The Bulldogs might be the nickname for Yale University, but rival Harvard has a bulldog of its own who made a big impact on visiting CD Marathon of Honduras Wednesday night.
Stocky and tenacious bulldog Mike Fucito scored two goals as Seattle Sounders FC beat Marathón 2-0 in round five of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage on Wednesday night on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field before 11,768, the smallest crowd in franchise history.
The reason for the small crowd stemmed from the Sounders coming into the match with an 0-4 mark in CONCACAF play and out of competition for the knockout round. Despite the victory and its first points earned in Champions League play, Seattle had been eliminated from competition Tuesday night when CD Saprissa drew with CF Monterrey, 2-2.
Marathón with a 2-3 mark will contend for the second and final spot in Group C when it faces Monterrey October 20.
After Miguel Montano and Mike Seamon made fervent early goal efforts, it was Fucito, a former Ivy League scoring champion while at Harvard, who achieved a breakthrough in the 21st minute. The goal resulted after Fucito chased down a bouncing ball and chested it through the Marathón backline. He then blasted a left-footed shot from 16 yards inside the far post.
Chapter two of the Fucito scoring show occurred in the 68th minute. Fucito took advantage of a free kick opportunity by rocketing it around the wall and into the top corner for his second goal of the game.
By then Sounder land was celebrating over the return of Fucito from a long injury hiatus and into the top ranks of the team’s scorers. He had been stellar in last week’s CONCACAF match at FC Monterrey. Fucito was a catalyst toward his team’s first score by forcing an own goal in the 27th minute. A later effort produced a Fucito score and a 2-0 lead against a formidable rival on its home pitch. While Monterrey rallied for an ultimate 3-2 victory, Fucito’s effort instilled a note of optimism among Seattle faithful.
While the triumphal element of Fucito’s performance Wednesday resulted in his team’s two scores and margin of victory, an element of tragedy occurred just two minutes after his second goal in the 70th minute. At that point Fucito fell to the ground, sustaining a sprained ankle and being replaced by Sanna Nyassi.
"He fights and he battles,” Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid commented on Fucito after the match. “He got injured going into a tackle he didn't need to go into. He scored a good first goal. He got the ball and he finished it well. And then the second goal was a free kick. We were training on that and he's one of the lefties that has so much spin on the ball that he can get it around the wall and he froze the goalkeeper. So I'm happy for Mike."
While it was disappointing that Fucito, as a player hitting stride after returning from an injury, was hit with another, Schmid sounded a positive note with the belief that the ankle sprain might not prove lengthy in playing time lost.
"We hope (the injury is) not too bad,” Schmid said. “We'll find out for sure tomorrow morning. He's getting x-rayed tomorrow morning and to know for sure. It ballooned up a little, but initial prognosis is that it's not as bad as [James] Riley's (injury) was."
As he savored victory, Schmid heaped praise on his team:
"I thought it (team play) was good. The guys came in and played. I thought Marathón came out very defensively in their early posture. They played basically a 5-3-2 and split their forwards wide, almost like a 5-4-1 at times. It required us to be a little bit patient. Good to get the first goal because it had them open up a bit.”
While happy with the win, Schmid expressed disappointment that his team did not fare better in Champions League competition.
“ We're still disappointed with our overall Champions League performance,” Schmid revealed.
At the same time Schmid stated his belief that the competition helped his young team. This was the positive message for the Sounders to take away from the 2010 CONCACAF experience. By playing some formidable clubs and being compelled to face difficult travel and road match circumstances, the team received an overall benefit that will have a carryover effect into subsequent play, a toughening experience.
Terry Boss earned his second shutout as a Sounder goalkeeper. It came in his fourth competitive start.
The two sides were even with 11 shots, but Seattle had a decided edge in the on goal category. The Sounders took seven on goal shots compared to two for Marathón.
The Sounders gave Marathón a close contest in the teams’ first meeting. The Sounders lost a tight 2-1 road decision with the winning goal coming late via penalty kick.
Seattle switches gears and moves back into important MLS competition. On Saturday afternoon the Sounders face Toronto FC at 12:30 p.m. PT. Seattle carries an 11-9-6 mark with 39 points into the competition.
After Saturday’s match with its potential MLS playoff implications, Sounders FC defends its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championship. The Sounders host the Columbus Crew, Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT.
Both games will be played on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.