2010 Sep 18

Blaise Nkufo notches first Sounders FC hat trick in big win at Columbus

Columbus Crew  0 - 4  Seattle Sounders FC

Crew Stadium, Columbus, OH

4' SEA: Nkufo
39' SEA: Nkufo (Scott)
42' SEA: Sturgis (PK)
75' SEA: Nkufo (Zakuani)

Columbus: Will Hesmer; Danny O'Rourke, Andy Iro, Chad Marshall, Frankie Hejduk; Eddie Gaven, Kevin Burns (Emilio Renteria 64'), Brian Carroll, Emmanuel Ekpo (Andres Mendoza 72'); Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Steven Lenhart. Substitutes not used: Andy Gruenebaum, Eric Brunner, Shaun Francis, Adam Moffat, Jason Garey.

Seattle: Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Zach Scott; Steve Zakuani (Roger Levesque 87'), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez 66'); Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua 77'). Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Tyrone Marshall, Tyson Wahl, Mike Seamon.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

Blaise Nkufo picked a great time to open his scoring account for the Seattle Sounders FC, earning a hat trick in a 4-0 win at the Eastern Conference leaders, Columbus Crew. Nkufo might have scored four if they had let him take the penalty kick, but the chance went to Nathan Sturgis because he had been best at practice, and he converted it clinically for his first MLS goal and the Sounders FC's first ever penalty kick goal. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller made several fine saves to earn the shutout.

Seattle threatened early. In the first minute Sanna Nyassi's shot/cross was pushed wide by goalkeeper Will Hesmer. The next minute Osvaldo Alonso sent a ball up the middle but out of reach of Fredy Montero. The third minute Montero in the penalty area returned a give and go ball to Nyassi for a well taken shot at the lower far corner that Hesmer managed to push wide.

4' SEA: Nkufo. The corner kick earned by Nyassi turned into a goal. Sturgis' corner kick was headed on goal by Montero and chest-saved by Hesmer. Nkufo shot once with a put-back shot from close and Hesmer saved, but he gave up a rebound and this time Nkufo finished the play with an open shot to goal from close. 1-0 Seattle.

After the goal, Columbus controlled play for the next 30 minutes. Eddie Gaven's diagonal run through the crowd at 7' put him 1v1 against Keller, who nicely saved Gaven's shot towards the lower far corner. At 15' Guillermo Barros Schelotto fed Steven Lenhart for an open shot from close on the right, and the shot just missed the lower far corner.

Midway in the half Columbus midfielder Brian Carroll somehow escaped punishment when his high kick got Nkufo in the head.

Continuing the attacking play by Columbus, Schelotto's free kick up the middle was slowed by the wall, making an easy save for Keller. A cross from the right gave Lenhart a shot on a near-post run, but he sent it wide of the near post. Emmanuel Ekpo tried from the top right corner of the penalty area and missed the top near corner. At 38' Andy Iro headed a shot well over the bar when he couldn't get on top of a ball from a corner kick.

39' SEA: Nkufo (Scott). Right back Zach Scott, who again got the start in place of the injured James Riley, was forward to help Nyassi. Scott took a pass from Nyassi and crossed from the right corner. The ball bounced past the crowd to Nkufo, who deftly beat Carroll and sent a low shot past Hesmer and in off the base of the far post. 2-0 Seattle. The o-fish-ul stats did not give Scott an assist, but he deserves one, as the ball went directly from Scott to Nkufo to set up the scoring opportunity.

42' SEA: Sturgis (PK). Columbus was in disarray as Montero sprung Nyassi on the right to go in on goal. O'Rourke pulled Nyassi down as he approached goal. It was an obvious penalty kick and an obvious red card for O'Rourke, but somehow referee Jair Marrufo failed to give the red card. Sturgis took the penalty kick and took it well, sending it to the lower left corner with velocity while Hesmer dove the wrong way. 3-0 Seattle.

To finish the half, Seattle shots by Nyassi and Montero were saved and blocked, respectively, and for Columbus, Frankie Hejduk's long shot was routinely saved by Keller.

Early in the second half Hejduk deserved a yellow for a blatant tactical foul on Steve Zakuani at the top of the box, but only a free kick was given. Montero took it and missed the top far corner by a yard.

At 54' Columbus' best chance came when Alonso missed a tackle, allowing Lenhart to serve a cross that Schelotto headed nicely on goal. Keller made a fine save but gave up a rebound to Gaven, who wasted the opportunity by shooting high from close to goal. Gaven soon had two more chances, but Keller was well positioned to save them both.

For Seattle, Montero nearly nicked a goal when he got close after being served by Nkufo and Chad Marshall's attempted clearance deflected off Montero's leg, then off the near post.

75' SEA: Nkufo (Zakuani). On a counterattack, center back Jeff Parke passed ahead to Nkufo, who found Zakuani open on the left. Zakuani beat his marker to earn a diagonal drop cross from the end line. Montero dummied the ball nicely and Nkufo rocketed a shot into the top far corner to complete his hat trick with emphasis. 4-0 Seattle.

