2010 Sep 25

Blaise Nkufo scores late to give Sounders FC another road win, at Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire  0 - 1  Seattle Sounders FC

Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL

88' SEA: Nkufo (Zakuani)

Chicago: Sean Johnson; Gonzolo Segares (Deris Umanzor 58'), Kwame Watson-Siriboe, CJ Brown, Bratislav Ristic; Marco Pappa, John Thorrington, Logan Pause (Collins John 82'), Patrick Nyarko; Freddie Ljungberg, Calen Carr (Brian McBride 64'). Substitutes not used: Andrew Dykstra, Dasan Robinson, Baggio Husidic, Corben Bone.

Seattle: Kasey Keller; Leo Gonzalez, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, James Riley; Steve Zakuani (Tyrone Marshall 90'), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis (Alvaro Fernandez 78'), Sanna Nyassi (Roger Levesque 82'); Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo. Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Zach Scott, Mike Seamon, Mike Fucito.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

The Seattle Sounders FC needed a miracle at the end to take the points from the Chicago Fire, and Blaise Nkufo delivered it, a lone goal. The road win moved the Sounders three points ahead in the race for the final playoff spot, as chasers Kansas City and Toronto suffered home losses the same day.

The Sounders might have been tired at the end of a 2-week, 18,000-mile, 4-match road trip, but they put in a solid effort from front to back to earn the win. The defense played well, with Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, and Kasey Keller turning in good plays when needed, giving Keller a second straight shutout on the road.

Chicago nearly scored in the third minute when referee Jasen Anno refused to honor his assistant's offside flag. The offside attacker and Marco Pappa both chased the ball and Seattle's defense hesitated. Pappa took the ball in all the way to goal and only Keller's save kept the ball out of the net.

Ianni suffered a cut eyebrow in the 10th minute when he headed a corner kick down for Osvaldo Alonso and banged heads with Chicago counterpart Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Alonso couldn't quite get to the ball, which was cleared for another corner, and this time Alonso had an open header and put it just wide of the top near corner on Seattle's best shot of the first half. Ianni returned 4 minutes later with his eyebrow taped and finished the match.

On a Seattle attack midway in the half Fredy Montero chipped a ball over the defense that was won by Sanna Nyassi for a shot from a steep angle, and goalkeeper Sean Johnson pushed it wide for his first save.

Seattle had several more chances the rest of the half. Steve Zakuani got around the corner on the left for a shot, but Johnson had it covered. Nyassi's cross just missed Nkufo's head, then James Riley's cross just missed Nyassi's head, and the next cross was a bit to high for Montero's head and he shot it over the bar. Finally, Montero shot up the middle from 25 yards and missed wide.

Chicago's best chance of the match came just before intermission on a throw-in play. Gonzolo Segares threw it in to Freddie Ljungberg, who chipped a nice ball to send Segares into the penalty area. Segares' chip cross cleared the crowd in front of goal and Pappa ran onto it for a 7-yard shot with only Keller to beat. Keller managed to get both hands on the ball as Pappa sent it too close to Keller.

Chicago had the first chance in the second half on a 23-yard free kick up the middle. Ljungberg sent it over the wall to the lower far corner, and Keller was there to take it.

A few minutes later Seattle's Zakuani was looking at a wide open goal when Johnson came well outside his penalty area to help Segares prevent Nyassi from breaking in. The ball popped to Zakuani, and Johnson recovered just enough to pressure Zakuani's shot and it curled just wide of the open goal.

Montero's best chance came in the 63rd minute when a nice cross from Riley was dummied well by Nathan Sturgis to give Montero an open header from 7 yards. He shot it right at Johnson, who was thankful.

Chicago brought in Brian McBride at 64' to change the offense. Pappa soon had a shot from Ljungberg's feed to the left side, but the shot went right to a thankful Keller.

Jeff Parke had to leave temporarily in the 68th minute when Patrick Nyarko knocked him down and his nose collided with Alonso's knee, resulting in a nose bleed.

The game opened up for the duration as Chicago began pressing forward for a goal at every chance. This let Nkufo spring Nyassi on a counter, but in the end Nyassi sent an easy shot right to Johnson.

The other way, Ljungberg beat Nyassi to get in for a shot from the top left corner of the penalty area and Keller did very well to tip it wide. Chicago kept the momentum for most of the last 25 minutes, but were unable to find a goal.

88' SEA: Nkufo (Zakuani). Seattle's goal came on a counterattack that began when Leo Gonzalez found Zakuani open in the middle of the pitch. Zakuani ate up a lot of space, then passed to an open Nkufo on the left. Nkufo did all the rest. He cut back at the end line, freezing CJ Brown, who was expecting a cross. Brown came back in feet first in an attempt to block Nkufo's shot, but the ball took a lucky (for Seattle) deflection off the underside of Brown's raised leg and went into the lower far corner as Johnson was leaning toward the near post. 1-0 Seattle.

Seattle played out the 4 minutes of added time expertly to lock in the 3 points.

          CHI    SEA
Shots:      8     13
Saves:      6      5
Corners:    4      7
Fouls:      9      8
Offsides:   1      0

27' CHI: Thorrington cautioned for a tactical foul on Alonso
70' CHI: Pappa cautioned for jumping into Alonso

Referees: Jasen Anno; Peter Balciunas, Claudio Badea; Michael Kennedy

Attendance: 17,477

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC

Sigi Schmid - Head Coach

On the match: "Tonight was one of those games where you pull up your sleeves and just battle and fight. We knew Chicago was going to come out with great intensity but for them it was a playoff game. We had to make sure we matched their effort and I thought we did a good job of that. I thought we created some chances off the counter, which we were able to do. We came close a couple of times, like on Montero's header and Sanna's on the break. Eventually we got a goal from Blaise, which was a little bit fortunate. I thought defensively we were very solid tonight. For us, the focus for us is next weekend in Toronto, and the Open Cup final is right after that."

