2010 Mar 25

2010 First Kick: Sounders FC and the referee teach expansion Philadelphia Union a lesson

Seattle Sounders FC  2 - 0  Philadelphia Union

Qwest Field, Seattle, WA

12' SEA: Brad Evans (Steve Zakuani, Fredy Montero)
43' SEA: Fredy Montero (Osvaldo Alonso)

Seattle: Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott; Steve Zakuani (Mike Fucito 76'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Roger Levesque; Freddie Ljungberg (Sanna Nyassi 59'), Fredy Montero. Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Tyson Wahl, Patrick Ianni, Nathan Sturgis, David Estrada.

Philadelphia: Chris Seitz; Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Toni Stahl (sent off 40'), David Myrie (Jack McInerney 78'); Andrew Jacobson, Michael Orozco, Danny Mwanga (Stefani Miglioranzi 46'), Sebastien Le Toux; Roger Torres (Amobi Okugo 71'), Alejandro Moreno. Substitutes not used: Brad Knighton, Shavar Thomas, Nick Zimmerman, Kyle Nakazawa.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

The Seattle Sounders FC had the honor of hosting MLS First Kick to open the season for the second consecutive year and again turned it into a shutout win. Brad Evans had the first goal of the new season and Fredy Montero opened his account for the year later in the first half.

Philadelphia's overly physical play at times was punished as referee Ricardo Salazar welcomed the new team to the league. There were five yellow cards for the Union, and rookie Toni Stahl was sent off late in the first half with his second yellow.

Seattle's side was amazingly similar to the side that opened the 2009 season, with eleven players logging minutes in both season openers. James Riley was suspended for the match due to a red card in the final 2009 match, and Zach Scott started at right back instead. Getting his first minutes in a MLS match was Sounders rookie Mike Fucito, who was a developmental player on the roster last year.

The Union came out in a 4-4-2 lineup loaded with youngsters. Teenagers who played were Danny Mwanga, Roger Torres, Amobi Okugo, and Jack McInerney. Stahl is also a rookie, fresh from college.

The whole Sounders defense played well, helping Kasey Keller open the season with a shutout.

The Emerald City Supporters were in fine form, unfurling a giant "SMASH THE UNION" banner that covered multiple sections.

First Half

The match was only 17 seconds old when assistant referee Peter Manikowski wiggled his flag after Philadelphia center back Danny Califf knocked Montero over away from the ball. Califf was promptly shown the yellow card, certainly giving the Union the record for fastest booking for an expansion team. Montero took the free kick 20 yards in front of goal and wasted it and the rebound into the center of the wall.

Philly controlled the next six minutes, giving their fans a short-lived period of joy. Michael Orozco took the first shot of the match, up the middle from 25 yards, and Keller had to tip it over the bar to be sure.

12' SEA: Evans (Zakuani, Montero). The first goal was a beautiful attack, touching everyone in the front half of the team and one defender. Tyrone Marshall started it by sprinting from his own half to pressure and win a Philadelphia throw-in. Marshall headed it to Roger Levesque, who dropped a pass to Freddie Ljungberg. After beating two defenders Ljungberg passed to Steve Zakuani in the middle of the attacking half, and Zakuani and found Montero open to the left. Zakuani zipped around Montero on an overlap and got the ball back for a diagonal drop pass from the bye line. Evans was on the near-post run from midfield unmarked and sent the ball on the path to the far post, through the defenders who were scattered like randomly placed traffic cones. Just before the shot Levesque ran at the near post from the opposite side, getting in the way of the defender closest to the ball. 1-0 Seattle.

Three minutes later another fine cross from Zakuani found Roger Levesque wide open in front of goal with only Chris Seitz to beat and Levesque should have finished the deal, but he leaned back on the shot and skied it over the bar.

Another three minutes later the Union had their best chance when ex-Sounder Sebastien Le Toux, who was taken in the expansion draft, won the battle with Jhon Kennedy Hurtado for a ball near goal and got off a quick shot, but right to Keller's feet. It is pleasing to report that Le Toux got an appreciative roar from the crowd when announced prior to kickoff, and he was the best player on the pitch for Philadelphia in their inaugural match.

A minute later Philly had another chance when the open Andrew Jacobson ran onto a cross at the 18, but he had to reach back a bit too much for the shot and couldn't direct it on goal.

Around the half hour mark Montero nicely took a couple of quick shots, the first one missing the far post by a yard and the second one, from close to goal, forcing a fine reaction save by Seitz.

Le Toux did manage to finish a shot at 38', but the offside trap had been sprung and the flag was up.

