2011 Apr 9

O'Brian White and Steve Zakuani goals, but ultimately Kasey Keller saves, net Sounders first win of the season

Seattle Sounders FC  2 - 1  Chicago Fire
Qwest Field, Seattle, WA

7' SEA: O'Brian White (Mauro Rosales)

8' CHI: Diego Chaves (Patrick Nyarko, Gaston Puerari)
25' SEA: Steve Zakuani (O'Brian White)

Seattle: Kasey Keller; James Riley, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez; Erik Friberg, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Steve Zakuani; Mauro Rosales (Nate Jaqua 64'), O'Brian White (Servando Carrasco 81').
Substitutes not used: Terry Boss, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Alvaro Fernandez, Lamar Neagle.

Chicago: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba, Dasan Robinson, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares (Dominic Oduro 83'); Logan Pause, Marco Pappa, Michael Videira, Patrick Nyarko (Orr Barouch 90'); Gaston Puerari, Diego Chaves.
Substitutes not used: Jon Conway, Yamith Cuesta, Marko Maric, Dan Paladini, Davis Paul.

Match report from Ron Stickney:

The Seattle Sounders sent home fans happy with the first win of the season thanks to first-half goals from O'Brian White and Steve Zakuani. But even more credit goes to goalkeeper Kasey Keller for three brilliant saves over a period of nine minutes in the second half.

7' SEA: White(Rosales). The scoring started early. Mauro Rosales has shown an ability to send in some great crosses, and this cross from the right was finished nicely with White's header to the top near corner, which was left open as goalkeeper Sean Johnson chose to guard the opposite side. White was closely marked on the play, but managed the shot. 1-0 Seattle.

Immediately Chicago looked threatening, with Patrick Nyarko receiving a cross open on the right for a quick shot that went right to Keller. Nyarko would prove to be trouble for the Seattle defense all match long.

8' CHI: Chavez (Nyarko, Puerari). Nyarko soon got open on the right again off Gaston Puerari's pass and square-passed a cross in front of goal. Diego Chavez just beat Jeff Parke to the ball and finished low to the far post under Keller's dive. 1-1.

After a quarter hour with no chances either way, Seattle could have added one when Rosales beat the keeper to a cross and head-flicked it on to Erik Friberg, who was under pressure but still had a chance at an open net. Friberg's soft chip went two yards over the bar with the net begging.

25' SEA: Zakuani (White). Zakuani worked a give and go with White down the left touch line, then was open to take the ball directly at the near post, running past defender Jalil Anibaba. He got close to goal and Johnson came out, but Zakuani beat the keeper with a low shot that grazed the near post. Friberg provided a diversion with a run to the goal mouth to provide an option not taken. 2-1 Seattle.

Brad Evans gave the team a scare at 28' when he dropped after trying to turn on a pass. It was not clear whether he pulled something or was elbowed. But he finished the match.

At 31' Leo Gonzalez had the most impressive bicycle kick of the match, clearing the ball from the penalty area on a Chicago free kick play.

At 32' Johnson made his first save when Jeff Parke headed a Seattle corner kick on goal.

At 38' fans were unhappy when Johnson slid with the ball over the end line after a badly headed back pass, but the assistant referee missed it and the deserved corner kick was not given.

Late in the half Puerari was in front of goal for a great chance from a cross from the corner, but he headed it a yard over the bar with Keller well positioned.

The second half went mostly Chicago's way, and it was three stellar saves by Keller that made the difference.

At 52' Parke was the first of two Seattle defenders to stop a hard shot with the face. He stayed down a few minutes, then finished the match.

Keller's first big save came at 58' on a Chicago free kick play, when he made a brilliant one-handed save on a shot from Chaves after the ball was deflected to him.

Osvaldo Alonso got his long shot on the hour bell for Seattle's first shot of the half and he forced a corner with Johnson's push wide at the lower near corner.

Keller's second match-saving save came at 61' when Puerari was sent through into the area in the middle. Keller slid out to block the shot with his leg. Keller again saved the day at 66' when Marco Pappa broke through for a quick shot in front of goal.

Chicago had one good chance left when Nyarko got close to goal at 74', but his attempt at a short cross was cleared nicely by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

A minute later Zakuani was in for a chance from a steep angle on the left, and the shot went a half yard wide of the far post.

