One of the most rewarding aspects of soccer is its strong international base. The Seattle Sounders tapped into their own talented African connection to score an important 3-2 win over Toronto FC Saturday at the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field in a match replete with potential MLS playoff implications.
Blaise Nkufo and Steve Zakuani were both born in the Congo and grew up in Switzerland and England respectively. Sanna Nyassi was born, raisded, and began his career in Gambia. Saturday each player scored a goal in delighting another sellout Seattle crowd numbering 36,079.
The visitors, who had scored an earlier 2-0 home win over the Sounders, jumped out on top in the 16th minute on Dwayne De Rosario’s 13th goal of the campaign on an assist from Maicon Santos.
Sounders FC equalized in the 21st minute. Osvaldo Alonso played a through ball down into the middle of the box. Zakuani took it and used his patent speed to elude onrushing goalkeeper Stefan Frei. The site of the empty net was good news for Zakuani as he tallied his ninth goal of the season.
It then remained for the player on the hot streak to give the Sounders the lead for the remainder of the game five minutes later. That would be Nkufo, who generated three goals in the 4-0 shutout on the road against Eastern Conference leader, the Columbus Crew, and followed up that performance with the only goal of the match in a road outing against the Chicago Fire.
Following a Chad Barrett yellow card in the 25th minute, Nathan Sturgis swung the ensuing free kick into the box. Nkufo then engaged in a specialty. As an experienced player he thrives in crowds near the opposing net.
The Swiss striker is a specialist in taking second and third opportunities in congested circumstances to score. This time within crowded circumstances Kuofo deposited a header into the net inside the near post from 8 yards out.
The five goals that Nkufo has generated in the last three games is the club’s longest scoring streak since Fredy Montero scored in five straight contests midway through the 2009 season.
After the teams returned from the dressing room after the halftime break with the Sounders holding a 2-1 lead the home team added another tally that would proved needed to insure victory. The third member of the Sounders’ African connection, Sanna Nyassi, achieved the first goal of his MLS career in the 59th minute.
The score resulted by Nyassi taking advantage of a Toronto sending a clearance in his direction. Nyassi blasted the rebound into the net from just inside the box.
That third and final score proved vitally needed as the visitors struck back in the 88th minute when Chad Barrett tallied following a Nicholas Lindsay cross.
When you win a coach is more likely to exhibit a sense of humor. This occurred when Sigi Schmid evaluated his team’s performance following the match and commented on Toronto scoring its goal close to the end of regulation time.
"Obviously we're happy with the win,” Schmid said. “We're really proud of the way we came back after they scored the first goal. I was really happy with how we came back, to go up 2-1 at halftime. Once we were up 3-1, we wanted to make sure the fans stayed involved and stayed interested, so we decided to make it 3-2 there at the very end.”
At the time the goal was scored the occasion was anything but humorous. This was manifested by Sounders Captain Kasey Keller. The 40-year-old veteran team read his defenders the riot act after the second Toronto goal of the day.
In the April 25 loss at Toronto the Sounders also allowed two goals. The difference was that the earlier match resulted in a 2-0 Seattle shutout defeat. This time a Sounders offense that has dramatically improved since the midway mark of the campaign tallied three times.
Seattle remained on the attack all day and held a commanding advantage in shots at 17-8 with a 7-2 edge on goal and 6-2 on corners. The Sounders are now 2-7-1 this season when allowing the first goal and 7-4-3 at home.
In winning its third game in a row Seattle now stands at an imposing 8-1-2 in its last 11 contests. This victory equals the team’s win total from last season. Sounders FC stands at 12-9-6 in MLS play with 42 points. Schmid earlier in the season targeted 45 as the benchmark by which he gauged the likelihood of a postseason playoff berth. The team is undefeated in its last six home games at 4-0-2.
With the defeat Toronto FC has an MLS mark of 8-12-7 and 31 points. Saturday’s loss was the second in a row for the Canadian squad.
The Sounders move back into action Tuesday night in one of its most prestigious matches of the season. Sounders FC will seek to become the first team in history to defend its Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Seattle will face MLS Easter Conference leader the Columbus Crew in front of a cup final record crowd on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. First kick is 7 p.m. and Fox Soccer Channel will air the game live.