2010 Jul 31

San Jose blanked by Seattle; Montero lone goal is enough

San Jose Earthquakes  0 - 1  Seattle Sounders FC

Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

26' SEA: Fredy Montero (Sanna Nyassi)

San Jose: Jon Busch; Ramiro Corrales, Ike Opara, Bobby Burling, Jason Hernandez (Chris Wondolowski 74'); Bobby Convey, Brandon McDonald (Arturo Alvarez 45'), Sam Cronin, Joey Gjertsen; Scott Sealy (Ryan Johnson 45'), Cornell Glen. Substitutes not used: Joe Cannon, Justin Morrow, Steven Beitashour, Brad Ring.

Seattle: Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Jeff Parke (Tyrone Marshall 45'), Patrick Ianni, James Riley; Steve Zakuani (Alvaro Fernandez 69'), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Sanna Nyassi; Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 86'). Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Zach Scott, Michael Seamon, Roger Levesque.

Match report from Sounders FC:

The Sounders FC checked several things off their to-do list at Buck Shaw Stadium Saturday night.

They got Blaise Nkufo more involved and made some fantastic runs off of him while also setting him up for a pair of goal-scoring chances.

They got their latest addition, Alvaro Fernandez into his first match with the Sounders FC.

They kept Fredy Montero on his hot streak, as his 26th minute goal gave him a goal or an assist in eight straight MLS matches.

They held the San Jose Earthquakes to zero in the back, giving Kasey Keller his sixth clean sheet of the season.

Add all of those elements to the improved play on both sides of the ball from the entire Sounders FC roster and the result was a 1-0 win over the Earthquakes, pushing Seattle's unbeaten string to four straight MLS matches and six straight overall.

"Today I was very pleased with how we played. I thought our soccer was very good," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. "I thought we moved the ball around very well. I thought the team was very good."

Montero got things started in the 26th minute with his seventh goal of the season, evening him with Steve Zakuani for the team lead. He laid the ball off to Sanna Nyassi going up the right side of the San Jose box and Nyassi crossed it back to Montero running down the middle of the box for a header that he knocked inside the far post for the 1-0 Seattle lead.

Montero has now had a hand in 12 of Seattle's last 15 goals and has shown that his pairing with Nkufo could be quite fruitful for the Sounders FC. The duo put pressure on the San Jose defense throughout the contest, even stepping into the defensive realm on several occasions to preserve the clean sheet.

"I thought the goal was as good a goal as we've scored this year just in terms of the combination play that led to it," Schmid said. "Besides his goal, Fredy's given us tremendous work rate off the ball. He's growing as a player and bringing out some different aspects of his game."

However, Montero isn't about to take credit for the team's turnaround.

"It's everybody, it's not just me. It's everybody working together on the field like it was tonight," Montero said. "Everyone is stepping up their game collectively."

Led by Montero and Nkufo, Seattle put the pressure on Busch and the Earthquakes from the second minute. Montero crossed the ball for Nkufo, but Busch knocked away Nkufo's header for the first of his six saves. In the ninth minute, it was Montero heading a Nyassi cross that Busch parried into the crossbar for the save.

The Sounders maintained that pressure in the second half, as it was Nkufo again missing narrowly on nabbing his first goal as a Sounder. Nkufo took a pass from Steve Zakuani at the top of the box and turned it through traffic to his left foot for a shot that Busch pushed just outside the far post for the save.

The win was a big step in showing that Nkufo is fitting in with his new club.

"I still need minutes and training but tonight it was important that the team won. Personally, I am still working to get to my level," he said.

Fernandez got into the mix in the final 21 minutes and impressed on the left side, pushing forward and tracking back throughout the waning moments of the match and even surprised the coaching staff with a strong left-footed cross early in his time on the field.

The coming together of all of those pieces has put the Sounders into fourth place in the Western Conference standings at 25 points (7-8-4), two points clear of San Jose (6-5-5).