Seattle shuffled the lineup at 81' when rookie midfielder Servando Carrasco entered for forward O'Brian White. Zakuani pushed up to forward, Friberg switched to the left side, and Carrasco took over on the right side. Carrasco had his chance when served by substitute Nate Jaqua on the right, but with only Johnson to beat Carrasco shot wide of the far post.

Chicago had a chance to tie with a 20-yard free kick at 87', but Alonso in the wall stopped it with his face and took a minute to recover. Then at the death Alonso worked through multiple defenders to earn a shot that he chipped onto the roof.

          SEA  CHI
Shots:     12   14
Saves:      5    2
Corners:    5    4
Fouls:     16    9
Offsides:   1    3

31' SEA: Riley cautioned for a tactical foul
45' SEA: Hurtado cautioned for a foul in the circle
71' CHI: Robinson cautioned for a tactical foul on White
90' SEA: Carrasco cautioned for a rough foul on Nyarko

Referees: Hilario Grajeda; Fabio Tovar, Cameron Blair; Tyler Ploeger

Attendance: 36,223

Postmatch Quotes

Seattle Sounders FC

Sigi Schmid - Head Coach

Opening statement: "Obviously we're happy to win. We didn't make it easy on ourselves in the second half but we got some great saves. Kasey Keller made some big-time saves for us. When you're just trying to grind out that first win, sometimes you need a little bit of that going your way. I thought in the first half we played well. The two goals we scored I thought were good. Should've probably had a third on Erik Friberg's opportunity there. I thought the goal we gave up was a little soft right after we scored the first goal. It was something we need to do better on, but a win's a win. We've got three points, get that monkey off our back a little bit. Now we can move forward and start to concentrate on Philadelphia."

On O'Brian White's performance: "He did well. The cross from Rosales was actually a little bit behind him. I thought he did really well to contort his body in the air and get his head to it. He did a really good job, especially the first 45 minutes, shielding and holding up play for us. The 1-2 he hit with Zakuani was great also. In the preseason I said that we're going to find some joy once he finds his confidence and he has two goals now in last two games and has an assist. He knows that Nate's about ready to go and if that's motivating him, that's fine. I thought he played well. He took a pretty good knock in the ankle and that really started to bother him in the second half. That was one of the reasons we had to change him, and he wasn't as effective in the second half because of that. I thought he had a very, very good first 45 minutes."

On finally getting the win: "It feels a lot better. You can deal with the aches and bruises a lot better when you've won. Soccer is a sport where sometimes you can dominate and you still don't get the result that you want at the end of the day. Would I classify this as our best game? Yes, because we got three points. Was it technically our best game? Maybe not. I thought offensively the big talk was can we score goals? We've got five goals in our last three games, so I think we're starting to score goals. We just got to be a little more decisive I think at times in the back and eliminate the opportunities that we're giving away."

On Keller's performance: "It was world-class. That was Kasey Keller from his prime. It's great as you finish out a career, to be able to still manage and come up with performances like that is a tribute to the work he does on a daily basis. I thought those three saves were big-time."

Did you get what you want from the lineup you selected? The lineup sheet listed three forwards for you: "Obviously, Rosales looks to find a space and what Mauro does really well is he plays and moves. He's technically good, but he also plays the ball and goes again. There was two or three times he got behind the defense and that was good. Obviously Friberg, we gave him a little bit of a free roll from midfield and told him he could go to different places if he could get through, and he did that. Obviously Zakuani, we want to get him the ball a little more and I don't think we got it to him enough. I was happy. We wanted O'Brian White to stay up top and in the first half he did a great job. When you look at when they were attacking, there was always two guys back there marking O'Brian White. If he can tie up two guys, that's a huge benefit to us."

On the team chemistry: "The guys have never stopped believing in themselves and getting a win today, even though it was a little ugly in the second half to a certain extent, getting a win was tremendous for their confidence in themselves and each other. Different people have come up and contributed. I thought Servando Carrasco came in, he almost got himself a goal when he came in late. We wanted to bring him in because we thought it would shore us up more defensively, because he's a little stronger defensively. At the end of the game we pushed Brad and almost turned into a back five. They were just pumping balls forward. Everybody played their part and everybody did their role. As long as everybody fights for each other and they're willing to do that -- and I know they're willing to do that -- we'll get more good results."

