Late Seattle goal pushes Sounders past Fire


Late Seattle goal pushes Sounders past Fire

Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010
6:15 AM

Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP)Fredy Montero scored two goals, including a header during second-half stoppage time that gave the Seattle Sounders a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.

Montero, who has 10 goals this season, pulled the Sounders (9-8-5, 32 points) even at 1 in the 36th minute. It was the 10th time in 11 games that Montero has tallied either a goal or an assist for Seattle, which ran its unbeaten streak to seven games (4-0-3) since at 3-1 loss at Los Angeles on July 4.

John Thorrington gave the Fire (6-7-6, 24 points) the early lead in the 28th minute when he converted a penalty kick.

Nathan Sturgis set up Monteros game winner with a perfectly placed target ball from the right sideline. Montero, playing inside the 6-yard box at the far post, nodded it past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson into the back center of the net.

It was a very big goal. Weve been dreaming about this chance of getting a goal so late in the game, Montero said. It was an excellent ball from Sturgisall the credit to him. It gave us three points and put us closer to the playoffs.

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid made sure Montero got some of that credit, too.

I think he has played games that were as good, Schmid said. But certainly, I think his motivation tonight was good, and obviously, his finishing was good when he had the two chances.

Seattle took over sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Colorado. Chicago fell to fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Sounders climbed back above .500 for the first time since April 22.

Its all about us gathering points, and were now at a level where we have 32 points in 22 games, Schmid said. So were getting close to that average of 1 12 -point average per game that we need (to make the playoffs).

Thorrington put the Fire on top when he beat Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller on a spot kick into the back right corner. A hand ball call on Seattle defender Jeff Parke set up the PK.

Montero tied it for the Sounders 8 minutes later. Seattle defender Tyson Wahl saved the ball from going out on the left sideline, regained control and sent a cross into the box for Montero. With two Chicago defenders around him, Montero got around both and, from 12 yards away on the right side, beat goalkeeper Sean Johnson to the back left corner.

The game marked the return to Seattle of Swedish international and former English Premier League star Freddie Ljungberg since he was traded by the Sounders to the Fire on July 30.

Ljungberg played all 90 minutes at forward and was greeted initially with a mixture of cheers and boos, but then was booed for the rest of the game whenever he touched the ball.

I was happy with the reception I got, because you never know, said Ljungberg, who was one of the first players signed by the Sounders prior to their 2009 expansion season. People on the street were wishing me well and wishing me good luck. There were no angry words of any kind.

Fire coach Carlos de los Cabos was frustrated with another late-game loss. Last Saturday, Chicago dropped a 4-3 decision to Houston on a Dynamo goal in the 85th minute.

I think our team played good. It was a shame, with what is happening with the last couple of matches, us losing in the final few minutes, de los Cabos said. Part of the time, its maturing of some players. The young players are learning.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Results didn’t show Fire’s progress against Nelson Rodriguez’s “three-year plan”


Results didn’t show Fire’s progress against Nelson Rodriguez’s “three-year plan”

Early on in his tenure as Chicago Fire general manager, Nelson Rodriguez said he thinks teams in Major League Soccer need a group of several core players to succeed in the league.

“We believe that in order to succeed for sustained periods of time at championship level within MLS you need seven-to-nine steady starters, year in and year out,” Rodriguez said in January.

As a result of that line and his continued stated belief in needing a key core group of players, every time local media is gathered with Rodriguez he is asked about that and where the team stands on that front. After all, Rodriguez also said, “Our hope would be that at the end of this season that we start to approach that number.”

So when Rodriguez hosted local media on Tuesday at Toyota Park, he was again asked about the core players and how he believes the team has progressed in that area.

“We have a core that we’ve built on,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s five, six solid players and then three or four others that could be in and out of that 11 if you want to just use that 11 as a guide. But if someone else comes along and presents an opportunity where we think we can improve that core, we will do so.”

Rodriguez wouldn’t bring up names that he believes are part of the core, but it’s believable to think Michael de Leeuw, David Accam, Johan Kappelhof and perhaps younger players like Matt Polster and Jonathan Campbell are somewhere in that mix. In the offseason Rodriguez said the Fire had four core players and mentioned Polster and Harry Shipp as two more he believed could become part of that group with continued development. Shipp was traded about a month after that comment while Polster made 24 starts this season and played for the U.S. Olympic qualifying team.