The match turned in the 40th minute when Stahl unnecessarily chopped down Montero in the circle to earn the yellow-red. His first yellow had been for kneeing Ljungberg in the back on a tactical foul. Philadelphia never really threatened after being reduced to ten men.

43' SEA: Montero (Alonso). A Seattle corner kick was cleared from the penalty area by Seitz, but 20 yards from goal in the middle Osvaldo Alonso bounced the ball hard at the left post. Montero ran at it and executed a superb flying header to fire the ball into the back of the net. On the clearance Philadelphia's Jordan Harvey had stayed at the other post, putting Montero onside. 2-0 Seattle.

Second Half

Le Toux shot first for Philly early in the second half but his roller on goal was no threat to Keller.

For Seattle, Zakuani had his best chance at 55' when he got the ball near the 18 after Seitz was way out to block a shot. The net was open, but a defender recovered in time to bother Zakuani's shot wide. Alonso soon set up Montero for a shot that went high, and soon after that Ljungberg broke in for a shot that was slowed by a defender and saved by Seitz.

Philadelphia's last chance came on the hour mark when a long free kick bounced past the crowd to bother Keller, but he made the save.

Sanna Nyassi came on as a substitute on the hour for Ljungberg, who had been limping most of the match after being kneed in the back by Stahl and tripped. Nyassi soon earned himself a shot from the 18, missing a yard wide of the near post. Later Nyassi found the net with a shot, but it was called back for a foul before the shot.

Seattle pressed hard for a third goal at 82'. Fucito's shot was deflected wide, and on the resulting corner kick Levesque headed it down, but the rebound sailed over the bar and he could not believe it.

On the whole, it was a fine all-around effort by the Sounders, making the evening worthwhile for the fans who endured the constant rain.

          SEA   PHI
Shots:     12    9
Saves:      4    3
Corners:    9    6
Fouls:     13    8
Offsides:   3    2

1' PHI: Califf cautioned for knocking Montero over away from the ball
14' SEA: Alonso cautioned for taking Moreno down from behind
23' PHI: Stahl cautioned for knocking Ljungberg down
40' PHI: Stahl cautioned for chopping down Montero in the circle and sent off for his second caution
63' PHI: Myrie cautioned for a tactical foul on Zakuani
86' PHI: Moreno cautioned for taking down Zakuani at the halfway line

Referees: Ricardo Salazar; Corey Rockwell, Peter Manikowski; Paul Ward

Attendance: 36,241 (Sounders regular season record)

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC

Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach

Opening statement: "Happy with the three points. The first goal was excellent. We played good. With the second goal, we were fortunate. Montero did well. He played good for the first 60 to 65 minutes to stay high and occupy two central defenders. They took a physical tact early in the game, which is to be expected. Overall, the good news for us is we can play much better soccer than we did tonight. That wasn't our best soccer for sure, but sometimes you need to win when you're not playing your best soccer. Good to get our nerves as well as their nerves out. In the first game, you come out with nothing to lose. Next time we play them it will be easier to understand what they're doing. I thought Jhon Kennedy Hurtado played well in the back and Fredy Montero was good and active for us. I know we can play better."

On Philadelphia: "They utilized short passing and things like that. I didn't expect them to come out in 4-4-2. Roger Torres did well coming off the line and finding the ball at midfield. Their short combos were good, but at the end of the day, nothing got behind us or penetrated us. They did a good job trying to hold onto ball and kept it close."

On Freddie Ljungberg injury: "He took a knee in the back from Toni Stahl. He's pretty sore back there. He wanted to try to see if he could go in second half, but after a few minutes, he let me know he needed to come out... It was a difficult game for him. It happened twenty minutes in, he took a shot in the back. I can't talk too much about Freddie's game. He tried to tough it out and work through it. I know his game. It'll be there."

On Steve Zakuani: "He got into end line and found a person in that cross. Last year he got into the end line and didn't find anybody. This is something that will improve as the game slows down for him. Pleased with the first goal. Montero did a good job of holding the ball, and a good job of getting the ball on his left foot, then Evans from midfield. That was one like you draw it up at practice. Zakuani is getting better and working on parts of his game. Good to take a tackle and realize that his arm and shoulder are still working."

On goals: "Our scoring drought is over. It's always good to score goals. The stadium erupted when we scored. It was tremendous. I was the last one to celebrate on the second goal because I was waiting for the offside flag. I didn't see the far defender."

On physical play: "We know teams play us physically. The card on Danny Califf was an off the ball challenge. It's not what you expect at times, but it didn't take us off guard. The pressure on us too. People are asking what's Seattle going to be like? Can they replicate what they did last year? Maybe that was in our minds as we went out there. Overall, I'm pleased we can get three points and I'm pleased to get the season off and rolling."

