Late Seattle goal pushes Sounders past Fire

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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.

Fire Talk Podcast: GM Nelson Rodriguez on the state of the club

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USA TODAY

Fire Talk Podcast: GM Nelson Rodriguez on the state of the club

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez talked with reporters for an hour at Toyota Park on Tuesday. Listen to the hour long Q&A session in this episode of the Fire Talk Podcast.

He spoke about the team's improvement, what moves could be made in the summer and other wide-ranging topics about the team and the league.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez preaches modesty amid team's positive start

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez preaches modesty amid team's positive start

It’s amazing the difference a year has made for the Chicago Fire.

At this time last year the Fire were coming off having the worst record in Major League Soccer and looked headed to another year at the bottom. The team’s attack was toothless when David Accam was injured and any early optimism in the first year for general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic waned.

In the first of three organized meetings with reporters last year, Rodriguez admitted the team’s record wasn’t good enough and preached patience. Things didn’t get much better for the Fire, which finished last for the second year in a row.

This offseason, Rodriguez made a number of big moves and the early returns are positive on most of them. Dax McCarty has vastly improved the team’s midfield and possession play, with goalkeeper Matt Lampson calling him the team’s MVP after practice on Tuesday. Nemanja Nikolic leads the league in goals, something unthinkable in the first half of last year when the Fire struggled to get one or two shots on target, let alone goals, during a match. Bastian Schweinsteiger is the big name player fans have been waiting years for and he has delivered on the $5.4 million price tag.

When Rodriguez fielded questions from reporters for an hour on Tuesday, the Fire had the third most points in Major League Soccer. He could have referenced the patience he called for a year ago and boasted about the vindication. Instead, he said, as coach Veljko Paunovic did in the past week, that the team still hasn’t accomplished anything.

“For sure I sleep a little better,” Rodriguez said. “For sure you can’t wait for the next game even sooner, especially when you’re on a good patch I think. There’s so much ground yet to cover. This is a very difficult league to prognosticate and predict, even from week-to-week.

“I think it’s my job to try to see through the results, again continue to measure our process and how we’re progressing against that process to try to make sure that we don’t have any blind spots to ourselves and what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. To push the group to constantly self-reflect and improve.”

[MORE FIRE: Tough tests in next two months should show a lot about Fire]

Rodriguez also said the Fire’s positive start hasn’t changed his expectations for this season either.

“We have to be a little bit modest, given that we as a club have struggled for so many years,” he said. “The first bar, and it’s a low bar, but it’s the playoffs.

“Our expectations were to make the playoffs. Our expectations were to contend or win the Open Cup championship and those continue to hold.”

He did admit that “skepticism is understandable” from fans who have seen the team struggle for several years. Schweinsteiger’s arrival and the team’s improved record have created what he described as a momentum, and not just on the field.

“There’s certainly a buzz,” Rodriguez said. “There’s also still that small, but loud group of wallowers who are just hoping that the wheels come off or still want different players than the ones we acquired. That will still be there, perhaps until we win a championship. Overall, I think there is an excitement that’s building.”

This is the high point of Rodriguez's still-young tenure with the club. The Fire feature a World Cup winner, have one of the best records in the league and there’s a buzz around the team. What a difference a year makes, indeed.