "I think we just did a bad job of finishing. That's what Sigi says and I agree. We got chances. I don't think they had many good chances. I think Kasey made a good save. Overall, we had a lot of chances. Fredy came close when he hit the crossbar. There were a few of those and we only needed one to go in. When we keep missing and missing, it becomes more difficult. We will take the point. But, probably should have won this one."

Denis Hamlett - Chicago Head Coach

On his thoughts following the game today: "It was about as exciting as a zero-zero game as you will find in our league. I thought it was a great atmosphere and both teams came on here to attack. I think both teams had chances to win the game, in the end a fair result."

On John Thorrington receiving a red card: "He made stupid mistake. What else are you going to say."

On Freddie Ljungberg receiving a red card: "Once I saw the red, that playing a man down in the heat would have been real difficult. When he got the red I thought we had a chance. Guys lose their heads sometimes in this game, and you have to remind your players to stay focused, especially my guys, with the emotions being so high. Sometimes people overact and you try to find the right balance."

On the play of Jon Busch: "I thought he did great today. He made a lot of great saves and was able to keep the game at zero-zero. We have a chance to leave here with points and today we did. We need some big plays today."

On there being two red cards in the game: "I'm disappointed with my guy picking up the red card. The first he picked up was more stupid, you just have to let it go and get along with the game. You can't argue with the second one because he committed a foul from behind. Sitting on a yellow you can't do that. With Freddie, I thought the first call was right with him diving, I don't know what he said to him as far as getting the second one."

On the atmosphere here at Qwest Field: "It is a great environment to play; there is a lot of pressure from the crowd. You see certain calls and I think that is because of the pressure. The guys looked forward to this environment; we could have done without the heat today. You have to tip your hat to Seattle as far as doing everything right. Every team that comes here wants to bring their best game because it such a great atmosphere."

Jon Busch - Chicago Goalkeeper

On handling the pressure of Seattle's offense: "We knew it is was going to be battle today, they are very good team. They play very well at home, this is a big advantage with the crowd and everything. Honestly, I did my job. My job is to make saves and catch crosses. Some games you have a lot to do and other games not a lot of action. Today I was fortunate enough to make a few saves. Nate hit the ball at me while I was still down, otherwise it would have been goal. Luck was on my side on that."

On coming into the game with more of a defensive approach: "No, we still wanted to play and try to win games on the road. We have a really good record on the road. At the same we just can't go crazy, because they are a good team. Sigi put them together well and they play well. We didn't want to expose ourselves more than we had to. We are obviously missing a few players. As the game wore on you say if we can sneak one on in that is great, but let's not lose the one point we have right now."

On relying on having a quick reaction: "I use my attributes for what they are, I just try to organize well, read plays and cut things out before they happen. I have decent reactions I would say and play to my strengths. Each goalkeeper is a little bit different."

On facing a lot of pressure today: "Yeah, especially in the first half, we did a little bit better in the second half. Fredy had a fantastic strike off the near post. I thought maybe with the heat both teams got tired later on the second half. Tremendous effort from our team, from top to bottom we have a group of tireless workers."

On defensive tactics to neutralize Seattle's offense: "We just wanted to stay organized. If we keep our shape and blocks we are very hard to breakdown. It is when guys move forward and lose their space do we make mistakes. We don't want an open run game, which Seattle likes."

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