Blaise Nkufo of Seattle Sounders Named MLS Player of the Week
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After considering Blaise Nkufo’s stature as one of the great goal scorers in Dutch football history and a Swiss national team World Cup performer, it appeared only a question of time before he would begin finding the net for the Seattle Sounders.
In his period of time with the Sounders, Nkufo previously had some near misses. In the interim he played excellent soccer as a distribution factor, delivering the ball to teammates for scoring opportunities.
A clue to his effectiveness lies in the statistic that Seattle is a spotless 5-0-1 in games in which the Swiss star started at forward.
Saturday night was Nkufo’s breakthrough game. Exercising a deft touch, he became the first players in Sounders history to score a hat trick, the fourth in the 2010 MLS season. His three goals led the Sounders to a devastating 4-0 shutout over Eastern Conference leader Columbus on the Crew’s pitch.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid addressed the subject of Nkufo following his team’s Monday workout.
“MLS is a difficult league,” Schmid began. “It’s not an easy league like some people necessarily think overseas at times. It’s difficult because of the travel and it’s also difficult because the quality of play and the athleticism is better than I think is realized. It always takes every player a little bit of time to adjust.
“But the good ones like Blaise always make that adjustment. He found his feet. I said even before he was scoring goals that his holdup play was really important to us because he allows us to get other players into the attack and allows us to have a flow into our game, which really helps us. It was great to see him get on the board.”
Schmid was delighted by the return to practice by Brad Evans, who last week was added to the roster after a period on the disabled list.
“It was great to see him out there, for sure,” Schmid said. “We’re up-training him again now this week for two or three days and then we will back off again. This is the first time he has been in as a neutral player. He said he felt pretty good.... Hopefully each day and each week he will make a little more progress.”
Coach Schmid also discussed CONCACAF Champions League competition:
“Yeah, we have to look at it a little bit differently. We are still going to try and put the team out there that we think is going to win the game, for sure. We are not giving any games away.
“We are not handing them in or writing them in. But certainly there are some guys on our team that have logged a lot of minutes, been playing game in and game out. Now we have got to manage their minutes a little bit. Those other guys who haven’t logged as many minutes can play a bit more. But we are still going to field a team that is very experienced.
“We are going to field a team that has got good quality in it. But we have to see how guys feel tomorrow as we get into Monterrey. There’s a couple guys who can’t play in Monterrey, like Leo Gonzalez and Roger [Levesque]; Leo because of the red card and Roger because he has two yellows. [James] Riley we’re going to hold out because of his ankle. We want to give him just a few more days but he will be back for Chicago. But outside of that everybody else is somebody we are thinking about playing.”
Sounders FC faces a tough test in CONCACAF action at Mexico's CD Monterrey on Wednesday night at 5 p.m. PT. That match is followed by a contest bearing MLS playoff implications at the Chicago Fire Saturday at 5 p.m. PT.
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