On game atmosphere: "It was emotional. I was pumped up before the game and I think the guys were pumped up going out there. It hasn't lost its luster. The rain didn't dampen anything, it just made us a little wet. It's almost a dream every time we step on the field."

On overall impressions of team: "We were able to deal with the physical nature of game and still get a couple goals and not give anything away at the back. With a team that plays high line, we should attack a little quicker. Guys like James Riley helps get the ball out of the back. Overall, we're going to be okay."

On Steve Zakuani's offensive improvement: "He is a player with tremendous potential. Now he's taking guys inside and outside. Coming inside is something he tried too much last year. He had a lot of work to do last year as an outside midfielder to be connected defensively. He understands that better and now his focus is on other side of it."

On Fredy Montero's goal: "It was absolutely brilliant. We talked about him moving his game up the field, being closer. Good header he scored on. He had other good looks where he could have pulled the trigger quicker, but he did everything I asked of him tonight. To see him sacrifice himself was tremendous."

On Zach Scott: "With Zach, what you see Is what you get. He gives you an honest effort and the best that he has. He has gotten a lot more confident with the ball. Nobody is going to burn us on our end of the field. He got forward and hit a couple good crosses for us."

Forward Fredy Montero

Opening statement: "We knew they were going to pressure. We had a lot of responsibility. Luckily we scored two goals and got off on the right foot this season."

On goal: "One of the toughest goals to score in my professional career. I had only opportunity to stick it in that small space. Luckily it went in."

On new season: "Certainly it was a great moment to be back here one year later. The crowd expected a winning team last year and now the expectations are even higher. Luckily, we started well. There's always room to improve, but a good start."

On Philadelphia defense: "The most difficult was to find spaces. Spaces were reduced because the other team was pressuring. Luckily we found some spaces and made it a good game."

On goal celebration: "All goals scored are to be celebrated. Hopefully I will score with my head or my left leg or whatever it is."

Midfielder Brad Evans

Opening statement: "Hopefully starting something this year like we did last year. Important to start with three points and put the pressure on early. Not as smooth or connected as last year, but almost harder to play teams with a man down. We can play better, but it's good to have three points."

On goal: "Zak had the ball and when he has it, there's always a chance to have a cross. It got by two defenders and I caught it well with my foot and put it to the far post."

On physical play: "We saw it last year. Everybody tried to hack Freddie, that was the name of the game and it resulted in a lot of wear and tear. It's not indicative of how every team is going to play us. If they play physical, we use to our advantage and use set pieces. We expect it. Any time you play against skilled forwards, the only option is to foul. Otherwise you give them space and it is very difficult to defend."

On different mentality from last year: "Last year, if we're home and win 2-0, not much talk about let's play better. We were happy with three points, but now we're focused on playing better soccer. It's not just about three points anymore. We need three points, but we need to play better to play with the best teams. We want to play better soccer and get better."

On places to improve: "We held them to zero, so credit goes to the defense. We need to be more connection and find Freddie's feet more. Fine tuning is going to make us better. From last year's game, we used more up and back and through to Zak, so little things I remember last year we can do more of. We will look at the tape. They made it difficult with bringing Torres in with his left foot made it a little tricky for us. Figure it out and get better this week."

On playing against former teammates: "No dialogue. Focus on the three points. For me, that was it."

Midfielder Steve Zakuani

Opening statement: "Good win. Great way to start a season. First fifteen or twenty minutes we kept the ball really well and weren't chasing. We did defend well. They weren't really penetrating us, so we felt comfortable. Then we score and they get the red card and that adds pressure and from there we did a good job controlling the game."

On shoulder: "I did wear a brace for a long time in Spain, but since I've gotten back we've played two physical teams and felt okay."

On team chemistry: "We know each other now. We're friends and not strangers. Now we've played over 30 games together, so it's a natural progression. We knew where each other would be. We made runs and knew where each other was going to be. It'll only get better."

Midfielder Roger Levesque

Opening statement: "Not our best performance that we're going to have this year. It was pretty nasty conditions, but it's about winning. We came and did our job and scored two and won a game. I thought they had a lot of the ball without putting on a lot of pressure, which was fine with me. It would have been nice to get that third goal and get everybody a free haircut, but oh well."

On Philadelphia: "Really thought they were going to play a different way. We worked all week on them playing a 4-5-1 and they ended up playing a 4-4-2 and even a 4-3-3, so it took us a while to figure that out, but we scored early. The sending off was a shame. I know they were excited and wanted to have a good showing, but it's a shame when guys get sent off."

