BY Stanley Holmes 05:41PM 04/09/2011

Keller preserves first Sounders win

Zakuani scores the winner in 2-1 victory over Chicago that needed three outstanding second-half saves from Keller.

Steve Zakuani scores the winning goal in the Sounders' 2-1 victory over the Fire. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The Seattle Sounders finally earned their first win of the season. For that, they can thank their captain, Kasey Keller.

He was instrumental protecting Seattle’s lead, particularly in the second half, and that allowed his teammates to close out a 2-1 win over Chicago Fire Saturday afternoon in front of 36,223 fans at Qwest Field.

“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves in the second half, but we got some great saves,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Keller made some big time saves for us.”

The first time Keller came up huge was in the 59th minute, making a superb diving save to stop Diego Chaves from what would have been a certain goal to tie the game. Three minutes later, the Fire’s other Uruguayan forward, Gaston Puerari, forced another Keller reaction save that was top quality.

Keller closed out his highlight-reel saves when he denied Marco Pappa in the 66th minute.

Chaves, who scored Chicago’s lone goal in the second minute, was frustrated but also impressed by the former U.S. national team keeper. “He was clearly the man of the match and had great interventions,” Chaves said. “He was the key for Seattle’s victory.”

Keller wasn’t the only key. The Sounders started aggressively, swarming Chicago in the opening minutes. That culminated in O’Brian White’s second goal of the season in the 7th minute, a header from a Mauro Rosales pass.

Schmid thought White did well to contort his body in the air to get his head on the Rosales’ pass, which was a bit behind him. “He did a really good job, especially the first 45 minutes, shielding and holding up play for us,” Schmid said. “The 1-2 he hit with Zakuani was great.”

White said he was pleased, but felt the Sounders didn’t do really anything different than in  previous matches — other than bury two chances. He said the players wanted this victory badly.

“We gave it all,” White said. “Today especially, we came out and gave everything. We decided we weren’t going to leave without the three points.”

Following the first goal, Seattle was clearly in control.  It seemed more goals were coming but Chicago scored first. Chaves stunned the players and the crowd.

Chaves and Puerari were handfuls. The Uruguayans had obviously played together and seemed to know how the other moved. If one checked away, the other moved to the ball. They were skillful, speedy and dangerous.

So were White, Steve Zakuani, Rosales and Erik Friberg. In the first half, White took his game right at Chicago. The Jamaican was everywhere — hustling, chasing, making great runs, scoring and assisting on Seattle’s second goal in the 25th minute.

“The first was a ball played up by James (Riley),” White said. “He (Rosales) played a very good ball and I just put it in the back of the net. The second one was just Steve (Zakuani) going one on one. He made a move and he scored a great goal.”

White’s contribution was central. He checked to the ball on the left side as Zakuani started his run. White combined with Zakuani on a give-and-go, releasing Zakuani down the left side. He beat his defender, rounded the corner and slotted a left-footed shot into the net.

The first half ended with Seattle dominating the possession and the offensive statistics. The Sounders out-shot Chicago 6-4 and led the shots on goal 3-2. Seattle had four corners to none.

The tempo changed in the second half. Chicago picked it up and pushed Seattle hard, creating three outstanding chances that Keller denied to keep the Sounders in the match. Following the second save on Puerari’s low shot, the crowd started chanting, “Ka-sey Kel-ler.”  It was well deserved.

“You can’t go through a season without having to rely on your keeper at some point and he kept us in the game in the second half, for sure,” Zakuani said. ” That’s Kasey Keller.”

the outcome remained in doubt, thanks to the cunning and craftiness of Chaves and Puerari, as well as Pappa and Patrick Nyarko. At least twice, Nyarko turned the corner on Riley with his speed down the left flank. He set up several dangerous chances late in the match.

Chicago’s more aggressive second half was reflected in several stats. It ended the game putting more shots on frame,  5-4, and forced Keller to make more saves, 4-2. Seattle committed more fouls (16-10), which probably reflected its desire to secure the three points at just about any cost.

Schmid sent out Nate Jaqua for a tiring Rosales. Then midfielder Servando Carrasco replaced White. By the 80th minute, it was all about managing and killing the game. Seattle hunkered down defensively and played out the match.

“The guys never stopped believing in themselves,” Schmid said. “Getting a win today, even though it was a little of an ugly win, is tremendous for their self confidence. Everybody played their part and everybody did their role.”


  • Lucky Infidel

    This was the first “new” Sounders’ game I have seen although I saw many of the original Sounders’ games. Not entirely sure I was so impressed with what seemed the almost forced faux European atmosphere in the stadium and around the team. I have nothing against non-American situations, in fact I lived in Europe for several years and would go back and live there in an instant, but this is Seattle in America and so let’s do something original. Also don’t remember from my earlier days the crowds seemingly being more responsive to perceived or real “fouls” than to the play on the field, or should I say pitch. Such crowd behavior clearly over time also just perpetuates dives and fake injuries.
    All that said, it was an entertaining spectacle and I would go back. And they won. And of course there is not a bad seat at Q-west.

  • What faux atmosphere do you speak of? This is going on 3 years of organic support and an ongoing evolution of Seattle football culture. I’m a drummer for ECS, and we already have chants unique to the Sounders no one else in the world does. Roll on Columbia. Bluest Skies. Us vs. Them. Since this was your first MLS Sounders match, it appears you’re talking out of your ass. The crowd was great for a 1pm kickoff, we got to celebrate 2 goals, 3 amazing Keller saves, and 3 points when we needed them. It was an awesome day undeserving of your complaining, Lucky Infidel

    • Lucky Infidel

      You say the “crowd was good for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff.” Well, guess what, most NFL clubs, and many major league baseball teams, for example, start games at 1:00 p.m. and I NEVER have heard someone say, “[the] crowd was good for a 1:00 p.m.” start. And I never have been a sporting event of any kind at any time where the audience consistently throughout the whole match arguably seemed more interested in cheering and booing perceived fouls than action the turf.
      As for your “original” drumming, that is my point. What is original to begin with about the drumming?

  • Anonymous

    Seattle needed to move along to the next phase. I’m happy for Matt. He’s found a good situation for him where he’s got a shot in a wide open AFC while he’s still healthy enough to be a factor.

    The QB of the next good Seattle team isn’t on the roster yet. It’s just not fair to pit Hass vs. TJax. They play the same position but they represent two very different approaches to this season.

  • Hasselbeck would not have been able to do what he is doing in Seattle because we could not protect him. Glad to see him doing well. Seattle will be fine though.

  • crumudgeon

    In the words of Bob Dylan,”… the wheel is still in spin.”  Meaning — It’s a long season.  Let’s see if Mat keeps it going the rest of the year.  Remember how fragile he looked his final season as a Seahawk?  How many times has Tjack got sacked so far?  I wish Mat much success but it is time to just move on.

  • Zebenir

    With the O-line the Seahawks have??? Matt’s better off in Tennessee… much as I hate to say that.  Good luck Matt, we still love you!

  • red devil

    Line play is the backbone of football. We are not there yet. Witness the Nebraska, Stanford & Oregon game.
    Sark & Carroll are drinking the same kool aid on fourth down, they need a reality check.

  • headoutofsand

    Too much hoo-hah, indeed.  And, like Sarkisian, I also have no problem with Holt’s candor.  Count me in the camp that feels “bulletin board material” has about the same effect at helping the “offended” team to win as wearing all black uniforms.