On Nkufo's play: "There were times where he helped us in possession in the second half and which allowed us to get some pressure off our back line which was very important. Obviously, Zakuani hit a great ball to and put him through, and he basically did the rest. Sometimes that's the way it is with the goal scorer."

On logging nearly 18,000 travel miles in the past couple of weeks: "It's been pretty impressive that we have to do that. Sometimes the guys don't even remember what their room numbers are; they've been in so many different hotel rooms. Again, to come out of this at the end of the trip and to be playing our fourth game in 13 days and to come out with a one-nothing win was huge."

On Keller's key saves in the beginning of the match: "There were some chances they had early and certainly Keller made an absolutely huge save. Maybe I am so used to seeing it from him over all the years you being to expect it. But that's what great goalkeeper's do; they come up with a key save that keeps you in the game. He certainly did that for us tonight."

James Riley

On the match: "I thought defensively whenever you hold a team to zero, it gives our team a chance to win. We did that. I thought both teams had some good opportunities and Keller made some big saves and we made some big defensive plays and we were able to get the goal. We're very happy fortunate that way."

On the game's playoff implications: "I think both teams approached it like a playoff atmosphere, and that's what it was. The tempo of the game was very high at times, but it got a bit chippy at the end. Overall I thought both teams competed very well, and kudos to them because they battled and threw guys forward. We bent but we didn't break. The entire team defended well and made it difficult for them. The game's dimensions changed when they took Calen Carr out and they had a more 'post-up' vibe with McBride and we were aware of that and tried to neutralize that. Freddy Ljungberg was buzzing around, Nyarko was buzzing around, Pappa was buzzing, and they had some good opportunities, so again we were fortunate to get out of here with a win."

Steve Zakuani

On his assist: "It was on a counter attack. We missed a few chances so it was like, it's either now or never. So I just sort of broke away and Blaise makes a good run, I found him out wide and he did the rest. He cut the guy well and shot the ball on frame and that's all you can ask for. It takes a deflection but when the ball goes in the goal, we'll take that at this stage. So that was a huge win coming in because it's a tough place to play. Now we fly back with three points and that's huge for the playoffs."

Kasey Keller

On the impact of his two early saves on the game: "You never know. Sometimes you have games where you concede a goal and it sparks your team and it gives you life, and other times it's about keeping them in the game. I think it was a day where everyone did their job and I was called upon to make a few saves and I was able to make them today. It was nice. The key is with only a few games left we need to pick up as many points as we can to insure that we get ourselves in the playoffs. The last two away wins against Columbus and Chicago were huge because Kansas City keeps winning and San Jose keeps winning so we know that we have to follow suit."

Blaise Nkufo

On being patient and getting the goal late in the game: "I think Zakuani was right, just like he says in games, 'Next chance, next chance, it will come,' and we will score a goal. That was the case. He gave me a great ball and I had the opportunity to score a goal."

On his goal: "I received the ball on the left side, and I battled physically with the defenders. The goal was open and basically got lucky on the deflection but I've scored many goals like that in my career."

Chicago Fire

Carlos de los Cobos - Head Coach

On the match: "In the front, we just weren't clear with the opportunities that we had. We didn't have patience. We weren't precise with our last touches in the offensive quarter of the field."

Freddie Ljungberg

On the result: "I think we created a lot of chances and probably should have scored on some of them, which is annoying but that's how it is, a bit of bad luck. We need to be extremely proud of today, we played really well. Unfortunately how the table looks we had to go for the win at the end. We conceded a late goal because we wanted to push forward."

On the "unlucky" goal scored by Seattle: "It was a little bit unlucky. We did open up in the back at the end, but we did it on purpose to try and get a goal. We put two big strikers on to hit it a bit longer and that allowed them to get a lucky goal. As a whole we dominated the entire game and played really well. It was a lucky goal and it's hard to take because when you look at the Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia game we didn't play well, but today we played really well, dominated and pushed them back."

On where the team goes from here: "I think we took a good step forward. I think today everyone did exactly their job. What you saw on the field was a totally committed team. We just have to keep that going, which is hard now to get into the playoffs, but really happy about the way the team responded after some meetings this week."

Logan Pause

On the result: "It's really, really disappointing. Looking at the game we came out with a lot of energy and played fairly well, which is good, but we're at the stage in the season where that means nothing. We need to get wins anywhere we can get them. It's disappointing especially because we were playing a team that we are chasing for the last playoff spot. We have a steep, steep hill to climb in the last six games."

On giving up late goals this season: "Today it comes from trying to push the game; a point doesn't do a lot. We made some tactical changes at the end of the game that opened us up a little bit. We're pressing to win the game; it's just where we are in the season. We can't just be content with a draw anymore in order to even give us a chance at making the playoffs. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for us tonight."

Sean Johnson

On the result: "Overall today it's been the same as the last four or five games, it just hasn't been good enough to get a win. The results reflect how we've been playing, and results don't lie."

Gonzalo Segares

Thoughts on the game: "It's frustrating. We controlled for the majority of the game, and we just didn't take advantage of the chances that we created. That has been the fortune that we've been having throughout the season. Again, it is really frustrating since we gave our best effort tonight. Now, all we have to do is to think ahead on the next match against San Jose."

On the team spirit coming into the game: "I think all the players who came out to the field tonight did a great effort. We came into the game with a lot of motivation, and indeed, we played very well. But, as you can see, we haven't been precise in the last touch, and the only way to win games is by scoring goals...so we will have to put an especial emphasis on that."