Philadelphia Quotes

Head Coach Peter Nowak

On his thoughts on the game tonight: "I think the goals we needed to do better, specifically on the first one. We have to cover much better the runs coming from the second lines. We had a good ten minutes and the goal comes unexpected from someone we didn't cover. The second goal was a by-print of the red card. Toni Stahl was supposed to cover Montero; we knew he was going to be on the back post. Even with a man down, the stadium with 40,000 people was pretty quiet in the second half. I believe even with ten men we gave good effort and substituted guys in to score a goal. We didn't sit back, we pushed forward. This is the first game and the first step. From the other standpoint we got to see all this flopping and diving and when you see the stats we have eight fouls and six cards that is too much. There is guys rolling around on the pitch like they got shot. I think we need to recognize there are guys doing this stuff and trying to take advantage of the referee decisions. I expect someone like Freddie Ljungberg who has scored so many goals and played hundreds of games with the national team and won so many trophies would be more honest than he is. He is complaining and whining about missing a goal and trying to push the referee for a yellow card is not up to his standards. I believe and we both played the game and I believe when you play the game you not only try to win but try to be honest with your effort. I think it is below his standards. That is just my opinion. I'm just looking forward to my team and the youngsters we played tonight there was a lot of good effort. Overall, you can't take away anything from these guys. If you look around we have to take everything into account, with the red card and still able to play our game in the second half."

Midfielder Jack McInerney

On getting out on the field and playing in the first game: "It was good, it was a great atmosphere, and unfortunately we couldn't a result we wanted. It was a good start."

On being certain of seeing playing time tonight: "I wasn't sure but I prepared if I was going to go in and I just got the call. I tried to make the most of my opportunity."

On coming up short in the team's first game: "It is not tough, we came out here and played our hardest in probably the toughest environment in the league. It wasn't a good result for us but we will learn from it."

Midfielder Danny Mwanga

On being pleased with his play for the game: "Yeah, at first I was expecting to be a little nervous, but I was trying to limit my mistakes. I think I did ok, not the greatest but good."

On the post game speech by Head Coach Peter Nowak to the team: "It was a tough loss, we got a red card in the first half. We have a lot of work to do in front of us, this was the first game. We need to keep focusing and working hard and come together as a team."

On the team dealing with being a man down: "It was hard and we had to stay together and focus. It was hard being away from home, so we tried to stick together and battle hard. I'm really proud of my team."

On the starting lineup being a secret leading up to the game: "I'm a defensive player and whereever the coach needs me is where I'm going to play. I found out today during lunch is where I found out I was starting."

Goalkeeper Chris Seitz

On the physical nature of the match tonight: "I think we came out and told ourselves we are going to be hard to beat. The first fifteen, twenty minutes we controlled the game just like we wanted. We came into halftime a man down and we went back on out there and played hard and didn't give up a goal. We did as well as we could with a man down."

On areas the team needs to improve for the next game: "We are one game in and our not going to panic. We have been working hard all preseason and will continue to work hard and get better in all aspects."

On dealing with environment at Qwest Field: "Yeah, once we went a man down we were not going to attack as much. To our credit we held them to only a few chances with a man down. We had a chance or two we could have taken and possibly won the game."

On playing against Kasey Keller: "He is a great player and has had a great career with the national team and now with the club level. He helps out their team and he had a great year last year."

On coming into the game wanting to set a physical presence: "No, I don't think you ever want to go into a game, wanting to give up a free kick 18 yards out in the first minute. I think we came into the game with a mindset of we're going to be tough and give everything we have. I think we did well and the ref blew his whistle pretty quickly."

Defender Danny Califf

On the lessons his team can take away from this game: "I think in the first half we were to light and weren't getting stuck into tackles and getting back quick enough. It tightened up after the first twenty minutes, but after you get a guy kicked off the field then all bets are off."

On the team being physical throughout the game: "No, in the first half there was three yellows and a red. I'm just shocked. We have guys getting mauled from behind and not getting a card, it's frustrating. It is something we have to learn from and take with us into the next game. We have a couple of weeks to get better before our home game."

Forward Sebastien Le Toux

On coming back to Seattle and playing against his former teammates: "I'm disappointed to come back and lose. It was a nice stadium and to play the first game of the season. I hope to be better on out."

On playing as a striker this season: "Yes of course, it is the right position, because of tonight I had to play back because we were a man down."

On the younger players being nervous before the game: "No not really. It is a big stadium with a full crowd and we are new expansion team, so it was a learning experience. It was something new and everyone learned a lot tonight and it will help us as we move forward this season."

Additional match reports: