The word is motivation, and the Seattle Sounders used it with solid effectiveness in blanking highly regarded Boca Juniors 3-0 before 40,122, the largest crowd of the season at the Xbox pitch of Qwest Field.
The Sounders had endured recent hard times in the scoring department and the score 1-0 reverberated like a series of bad dreams. Last Saturday in MLS play, the Sounders at home against the San Jose Earthquakes looked flat and flustered in the first 10 minutes. The disappointing beginning presaged a 1-0 loss.
It was one of those 1-0 losses with which the team was becoming familiar with. It has been hard scoring at times, augmented by numerous later scoring opportunities that were unrealized.
The Sounders ended play last Saturday with 18 shots and no goals, prompting Coach Sigi Schmid in his post-game news conference to use a cinema analogy, conceding that the goal drought and its hangover made him feel he was watching the same movie over and over.
What the Sounders needed was the proper tonic and the much heralded friendly with the popular Buenos Aires team provided an opportunity to gain redemption, a break from the MLS campaign and a chance to shake a suffocating scoring drought.
The vast difference in the first 15 minutes alerted onlookers that this was a different team than the one that had played Saturday. There was an energy dynamic that had been missing in the San Jose game.
After battling tenaciously, the effort bore fruit at the 42 minute mark. Unsurprisingly, the dynamic Colombian Fredy Montero lit the spark that resulted in electric reaction from the green clad home faithful.
“Mister Excitement” Montero has two formidable assets in his arsenal. One is blowing by defenders with lightning speed, and the other is delivering kicks with the torrid velocity of a Randy Johnson pitch.
A swift, solidly placed kick bears the advantage of an ultimate goal, even if the initial effort fails to generate a goal. Montero’s 25-yard free kick bounced off Boca goalkeeper Javier Garcia’s hand. It hit the post and provided Roger Levesque with an opportunity to end the drought hex.
Alertness was the key, and Levesque was prepared to take advantage with a brilliant chest shot that drove the ball past a sprawling Garcia and into the net.
Magic was in the air and stadium patrons erupted loudly. You knew that this cheer went well beyond the Montero-Levesque goal to a cleansing rite hurling a drought that had not seen a home goal since the Columbus Crew match to the wind.
Levesque was delighted to have the opportunity and stated afterwards that he stood ready to contribute more of the same beginning with return to league play Saturday night on the road against the Colorado Rapids.
“You prepare and you want to step in and score when you get the chance,” Levesque said afterwards. “I’m ready to step in and do what is asked of me to help the team. When you score goals in a friendly like this you want to do your best to see that this carries over into your league games.”
As for Montero, he explained why the team seemed so energized from the beginning:
“We knew that Boca was a great team and had a big reputation. We wanted to make a good showing for our fans and we were determined to accomplish that.”
The word was motivation and the pace reflected the energy and determination of a team that arrived at the pitch ready for action.
An opportunity that was not lost by Coach Schmid in a friendly competition was to substitute liberally, to stir the mix, and insert players in differing situations. The rangy Maine product Levesque registered positive results as he looked comfortable in his role and sure of himself on the pitch.
Levesque’s opportunity forms a logical segue into what happened in the second half, which could be called an “embarrassment of riches” showing Schmid that the team has depth. As he pushed buttons and substituted liberally team captain Kasey Keller sat out the second half, and Terry Boss took over goalkeeping duties, looking confident and comfortable.
Then there was the chance to go beyond the scoring of one goal and not just put the drought demon in the past but shatter it. This occurred with two goals and they were scored by Sounders newcomers Pat Noonan and Michael Seamon.
Noonan delivered his scoring strike at the 64-minute mark when he took a pass from David Estrada. After a nifty cut behind a defender Noonan slammed the ball into the center of the net. Noonan had substituted for Montero in the second half.
Then in the 70th minute came the surprise of the night. Michael Seamon, an unsigned second round draft pick from Villanova, did something that few players ever achieve. In his first shot as a Sounder he delivered a right-footed shot at long range that surged past Boca defender Javier Garcia at the left post, closing out the evening’s scoring.
Seattle finished with a 24-13 advantage in shots and 9-3 on goal. Montero made his half of play busy and productive with five shots.
The Sounders donned its “electricity kit” for the home faithful for the first time.