BY Stanley Holmes 11:48PM 03/09/2011

Sounders find their scoring touch

Final exhibition match ends goal drought as Sounders beat Colorado 3-1; regular season begins Tuesday.

Fredy Montero was feeling good after scoring one of his two goals / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Fredy Montero and the Seattle Sounders finally found their scoring touch, dispatching the Colorado Rapids 3-1 at Qwest Field Wednesday, in the final preseason match.

Montero led the forward line with two goals. He was Seattle’s most energetic and enterprising player. Defender Jhon Hurtado Kennedy scored on a header from a free kick but also handed Colorado its lone scoring opportunity. His foul in the penalty box allowed Colorado’s Jeff Larentowicz to bury the PK.

For the Sounders,  the performance looked more composed and confident — like a team steadily fine tuning for the real thing Tuesday in the MLS home opener against the LA Galaxy.

The Sounders played before 7,355 fans in what was dubbed the Community Shield match; the proceeds went to charity.

“I was pleased tonight to see us score some goals,” Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously there was a stretch there when we didn’t score goals and everyone said it was almost the end of the world.  Now, tonight, we scored three goals and it’s not like the new dawn has approached either.  You can’t get too low with the lows or too high with the highs.”

The first half began quietly. The Sounders moved the ball from side to side, linking through center midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans. The passing looked crisp and communication was strong. But the solid possession game yielded few chances. Seattle lacked a penetrating final pass that looked similar to recent preseason performances.

Colorado, on the other hand, played more directly and pinged the balls to the flanks, taking advantage of their two brawny but speedy power forwards, Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. The Rapids created more shots in the first half, 6-4, and put four on frame compared to Seattle’s one. For the game,  Seattle edged Colorado, putting six goals on target, one more than the visitors.

Seattle’s one shot on goal in the first half was probably the best chance. Montero stole the ball in the middle of the field and dribbled deep into Colorado’s half before slipping it to a streaking Blaise Nkufo at the top of the 18-yard box. Montero probably held the ball a second too long, allowing Colorado’s keeper to block Nkufo’s shot.

The second half picked up considerably. Seattle put Colorado under immediate pressure and it paid off in the 60th minute. Hurtado headed a Montero free kick from about 35 yards out for the goal.

The euphoria was short lived. Hurtado caused a foul in Seattle’s 18-yard box that led to a penalty kick in the 63rd minute. Larentowicz buried it in the corner to make it 1-1.

“That was a very unfortunate mistake,” Hurtado said through an interpreter. “I should have cleared but wanted to start the play.  Thankfully, we ended up winning and there’s always another day to fix things.”

Montero began to display some of his skills that perhaps had been lying dormant over the long winter. A pass from Erik Friberg, who went in for an injured Evans, teed him up for his first goal in the 67 minute. And then in the 78th minute, O’Brian White, who subbed in for Nkufo, played a perfect ball into the box for Montero to chip over the keeper.

It was vintage Montero.

“I thought (Montero’s) energy and effort were good,” Schmid said. “Obviously pleased with the two goals, especially the one from the pass from Friberg, where it was just one touch and the second touch, he hit it.”

Schmid said he liked Montero’s energy, and winning balls in the midfield. But he joked that he doesn’t want to see him back in the Sounders 18-yard-box, which is where his forward drifted when he was subbed out late in the match.

Rapids Coach Gary Smith was generally pleased with his team’s performance despite the loss.

“The result is immaterial to me and the group,” he said. “I thought for the first hour, where had our starting 11, we looked comfortable. In general, our play was very controlled, we defended well, and we were playing a good Seattle team on the road in front of a good crowd.”

For Montero and the rest of the players, it’s still about polishing their first touch, still about building fitness, still about preparing for Tuesday.

“We know that we are not at 100 percent of our level but we are getting prepared and if it requires that we run, we’ll run,” Montero said through an interpreter. “If long passes are required, then we’ll go with long passes, and if the first search is not working, then we’ll find (another option).”

The match showed the Sounders are making progress. Even though the score is meaningless, it was better to end a drought-filled preseason with some goals.

“We are all very happy,” Montero said. “Obviously, it was a good stance for the preseason, especially being here in front of the fans.  This gives us motivation to start the season.”


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