On service on from Friberg and Rosales: "Obviously we always want to have better service. Mauro has a little tightness in his quad, so he didn't hit as many corners as he would have maybe normally. Himself and Eric and Alonso have shown that they're capable of hitting free kicks. Carrasco, when he's in the game, will probably hit free kicks as well. So we have some guys who can definitely serve the ball. I think our running is a little more definite. We just missed on a couple corners. I thought the running was much better. So it's not only the service, but also hard runs."

On Ozzie getting hit in the face: "The ball hit him on one side of the face so he's got an ice pack there. Then he caught an elbow on the other side of the face so he's got an ice pack there as well."

On Jhon Kennedy Hurtado returning to the starting lineup: "My feeling on JK coming off his injury and getting back into the flow, I think he just needed to get away from the week-to-week a little bit and catch his breath, plateau and move forward again. My goal always was to put JK back in. We thought today, defensively, 1-on-1 he's a pretty good defender and we knew these guys were pretty good 1-on-1 forwards. So we looked at last week's game and made a decision between Parke and Ianni and that's the way we decided to go."

On Alonso's performance: "It was typical. I think his passing was a little off today. It wasn't as sharp as in the past it has been. He also needed to help out a little more defensively, and help out on Pappa a couple times. The biggest evolution of our team is to do what you need to do to win the game, not do what you want to do. I thought Ozzie helped us win the game."

On playing a 4-3-3 like the lineup card said: "I don't think we went with three forwards. Really it was a 4-4-2, just Rosales had the ability to drop off and find space and Zakuani pushed a little higher. It really wasn't a lot different than the way we've played."

On conceding leads quickly: "Obviously we're not happy about that. We're not happy and that's something that we addressed pretty emphatically at halftime."

Steve Zakuani

Listed as a forward, do anything different?: "No, I played my usual game. I think I play high up the field anyway, so it's my usual 4-4-2. Sigi didn't ask me to do anything special today, he just said, 'Play how you normally play.'"

On getting the first win: "I think it's just the progression and continuation of how we've been playing. If you want to spin it now we haven't lost in three games. That's one way to look at it. We've been playing well. Has there been a bad performance this year? Maybe for stretches against L.A. and New York, but other than that we've been in every game and actually been the dominant team in most of the games. It's just a progression. We should have won against Houston and didn't do that. We should have won last week and didn't hold on to the lead. This week we managed to do that. I think we've just been playing well. We continue to get better and we reaped the rewards of that effort today."

With four of five on the road, how important was getting the win?: "We had to. This place has to become a fortress. I think the best teams around the world are teams that win most of their home games, and we need to do that. We've been pretty good at home most of the time, but we need to keep that going. We've got some tough games away coming up now, so it's good to get that win and get some points on the board. The confidence is there, hopefully we carry that onto the road stretch now."

On Keller's performance: "It's big time. You can't go through a season without having to rely on your keeper at some point, and he kept us in the game the second half for sure. They had some good chances, but that's Kasey Keller. I'm not going to say anything new that you haven't heard before. He's a great goalkeeper, and there's a time when he's called upon that you need to depend on him, and we managed to do that today. So good play, Kasey."

O'Brian White

Good to get the first win out of the way?: "Definitely. It feels good to get the first win. We came close a couple times in previous games and we didn't get the three points. Today we finally got it. It feels good. We can use it for motivation and move forward."

What was the difference today?: "There wasn't much difference because the last couple games we gave it all. Unfortunately the result didn't come. But today at home especially we definitely came out to give everything. We decided we're not leaving without the three points. We worked hard and fought through it."

On your goal: "The first goal was a ball played out to (Mauro Rosales) and I saw he backed off and was going to get it in. I just made a good move and he played a very good ball. I just put it in the back of the net."

On the assist to Zakuani: "That was Steve getting his man 1v1. Steve's game is to take his defender, so I waited until I saw his defender commit, I made a move and he played a 1-2 and he scored a great goal."

