Better runs, better movement, better environment. Thursday was just better for the Sounders, resulting in four goals that moved them into second place in the Western Conference.
A day like this has been coming.
The Sounders scored two goals in 12 minutes — a new team record. Then substitute Roger Levesque scored two more in the second half to bury the Red Bulls, 4-2, in a thrilling and entertaining match before a record crowd of 46,065 at CenturyLink Field Thursday night.
More important, Seattle played fluid, confident attacking soccer. New York may have had more possession overall, but the Sounders were more dangerous when they controlled the ball, making effective runs, connecting on quick combinations, and penetrating deep into their opponent’s territory.
I think it was an exciting night,” Coach Sigi Schmid said. “All the fans here should have been excited by this game. Play was spotty at times, but I thought we stepped up. Being able to get three points at home is a great feeling, and very important.”
The Sounders are now 7-4-7 (28 points) and tied for second place in the Western Conference heading into Sunday’s home match against the New England Revolution.
From an offensive standpoint, it was the best game the Sounders have played — if not the most intelligent. They scored two of their goals on corner kicks and two came from the run of play — the first a curling 18-yard shot from midfielder Erik Friberg in the 10th minute, his first of the season.
Just two minutes later, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso capitalized on a deflection from a corner and put the ball in the net. Seattle was up 2-0 just 12 minutes into the game.
But New York clawed to tie the match early in the second half. Forward Dane Richards scored in the 31st minute after his shot grazed the fingers of keeper Kasey Keller. New York’s Jan Gunnar Soli drove a low ball from the right corner that Zach Scott, who was making a rare start in the middle of the defense, deflected into the Sounders goal to tie it in the 58th minute.
New York scored two goals without French superstar Thierry Henry and U.S. National team wunderkind Juan Agudelo. Both forwards have played prominent roles in New York’s attack. Agudelo is playing for the national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup finals against Mexico on Saturday. Henry, who set a new scoring record at the English powerhouse club Arsenal, was sitting out because of a red card.
It could have been a different match. New York looked dangerous much of the night and did control more of the ball than Seattle.
Seattle, though, absorbed the pressure and fought on. In the 58th minute with the game tied and New York pressing, Schmid unleashed super-sub Levesque. Immediately the hardest working man in the MLS went to work. He put the Sounders ahead in the 67th minute — knocking in a near-post header from a Leo Gonzalez corner kick.
Levesque’s work wasn’t finished, however. Eleven minutes later, he chased down a pass back to Red Bulls keeper Greg Sutton — normally a routine pass. But Levesque stole the ball, beat the keeper and slotted home his second goal with his left foot.
The goal sent the supporters into thunderous rapture.
“You love to see good people have success,” captain Kasey Keller said. “Rog (Levesque) came on and made a difference for us today, which was tremendous.”
On Levesque’s second goal, Keller said professional keepers rarely lose the ball in their own box on a drop pass from a defender. But mistakes do happen. Forwards need to be pressuring and chasing to even create the chance.
“Maybe you have to do that 100, 200 times to get that one chance, but you’re not going to get it if you don’t put the effort in,” Keller said. “Rog came in, put the effort in, and got the reward.”
As usual, Levesque played down his contribution on both goals. He credited defender Leo Gonzalez’s bending corner kick and said he made a near-post run and got his head on it.
“On the second one, it was running and putting the goalie under pressure,” Levesque said. “He took an extra touch and ball got caught up in his feet. I got a good bounce, and hopefully I don’t miss that one.”
What the Sounders did well tonight was make effective runs off the ball when they had possession. The midfield quartet of Friberg, Alonso, Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez combined well to move the ball quickly up the field. Forwards Fredy Montero and Mike Fucito stretched the defense to help create space for the midfield.
“I thought there were times that the combinations were very, very good,” Schmid said. “Usually were telling Montero to stay a little higher. We were actually telling him at halftime to drop off a little bit more and to get the ball in that hole because he stayed up too high. When he dropped in that hole, I thought that helped us connect. When him and Mauro picked the ball up in the hole, we became a much more fluid team.