"These points are vital - this win is vital. Especially fighting for a playoff spot," Montero said. "As a team we are playing really well right now and we want to keep working with that."

The Sounders have been looking all season for a run of good form. Alas, it has arrived.

"We have a good squad with good players and when we give the effort and the determination we're going to be a tough, tough team to beat," Keller said. "The good run is here and long may it continue for the rest of the season."

           SJ    SEA
Shots:      8      9
Saves:      6      2
Corners:    5      6
Fouls:      8      8
Offsides:   8      4

15' SJ: Cronin cautioned
80' SJ: Corrales cautioned
90' SEA: Alonso cautioned

Referees: Edvin Jurisevic; Eric Boria, Ian Anderson; Ricardo Salazar

Attendance: 10,351

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC

Sigi Schmid - Head Coach

This was a big win for you guys: "Definitely, and to win three in a row, second in a row on the road that we've won. Defensively I think we're playing a lot tighter in the back. Today I was very pleased with how we played, I thought our soccer was very good, I thought we moved the ball around very well. I felt we were a little unfortunate not to have more than one. I thought we could've had two or three in the first half. Busch made some fine saves, made a great save on Nkufo in the second half, made a good save on a header of Nkufo in the first half. I really thought Blaise was going to get his first goal tonight. But I thought the team was very good."

On the recent surge: "I think the guys realized their situation, we realized at the beginning of the year, we were maybe patting ourselves on the back a little too much for what we had accomplished last year. Everybody sort of came to the realization that, 'Hey we've got to put forth the effort.' I kept telling them, if you put forth the effort, the soccer will show at the end of the day. But you have to match the other team's effort. We're at that stage where we're doing that. We won the game against Colorado by rolling up our sleeves a little bit, it wasn't beautiful football. We've also shown that we can play. You got to win different ways and the team is showing the ability to do that and it's because they realized they have to do it, there's no tomorrow."

On the two DPs: "I thought they did well. I thought Blaise had a very good game. I thought his hold-up play for us was very good. Like I said, I thought he was unfortunate not to get a goal, especially on the second-half shot. But he did a really good job. He also helped us out on set pieces, heading some balls clear for us. And Fernandez I thought was solid when he came in. As I told you guys, he's not a Wow! player where he's going to knock your socks off, but he can play anywhere in midfield. Tonight we used him on the left and I hadn't seen him touch the ball with his left foot in practice and right away he beat the guy and crossed it with his left foot. He connects passes. He also got back and defended. He's very much a two-way player. So we're going to have a lot of joy on him, he's only practiced once really with us, so as he gets more time with the team and the team understands him and he understands the team, it will be good."

On defending the lead: "I thought we did a good job. I thought Tyrone came in and played well for Jeff Parke. Jeff had a...we weren't sure, he was a little dizzy and so forth, and we were a little precautionary with him. I thought Tyrone played well. I thought we tried to keep the game in front of us. Bobby Convey and Alvarez got a little more involved in the second half and caused some problems, but overall I thought we did a good job of restricting those two players' abilities to really get at us."

On Ljungberg situation culminated: "It's a situation where Freddie's a great player and for us it was just a situation of resolution helped us. But it's something that really is not affecting us on how we approach the game or what we're trying to do. So it was just good for resolution, so everybody sort of knew what was happening, but our play right now is contingent upon our effort."

Are you pleased with Nkufo's progress?: "Definitely. Definitely. He's working, he's getting fitter. Things like that at practice. I talked to him after our last practice and he was trying some things that weren't really coming off and I said, 'Hey, you're still going to gain your fitness. Just simplify.' And he did today. He played very simple. There's still times where, I forget, someone got in on the left and they didn't realize that he loves to come to the top of the 18. If he would've found him at the top of the 18, he loves that shot. So as we get to know him better, we'll know where he shows up as well. He definitely gave us a presence, definitely gave us hold-up play up front, which is what we needed."

