Some nights you get plenty of good looks, but it all comes down to putting the ball in the net. This was one of those evenings for Seattle Sounders FC, who dropped a 2-0 contest to Mexico's CF Monterrey in round two of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage in front of 22,513 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field Wednesday night.
On the plus side, the Sounders, benefiting from a solid fan base, set an unofficial record. Although no official attendance records are kept for Champions League, and previously Champions Cup matches, the aforementioned attendance has been confirmed by CONCACAF officials as the second largest for a Champions League/Champions Cup match played in the U.S. The top mark is 26,528 for D.C. United v Chivas de Guadalajara March 15, 2007. The previous number two crowd was 21,185 for D.C. United v Pumas April 6, 2005.
Both aforementioned matches were played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. As for the Sounders’ cumulative frustration Wednesday night, when the team held a decisive edge in shots taken but came up short in the all-important scoring effort, ace striker Fredy Montero struck the perfect note after the match. "We all know that soccer is about who makes the goals and not who tries the most," Montero said. "We were very anxious. That anxiety got to us when trying to actually score. They got to us twice and scored." Soccer is a sport where looking at final statistics can be the poorest measure of a game outcome. This was evidenced Wednesday as Seattle finished with a commanding advantage in shots, 17-7, including a 6-3 advantage on goal and corner kicks of 12-5.
Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid put the match in perspective afterwards: "I don't think we played that poorly. I thought we created some chances. In final passes, final through plays, they were more clinical than we were. They finished their chances well. Sanna (Nyassi) would be making a lot of money right now if he could finish his chances. We had him in twice, we had Seamon in naked, we scored a good goal at the end.” On the subject of scoring a good goal at the end Schmid was referring to yet another of those controversial calls that have surfaced so frequently this season.
On the CONCACAF competitive front the Sounders suffered from a controversial call adversity last week in the Honduras against CD Marathon with a 2-1 setback occasioned by a penalty kick following a foul leveled against Seattle defender Tyrone Marshall. In the 90th minute of Wednesday night’s contest an apparent goal scored by Nate Jaqua was disallowed. Fredy Montero was ruled to have been offside. “I don't know what the call was because Montero was not offside,” Schmid declared. “I just watched the replay, and neither was Jaqua because he was behind the ball. I don't know what the call was there. You’ll have to ask the referees.” In terms of critiquing his team‘s performance, Schmid then summarized, “Sometimes we get a little too small with our passing. We get too tight. We have to open it up a little bit. Overall, I thought in terms of moving the ball up the field, I thought we did a good job. I thought we created things. Certainly we don't have to hide."
Neri Cardozo opened the evening’s scoring and assisted on the second for Monterrey, which had won its Group C opener at home, 1-0, over CD Saprissa of Costa Rica. Aldo de Negris added the second goal for the visitors. Monterrey opened the scoring in the 41st minute. Jesus Zavala played a long ball into the box. It took one bounce before Cardozo headed it past onrushing Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller. The visitors struck again in the 58th minute. Cardozo chipped a ball behind the Seattle defense and Aldo de Nigris touched it once before sending a right-footed strike inside the near post. Schmid commented regarding the Monterrey scores: "The second goal was one where I think it was close and he was probably on (side), but I thought we made a mistake by trying to trap. We should have stayed with him. It's a little similar for the first goal where, even though the ball got deflected, you think it's going one way and you take a step that way and now you lose the guy by a step. We talked about it before the game to make sure you run with players and that you're honest and run with your guys. We were a step behind on the first one and stepped up to trap when we shouldn't have on the second one."
Schmid paid tribute to the ability of the Monterrey forwards to finish on goal opportunities: "For sure their forwards make a lot more money than our forwards do. The finishing is something that we work on all the time in training, but if guys clinically finish, they probably wouldn't be playing with our team right now. We had some good opportunities. Montero had a good shot and the goalkeeper made a good save. The goalkeeper kicked his leg out and made the save on Seamon's shot. Some days it goes like that. We'll continue to work on finishing, on shooting, on goals in tight, it's something that you practice all the time."
Monterrey Coach Victor Manuel paid tribute to the Sounders after the match along with conveying his impressions concerning what occurred on the pitch: "It was a well disputed match from the start all the way until the end. In the beginning we had to adapt to the pitch. Little by little we adapted to the circumstances. We were able to capitalize on some good opportunities. We adapted better in the second half, made use of space the Sounders left for us. "No doubt, the Sounders are a very good team. They are well organized and very strong. It was important to take the game serious or else we could have been hurt. The team took the match with strong responsibility. The concentration was strong from the start all the way until the end. We adapted to the pitch and the crossing game the Sounders practice."
The Monterrey mentor also commented on his team having been out shot by the Green Rave. "The Sounders started pressing and with them playing at home they understand the pitch,” Manuel explained. “We missed a few early opportunities and with some cases a few shots on goal. We know that in soccer it isn't always about how many shots one team takes but the quality of shots. It is not always about the possession but about the effectiveness.”
Wednesday’s setback left Sounders FC winless through its first two Group C matches after the aforementioned 2-1 loss to CD Marathón in Honduras last week. Seattle is 10-10-7 overall and fifth in the Western Conference of Major League Soccer at 8-8-5 with 29 points. Monterrey leads Group C with six points. The Sounders remain undefeated in their last six league matches. They resume MLS play Saturday night hosting Freddie Ljungberg and the Chicago Fire on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.
The Fire hold a 6-6-6 league mark with 24 points. The importance of Saturday’s match was emphasized by Seattle Captain Kasey Keller: "We are playing against a team that is hoping to make a run for the playoffs. We have put ourselves in that run and now we always said we had a great nine game streak unbeaten. “We have now lost a couple in a row, granted in an interesting competition, away in Honduras and against, on paper, the best team in the group. Like I said, it's easy to just wipe that clean and go, 'OK, now we are back in MLS and now we get back to winning games like we have been for the past eight weeks.’"
The long grueling haul of a season combining MLS and international competition has been uppermost in Sigi Schmid’s mind when evaluating playing time. Wednesday he juggled forwards Blaise Nkufo and Nate Jaqua by having the former play the first 45 minutes to be replaced by the latter for the second half. The three game Sounders home stand concludes September 1st with a U.S. Open Cup semifinal at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington against Chivas USA. First kick is 7:30 p.m.
The Sounders face a challenge against Chivas USA as they look for their first goal in the franchise’s history against the Los Angeles based team.