Turn back the clock to April 17 at the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field. The Seattle Sounders, seeking an important home win to help set seasonal momentum, received a disappointment when a Brad Evans' goal was disallowed for offsides in a scoreless tie with the Kansas City Wizards.
Never mind what Mike Fucito was thinking. He had the opportunity to score a game winner. The Harvard University second year player who had been the Ivy League’s leading scorer his senior season had been inserted by Coach Sigi Schmid late in the action and gained a grand opportunity late in the injury time period.
The same Brad Evans whose earlier goal had been disallowed tossed in a pass to Fucito, who then produced one of the magic moments in the Sounders’ two season history. Fucito drilled the game’s only score into the net in the 92nd minute.
The celebration was launched as Evans and then other teammates congratulated Fucito on the first goal of his MLS career. It was especially memorable in that only a tiny handful of players ever notched game winners in overtime for their first ever goals in MLS play.
Kansas City battled to the end and almost tied the match at virtually the final whistle. It took a diving stop by alert goalkeeper Kasey Keller to preserve the win. Keller explained afterwards what had occurred.
“We thought that the game was over,” the veteran goalkeeper noted.
So now the Sounders are pitted Saturday against the same Kansas City team in the rematch of the earlier nail biter, this time at the Wizards’ home stadium of Community/America Ballpark with action set to begin at 5:30 p.m. PT.
Fucito may receive an opportunity to supply the kind of fireworks he generated in the earlier April match in Seattle. After brilliant CONCACAF play with a goal in the Sounders’ 3-2 loss at Monterrey, and two tallies in the 2-0 home win over Marathon, an ankle injury in the latter contest temporarily sidelined the Massachusetts player.
After Seattle’s final workout prior to leaving for Kansas City, Schmid said regarding Fucito, “He’ll actually travel with us. He’ll be on the 18 (player roster).”
Fucito was on fire prior to his temporary injury derailment. Sanna Nyassi is on a current scoring hot steak, as evidenced by his game deciding goal in the MLS 3-2 win over Toronto last Saturday, and delivering both netters Tuesday night in the 2-0 triumph over Columbus in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup finale.
The victory, achieved before the home fans, enabled the Sounders to become the only team in MLS history to repeat as U.S. Open Cup champs.
After describing Seattle’s U.S. Open Cup triumph as a “wonderful night,” Schmid returned to the business of the Kansas City match:
“(UCLA basketball coaching great John) Wooden always said for every up game you are going to have a down game. Sometimes that has happened but I think we have shown good character. We have had to play a lot of games. I can’t remember the last time we didn’t have a game in the middle of the week. So it’s going to be unusual when that happens, if that ever happens.
“We know what’s at stake this weekend. Our team is prepared for that. It’s a desperate situation for Kansas City because they need the points. We know that with a win or a tie we secure a playoff spot. I think our team will be prepared. It might take us a few minutes to get into the game but we will be ready.”
As for the challenge of playing at Kansas City, Schmid commented:
“It’s a tough field to play on. I think that’s the main thing with Kansas City. It’s not so much their desperateness. The surface is tremendous. It’s a good grass surface. But the field is so small. You end up either in front of your goal or in front of their goal because the field is only like 104 yards long.
“In fact, when I paced off the 18-yard box last year, it was only 17 yards long and 17 yards wide from the post. So they actually made that shorter to make the field look a little bigger. . . .Not only are they a good team and a good team offensively, not only are they a hungry, desperate team, but it also is being played on a field that lends itself to being a bang-bang brawl type of game.”
Some good news has been received regarding Nyassi. The midfielder had been called up by the Gambia National Team. Nyassi postponed leaving Seattle to play in the historic U.S. Open Cup match. Since he missed the camp that the Gambia National Team held in Belgium, Schmid explained that the chances of Nyassi playing “were not great.”
As a result, Nyassi has remained with the Sounders and will be in action Saturday night. This brings joy to the hearts of Sounders faithful in view of Nyassi’s recent superb play.