On winning the Heritage Cup, did you know how you did it?: "I'm not quite sure how we won it. I thought we each won a game and the total score was 1-1. But I thought we deserved it last year, so we'll take it this year."

On Montero's continued hot streak: "I thought the goal was as good a goal we've scored this year, just in terms of the combination play that led to it. It was a great goal, but besides his goal, Fredy has just given us a tremendous work rate off the ball. His willingness to hold up the ball for us as well, his willingness to pop up in different spaces. When they changed to a 3-5-2 in the second half, at the end of the game in the last 15 minutes, his willingness to come back and help us defend. Those are all things, I think Fredy is maturing and growing as a player. He's bringing out the different aspects in his game."

How important was that assist for Nyassi?: "It was good. We talked to Sanna about picking out a target when he gets in those situations and I think Sanna looked up and he found the target. He found the ball as well to someone else, I can't remember who. He was looking up from the start and so we'll continue to work on that. Sanna's another player, he's still young and still maturing right now. I think people forget how young a team we are. We've got a couple of old geezers, but overall we're a young, young team. One of the old guys, Kasey Keller, is a guy who always comes up with key plays for us and keeps us in games. And Tyrone, one of our old guys today, came in and played tremendously as well. And Nkufo also."

On feeling like good things are still ahead: "We felt like we were turning it around like three weeks ago. Part of it was Open Cup play, which people sometimes don't value as highly. But now we're showing it in league play. The ability to be consistent, the ability to make one-goal leads stand up, is something that's very important to be successful."

Fredy Montero (via translator)

On the goal: "It started in the middle with the ball, and Sanna had space out wide and the ball was played out wide to him. He kept his run going in the middle of the box, it was a good service, and I just got my head on it."

On result: "These points are vital. This win is vital for us, especially fighting for the playoff spot. As a team we're doing well right now and we want to get working with that."

On the week: "Obviously winning is great, but what we're doing right now is we're growing as a club. We're growing as Seattle Sounders together and we're being rewarded in the games from the hard work we're putting in every day."

On recent form personally: "It's everybody, not just (me). It's everybody working together, everybody on the field like it was tonight. Everyone is working together and everyone stepping up their game collectively."

On new teammates: "Blaise is a very big presence, he's very strong and he's always in the box. He's always in the area, so that creates spaces for (me) to come and get the ball in other spaces because (I) know exactly where he's going to be, which is right in front of the goal."

Kasey Keller

Once a last-place team, look at you now: "The thing about this league is you have so much parity that you get yourself on a good run like we are have now -- 10 points in four games -- you find yourself shooting up the table regardless of where your position is. We said for weeks that all we needed to do was get on a good run, and the good run is here. Long may it continue for the rest of the season, but regardless, I think what you're seeing is a spirit within this team that you didn't see for about 10 games, you know, 10-12 games. Once again, because this league is so close, if you're lacking that 5-10 percent you're going to suffer from it. If you can work hard and match that determination and that effort and then let your quality show through, then you're going to do well. That's what we've done in the last eight games or so. Maybe it started in Portland. Maybe that was what we needed, we needed that good rivalry and to get that good win and maybe that's kick-started us. Regardless of what the reasoning behind it is, I'm glad it's come and lets ride it to the end of the year."

On new guys fitting in: "You saw Blaise, today he played 85 minutes. He's still trying to work himself into full match-fitness, but you saw him tracking back and holding the ball up for us. You saw Alvaro came in and looked like he didn't skip a beat. He looked like he had been playing with us all year. You bring in quality players. There's no such thing as taking time off in a game. The top players around the world, the reason why they're top players is they have something, but they also give you everything they have. You can't let that ever go. Maybe your body won't let you, but you can't let it go mentally. We stopped, I think, doing that for a little while and now it's back and it's set the standard. You see what Fredy Montero's done. I don't know who lit a fire under him, but I'm going to keep stoking that fire. I'm happy for him. Sanna Nyassi's come in and did a great job. Zakuani is doing a fantastic job. It's a new team. Then you slide in. Jeff Parke comes out at halftime with a little bit of dizziness and Tyrone steps in and does a tremendous job in 45 minutes. And that's what we have. We have a good squad with good players, and when we give the effort and the determination, we're going to be a tough, tough team to beat."