Columbus only threatened once after that, when a nice cross was fired at the top far corner by Gaven. Keller made a great save with one hand, and the ball was crossed back in for Schelotto, who headed it over the bar.

The win greatly helped Seattle's chances of qualifying for the MLS playoffs.

          CBS    SEA
Shots:     14     20
Saves:      6      7
Corners:    5      5
Fouls:     16     12
Offsides:   1      1

77' SEA: Scott cautioned for a late challenge on Gaven
89' SEA: Parke cautioned for a late challenge on Lenhart

Referees: Jair Marrufo; Joe Fletcher, Brian Poeschel; Chris Penso

Attendance: 17,144

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC

Sigi Schmid - Head Coach

Opening comments: "Obviously we're happy with the result. Sometimes games go like that where we get a goal early off the corner kick. We haven't been scoring on corner kicks, we put a big emphasis on that in our talks and in training, so it was nice to get a goal off that. We were very efficient tonight in our finishing. We had been very unfortunate I thought in our game at Saprissa in our Champions League game with it, so obviously we're very happy. I don't think the difference between the two teams is four goals even though that was the score tonight."

Why don't you think it's a deserved score?: "I thought we did a good job in the final third, but I know the Crew, and the Crew's a good team. They may be a team right now that's trying to find their way a little bit, but they're normally going to get some plays and make some plays going forward. I thought the early goal and the second goal by Blaise -- I thought Blaise had a great game for us tonight -- and then when we got the PK and buried that, which was our first PK ever in MLS. So that was all for us at that point and the air goes out of the balloon for them."

On knowing the Crew helping you prepare: "There was a period of time after we scored the goal where they completely dominated us for about 20 minutes -- 15 or 20 minutes. Knowing them helps. I've said the same thing when I was here: You don't want to lose to friends. And the guys know I feel that way and they come out obviously with their motivation, as well, to play. But I thought we were well motivated. Certainly (with) the Crew, you've got to restrict Guillermo's game and I thought we did a decent job of that tonight, and they're always so dangerous on set pieces."

On Nkufo: "He's the all-time leading scorer in Twente's history in Holland and they put a statute of him outside the stadium. They don't do that unless you've done a good job scoring goals. It's been a little frustrating for him here because he hadn't scored so far. But besides scoring goals, what he gives us is his ability to hold the ball up front and allows us to have link-up play, and he takes some of the pressure away from Montero, so it frees up Montero to play more for us in a playmaking role and get forward. He (Montero) was unlucky not to get a goal for us tonight. He adds that ability to hold the ball for us, which we knew and was why we wanted to get him. Today he was happy because he finished and maybe that will get him finishing on a more consistent basis."

On what this could mean to him: "Anytime a goal-scorer scores, it's huge. They sometimes measure their games by different standards than we do. I, as a coach, say, 'Hey, you're still helping us. You're still doing this, you're still doing that.' But in his mind (it's), 'I'm not scoring goals, so I'm not happy.' For him I think getting three goals was very important for his confidence and for just his own self-value."

On Nkufo not taking the PK, Sturgis instead: "The PKs, we always write who's taking them. Sturgis has been No. 1 for us for the last four or five weeks. He didn't take the PK in Saprissa because he wasn't on the field. So it was either Sturgis or Montero, it was between the two of them."

On adding something to Open Cup final build-up: "I know the team in that (home) locker room is not going to be happy with the result today. There's too much pride and there's too much quality in that team. There's no way we're going into that Open Cup final thinking, 'OK, it's going to happen again.' We know it's going to be 'roll up your sleeves and you got to be prepared to work.' I thought it was a physical game tonight, maybe more physical than it needed to be. I know they're going to come out and they're going to be prepared to play because there's too much quality and too much pride there."

On importance to playoff push: "It's huge for us. Obviously with Chicago losing tonight and I don't know what some of the other scores are at this stage, but it was great for us to get three points. We want to make the playoffs. We're not going to go in as a seeded team -- we're not going to go in as one of the top four -- but we need to make the playoffs. We want to and know we need to get points. Something we talked about is we want to get our goal-differential at a plus number, so we finally have a plus-number for our goal differential instead of a minus-1, -2, -3 for a long time."

Blaise Nkufo

On the first goal in particular: "Of course it's a great feeling scoring my first goal in MLS and for the Sounders, but I think the most important thing tonight was the three points. We were not so confident after a few games and we needed the three points tonight."

Something different tonight for you to score three?: "As a striker you have to believe you can score goals. I knew it would be difficult in this league for me but I still believe, and as I said for me the team is most important. We needed to win tonight."

Were you hard on yourself when you weren't scoring?: "At my age I'm not really focused about scoring goals. I'm here to help the team. I'd hoped we could've had better control of the game. Even though we scored the first two goals, they were in control. One of my goals is to help the team play better football."

On being back from injury: "I missed two games and still have pain in my knee, but I'm happy to be on the field and helping the team."