[RELATED: Disappointed in 2016, Rodriguez believes Fire have opportunity in offseason]

Results-wise, this season was not what Rodriguez had in mind in terms of progress. The Fire remained last in the league and earned just one more point than in 2015, but Rodriguez said that doesn’t change anything.

“It doesn’t alter our plans, it doesn’t alter our approach,” Rodriguez said. “But I know today that the first five games of next year are going to be under a magnifying glass for all of us. We’ll deal with that. This may be the only time that I have this job. I know for me I make sure I do it in the way that I think is best, in the way that I think leads us to building a championship program.”

For a fan base that has seen the club miss the playoffs now six of the past seven seasons, believing Rodriguez when he says the club has improved its core may not be so easy. With that in mind, Rodriguez wouldn’t evaluate his team based on what happened before he arrived, saying 2016 was “the start of a new process.”

“I respect that from the fans it’s a different continuum,” he said. “Last season was a continuation of something else, or two seasons ago if you will. This past season was the first season of a three-year plan.”

As Rodriguez and the Fire head into the second year of his so-called three-year plan, Rodriguez admitted that the lack of results this season makes progress harder to see.

“I would have liked to have seen more results, more positive results that would certainly give more validity to what we’re doing,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s at a time when Pauno and I are trying to push standards, trying to push players out of their comfort zone, trying to push elements of the organization forward out of its comfort zone. When the results don’t accompany you, you don’t have the legitimacy that you’d like to have. So in terms of assembling talent, in terms of instituting our methodology, I think we’re OK. In terms of results I think we’re clearly behind.”

Major League Soccer playoff preview and predictions


Major League Soccer playoff preview and predictions

It’s playoff time in MLS.

The local team may be looking towards the offseason, but 12 of the league’s teams are heading into the postseason.

Two games tonight and two games tomorrow comprise the single-elimination first round. Four more teams are waiting to face those winners in the conference semifinals. Here’s a brief look at each of the four first round games and an MLS Cup prediction. (Fair warning: check out my MLS season preview to see how pointless the exercise of predicting MLS is.)

Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union, Wednesday 6:30 p.m.

Neither team has ever won a playoff game so that will end for one of these two. Both struggled to close the regular season. Philadelphia is winless in seven straight. Meanwhile, Toronto’s only wins in the last seven were two wins against the last-place Fire. Still, with reigning MVP Sebastian Giovinco back from injury, Toronto could make a deep run in these playoffs.

Pick: Toronto

LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, Wednesday 9:30 p.m.

The Galaxy finished with a league-leading 16 ties and had a 3-3-8 record in the final 14 matches. Nothing about that says title contender, but LA still has a talented roster. Like Philly, RSL enters the playoffs on a seven-game winless streak. Look for an LA win because they’ve lost at home just once this season.

Pick: LA

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact, Thursday 6:30 p.m.

D.C. closed the regular season on a strong run, winning four in a row before losing its finale. Patrick Mullins has been a huge boost at forward since joining midseason. Montreal is without Didier Drogba, who appears to be leaving the club. This seems like the most unpredictable of the four first round matches, but stick with the hot hand.

Pick: D.C.

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City, Thursday 9:00 p.m.

Seattle enters as the hottest team in the league. The 8-2-4 record since Nicolas Lodeiro’s arrival, which has also been boosted by the return of center back Roman Torres, makes the Sounders a trendy pick for a strong playoff run. Kansas City is never an easy out in the playoffs, but going into a packed crowd in Seattle while the team is playing as well as anyone in the league is a lot to overcome.

Pick: Seattle

MLS Cup prediction

FC Dallas won the Supporters’ Shield in the regular season, but is without MVP candidate Mauro Diaz for the playoffs. That could be enough of a blow to allow a team like Seattle to knock them off in the next round. Colorado, No. 2 seed in the West, is a defensive team that peaked in the first half of the year. LA against the Rapids in a conference semi would be intriguing, but I think Seattle takes either out to go to MLS Cup.

In the Eastern Conference the New York Red Bulls have been the most consistent team in the league since a 1-6 start. The Red Bulls carry a 16-match unbeaten streak into the playoffs and should be able to get by either D.C. or Montreal. In the other semi, New York City FC and Toronto is an enticing potential matchup. Both can be fun teams to watch when things are clicking. That’s a tough one to pick, but the Red Bulls should be the favorite.

Pick: Red Bulls over Sounders