On your game, making just two saves but having to stay focused: "That's where experience comes in. When people say, 'Oh, you had an easy day.' The problem is, you're concentrating the whole time. The whole time you're on that edge. You're always thinking, 'Is it now? Is it coming though? Do I have to make that decision? No. Not now.' You find sometimes keepers wander and then they makes mistakes, and I was trying just to make sure that I kept in tune and kept myself in the game because I just didn't know maybe when I was going to have to make a split-second decision. Like I said, I was extremely happy with the way the guys fought in front of me and the way they ran and tackled. It was a great team effort tonight."

On Ljungberg situation, good that it's over to move forward?: "You got to talk to someone else. That's not my position. I just want to wish Freddie the best of luck in Chicago, except for when he plays us. And you know we move on, and we just keep going with what we're doing right now."

Blaise Nkufo

On the game: "I felt tonight it was important that the team won and I'm happy we did. Personally I'm still working to get at my level."

On meshing with the team better: "Yes, of course. We are training very hard during the week and I hope every game will be better. That's why we need to talk and work during the training sessions. This will be hard, tough. But we have to because we want to play better."

On the team's turnaround being a new injection: "I don't have absolutely anything to do with that. The players responded well and take responsibly. If you want to be successful as they were last year, they have to take responsibility."

On protecting the lead: "We saw they changed a few things, played more directly, more aggressive. We knew we could win this game if we played better, maybe more simple. Always when you play, it's never easy. But we had the possibility to score more."

On his first goal coming: "Yes, I think I'm in good shape. I think tonight I got the ball off Fredy, off Steve too. What can I say? The keeper made a good save. But of course I expect my first goal for the Sounders."

Have you had time to reflect on coming to MLS as a good decision?: "Of course, for me many things didn't have to do with soccer. It's about our choice, our choice of life. I'm still fit, if I can help the Sounders, I'm really happy about that."

San Jose Earthquakes

Frank Yallop - Head Coach

On the result: "I'm disappointed. I thought it was definitely our worst performance this season, including Salt Lake. From the whistle it just didn't seem like we had any idea or any scrap in us so it was really disappointing. I like to give players a chance and the players that come out aren't necessarily playing badly; some guys just look good at training so you give them a shot. The players have to take it and earn their right to play."

On what went wrong: "I'm just disappointed from the whole club side of this, it's a massive game and we just lay down and die really. Especially in the first half it didn't look like we had any cohesion at all. We worked hard all week, talked about what we want to do with the ball and all the things that go into playing well and I'm just disappointed. You have to give Seattle some credit, they're a good side, they play well and defensively they were solid. We just didn't move the ball correctly and we were reacting to everything and not anticipating. Our counterattack seems a bit better away from home, but when we come home we've got to do it as well."

Ike Opara

On what the team can take from this game heading into next week's game at Colorado: "[We need] to put a full match together, [to] keep the intensity [up] from the first whistle to the final one. That's what I think we're going to have to focus on. [It] just shows that in the second half when we bring the intensity, we can play with just about anyone. Hopefully next week we get the result."

On the goal by Fredy Montero: "We allowed Fredy too much time to turn and that was my fault. After he laid the ball off he made a run to the middle and Sam and I just didn't track and that's inexcusable in the box. You have to live and learn."

Sam Cronin

On how the team puts the loss behind it: "That's the only choice we have. There's still a lot of season left. It was still an important game for us but we still have a lot to play for so we have to put it behind us, get ourselves ready for Colorado."

On what the team can take from this game: "Probably that we can't just show up and expect to win games. Home or away we have to have that mentality and [we] really can't afford going into a game with that mentality and have a great team jump on you like that. We'll make it better for the next time."