Kasey Keller

On the result: "Obviously jumping out to a nice, quick lead helps. Then when we were able to absorb the pressure they put us under and hit them on the counterattack. When you can do that and get the goals, it takes so much pressure off of it. What I was proud of is that we were able to then keep them to zero. It didn't end up 4-2 or something like that. But I'm proud of the team, I'm happy for Blaise to get off the mark with such extravagance. It was fantastic. We got that monkey off our back of finally scoring a penalty, which was nice. All credit to Sturg for stepping up and scoring his first MLS goal. A few guys banged up, but you expect that. Now we got the next 36 hours at home and off we go again."

On Nkufo: "I think that will only help build his confidence here in MLS. It's a different style. I think more guys in Europe when they come over don't quite understand just how physical this league is and it takes a little while to adjust to it. It happens when a guy goes from Spain to England or from Belgium to Germany. Those kind of things happen and it takes a little while to get used to that. This is no different. Then he gets banged up a little bit and hurts his knee. Now he's back and like I said, it's great timing for him to catch form. And that will take pressure of everybody else. It takes it off Montero, it takes it off Zakuani or whoever to put the ball in the net."

On meaning something to Sigi against ex-team: "No question about it. I think last year we rode our luck a lot. This year we deserved it 100-percent. It's nice. It's just nice for the coach, it's obviously nice for the club, but it's also a step for our playoff position. Results are going our way and we just keep putting ourselves in a better and better position. We don't have as many games as some of the other teams, but at the same time we have three or four other games in cup competition. The squad is going to get the chance to play and show what they can do and get everybody in form and keep picking up points and I'd be more than happy to be that Salt Lake of this year. Slide into that seventh or eighth slot and go win the damn thing."

Nathan Sturgis

On your first MLS goal (while being heckled by Zakuani and Marshall): "I'm excited."

Did you know you'd take the PK?: "Yeah. I was definitely ready to take it, so when I saw him point to the penalty box I went for the ball and wanted to take it, yeah."

How did you become best on team?: "We've kind of struggled with PKs in the past, so it was kind of an open tryout to be honest, with our team. We've been hitting some in practice and I've been hitting them pretty well so I worked my way up there. It felt good to finally get one in a game."

On your last PK: "I hit one in the Open Cup for the shootout, so that was my last one. I mean, I used to take them in college and high school."

On scoring team's first-ever PK: "It feels good. Like I said, that was something we've kind of struggled with. We were 0-for-2, or -3, or -4, or whatever. It felt good to finally put one away. We put ourselves in good positions before to draw the penalties, we have to put them away. It felt good to reward a good run by Sanna. It feels good to finish off that play."

On Nkufo: "It was good for him to get his first goal in MLS, and he decided to get three. So it's good for him and it's really good for our team, and I think it will really help his confidence."

Steve Zakuani

Did you want Blaise to get the hat trick?: "We wanted him to, and when the penalty came up I thought maybe he was going to take it. But then we said no, let Sturgis take it because he's handled them very well in training. He's the first player in our history to have a hat trick. But it was a great team game. Sigi's attention to detail this week was like I've never seen it: very focused. You know, to beat his old team. It was a big win for us, a big boost for the playoffs and I'm happy for Blaise's first goals, and Sturgis, too -- his first MLS goal. So it's great."

Jeff Parke

On added insurance goals while taking heat: "It's huge because when you're 1-0 obviously one goal gets you back in it. Then 2-0 is a dangerous lead because all they need is one to get back in it. Once we got the third you felt the air come out of them. The fourth was just icing on the cake. It was good, it relieves pressure and makes you relaxed. You could see guys playing better being more relaxed."

On Nkufo: "It was a great breakout game for him. He works hard and he's deserving of it. He's a great player and it's only a matter of time when the great ones are held down to come back. That was great."

Columbus Crew

Robert Warzycha - Head Coach

On the game: "Losing 4-0 at home is always disappointing. I think we came from the locker room a little bit flat, they [Seattle] had the first two or three minutes pushing for the goal and you could see that. They got that goal from a corner kick and then we started to play. We dominated the first half probably until the 41st minute when they got the second goal and it was an easy cross to defend but we over-shifted. The third goal was a penalty and that's the last thing you want going to the locker room giving up another goal. But I think we played very well in the first half, we moved the ball very well creating a number of chances but we couldn't buy a goal."

Eddie Gaven

On the result: "Not much was said in here (the locker room). This is a game that was unacceptable for us to play at home in front of a great crowd. To go out there and lose 4-0 is something that should never happen. I would say every single guy is embarrassed. I think the hardest thing is that we didn't play that bad at times and somehow we still lost the game 4-0 and I'm just trying to figure out why. It would've been huge if we were able to tie the game 1-1, but we weren't able to do that and they punished us by scoring two more goals before the half and that really killed us good. I had a really good chance early on in the second half but couldn't get it in and we just kept on taking more and more pressure and when they scored the fourth goal that was pretty much it."

William Hesmer

On the first goal and the game, in general: "I had a first save on Nyassi, a second on a header, the third save I believe was on Nkufo and then I guess it popped right back to him I don't know I didn't see it. I think we had that fighting spirit there, but they punished us for going forward and before we knew it, in the blink of an eye, it was three - nothing going into halftime. We had some looks but we didn't put away our chances and they put away their chances but I'd like to see us fight a bit more and be a little more prideful and not let that happen in our place."