Seattle Sounders Face Three Key Matches In Three Different Frameworks

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Seattle Sounders Face Three Key Matches In Three Different Frameworks
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
The Seattle Sounders hope that Blaise Nkufo's goal scoring efforts in the last two matches against Columbus and Chicago continue during the team's three game home stand.

Seattle went the distance last week.  The team logged 18,000 miles of travel: to Monterrey, then Chicago for a 1-0 win over the Fire Saturday, and finally their return to Seattle.  

The good news for Seattle Sounders FC is that an enduring traveling schedule has given way to three home matches at Qwest Field.  The challenging news is that the Sounders face three teams in separate frameworks.

Seattle went the distance last week.  The team logged 18,000 miles of travel: to Monterrey, then Chicago for a 1-0 win over the Fire Saturday, and finally their return to Seattle.  

The good news for Seattle Sounders FC is that an enduring traveling schedule has given way to three home matches at Qwest Field.  The challenging news is that the Sounders face three teams in separate frameworks.

The current home stand begins Wednesday night at 7 p.m. PT against CD Marathon of Honduras in Round Five of the CONCACAF Champion's League group stage.  The match will be telecast nationally on the Fox Soccer Channel.  

While the Sounders, at 0-4 in CONCACAF play, have scant hope of making the final knockout round without a good deal of help, the remaining matches retain great importance to Seattle as they hope to gain international experience against quality teams.

While the Sounders’ 3-2 loss at Monterrey was heartbreaking after the team jumped to an impressive 2-0 lead in the first half in a tough environment, Coach Sigi Schmid was impressed by the return of Mike Fucito after a long injury hiatus. The former Harvard University performer had a hand in both of his team's points against Monterrey.

The Sounder's will follow up with a Saturday afternoon match beginning at 12:30 p.m. PT against Toronto FC.  This is an important test during Seattle’s quest for a second consecutive MLS playoff appearance.  The team is now over the five hundred mark in MLS play at 11-9-6 and 39 points.  It has a decent shot to reach Schmid’s earlier expressed target of 45 points.

Toronto also entertains hopes of achieving an MLS playoff wild card slot.  The Eastern Conference rival holds a record of 8-11-7 for 31 points.  The Sounders are ever mindful that on April 25 the Canadian team handed the Sounders a 2-0 loss on its home pitch.

Sounders FC is undefeated at 3-0-2 in its last five league home games and has not lost in its last seven domestic matches, holding a 5-0-2 mark.  While Toronto is hungry to stay in the MLS playoff hunt, the Sounders hope to move one step closer to a berth and will pass the 40-point milestone with a victory.

On Wednesday, October 5, the Sounders will seek to defend the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup that was won one year earlier.  They face Eastern Conference leader, the Columbus Crew, the previous team of Sounders’ Coach Sigi Schmid.  First kick is slated for 7 p.m. PT.  

While the Sounders are eager to hoist the trophy before an enthusiastic sellout home crowd, the ever dangerous Crew will be out for payback.  A week ago the Sounders visited Columbus and inflicted a 4-0 shutout triumph against the home team, riding home to victory on a three goal effort by Swiss international star Blaise Nkufo.

A good deal of curiosity surrounds Nkufo.  He has 4 goals in his last two appearances, leading the team to the shutout win over Columbus and garnering the only goal of the night last Saturday in the 88th minute for a hard-earned 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire in an intense defensive struggle.  The question is whether he is in a hot streak and how he will fare in the club’s next three important matches.

Following Tuesday’s training session at Tukwila, Coach Sigi Schmid talked about the Sounders’ next CONCACAF test against Marathon as well as other issues involving his team.  He began with an analysis of his team’s play thus far in CONCACAF competition.

“We have just been disappointed because we have played four games and we have had to play three away and every away game we felt we were there to win the game,” Schmid noted.  “A red card, a 5-minute meltdown, giving away a questionable penalty kick in Honduras, so our luck hasn’t broken for us there. But our luck stayed with us in league play. You make your own luck by continuing to push and battle and we have done that and I think that’s why we have gotten some good fortune in league (play).”

Schmid described Mike Fucito’s playing demeanor:

“He’s like a bulldog when he is on the field. He has got that low center of gravity. He has got that powerful build. He’s an unrelenting competitor and he’s just going to make your life difficult for you as a defender. . . .  A lot of times as a defender when you steal a ball from an attacker you say, ‘OK, I can put it in cruise control because this guy is not going to chase me.’ With Fucito, you can’t ever do that. You can’t be in cruise control around him because he’s always going 100 miles per hour.”

Schmid sized up Wednesday’s match with Marathon:

“They say they play four in the back but they play more like three in the back and they bomb their right back forward all the time. We haven’t overly thought that one because we felt there are a lot of spaces for us to attack wide.

“We didn’t have [Sanna] Nyassi in the game down there. We thought that hurt us a little bit. So having somebody who is out there who can play on the right and get after them on the right. That was also a game where Roger Levesque made a lot of runs forward, got the goal but also had some good chances. . . .  We think whoever we are going to put in there is going to be able to deal with it tactically. We (have) just got to make sure we keep certain guys in check from them and take care of our business.”

Schmid also had a comment on the status of injured player Pat Noonan.

“Noonan is in Colorado having surgery today,” Schmid reported.  “He has got a hip situation. The MRI was a little inconclusive so we don’t quite know if it’s the same thing that Freddie Ljungberg had – the labrum tear – or if it’s just an impingement there. But that’s going to be gone through surgery today. “

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