On getting comfortable with the guys: "Definitely. The more you play the more you get to figure out players more and more. I think it's a work in progress, but it's going good. Just keep working hard for each other and move forward."

Do you have Chicago's number?: "I don't know if I got them, but I hope I get a lot of teams' numbers (laughs). It really feels good to get the three points today."

On Kasey Keller: "Kasey was big today. A lot of chances they got. That's how it is sometimes. Sometimes you play and you need your goalkeeper to make big saves. Sometimes you play and you need your forward and attacking midfielder to score. It was a balance. It was real big for us today and I'm glad to get the points."

Kasey Keller

On making big saves: "I don't even worry about it. I'm just glad I was able to make some saves for the team. The last game was a little frustrating because I was able to make a couple of saves in the first half and then in the second half they got that goal and we drew 2-2. So it was nice to be able to finish it off this week and come up with the saves. It's just a shame we weren't able to get that third goal just to ice this thing. Three points was desperately needed. Everybody is leaving now with a great weekend and now hopefully it's just the springboard for many more to come."

But saves in a win will always stand out more: "Always. The win is what stands out. The saves is what they pay me money to do. It's nice to be able to come up with that and help the team win -- that's what were all striving to do. Would I prefer to hang back there and just distribute a few balls and read the game and take a few crosses? Of course. But when you're called upon it's always nice to be able to come up big for the team."

How much will this help confidence being able to pull out the win?: "That's sometimes what it comes into: You just have to have that confidence and that positive result to then push forward and to maybe play a little bit better, where you think, 'Oh hell, you concede a late goal there,' and then it's 2-2 and everyone says, 'Ah, we threw away the lead twice and that kind of stuff.' But today we were able to hang on and that (gives us) a lot of confidence to move forward. We have two away games coming up, but we're a good away team and we enjoy that side of it. I see no reason why we can't be thinking at least four points in these next two games."

Brad Evans

On preserving the win: "Sometimes you just need a gut-check victory with people battling until the end. You throw five in the back-line. That's kind of a way to sum it up: the last five minutes, throw five in the back, we have to get three points here. I think it was unsaid that it was kind of a must-win for us. I think it was just a collective effort. Everyone said, 'We don't lose this game.' Coming out of halftime it was like, 'We don't do the same thing we did in San Jose. We adjust properly if they got out in a different formation. We keep pushing.', which we did. It wasn't the prettiest game, but three points is three points."

On the mental relief: "I think just talking in the locker room, there was a little bit of pressure taken off, but we're still not where we want to be. We can still certainly be better, that's for sure. It wasn't our best game. Once we match our play with our intensity -- if we combine those things and finish our efforts -- we'll be a very good team. I think it can still be better, but inside here it's a good feeling."

On conceding earlier leads and not doing it again at the end: "It was halftime, we were upset we gave up one right away, but we had more chances to score in the first half as well. For us, you can talk as much as you want about not conceding, not conceding, let's get three points, but it's a matter of doing it on the field, whether you block it with your face or your hands -- Kasey made some huge saves -- it's just a collective effort the guys put forth. It's a good feeling."

Chicago Fire

Carlos de los Cobos - Head Coach

On his overall impressions of the match: "This was a very difficult match, but I'm very satisfied with my team. I think the team played good and I think we had a very good second half. The best player today was Seattle's goalkeeper. My players had a very good effort and we had some really good moments on the pitch. We had two mistakes and they took advantage of this. We had some chances to score and we couldn't come away with more goals. The most important thing to take away is the attitude of the group and players. I like my team because they are showing the evolution our team is having this season."

On his view of Seattle's two goals: "The first goal O'Brian made a very good play. We were distracted and he took advantage at that moment. The second goal, we need to finish our action early, but Seattle was able to respond and take advantage. We have young players who are learning, they have a good personality on the field and the guys give one-hundred percent."

On Kasey Keller performance today: "Kasey had a very good performance today. He was the best player for Seattle. I tell my players to attack and we needed to learn to take advantage of any chances we have during a match."

Diego Chaves

On the goal he scored today: "Today the goal was useless; it has no flavor for me. We still lost the match."

On Kasey Keller's performance today: "He was clearly the man of the match and had great interventions. He was the key for Seattle's victory."