Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Saunders too much for Sounders! Sounders drop opener to Galaxy 1-0

By Kshell

Well the MLS season has begun! In front of a record setting MLS crowd of 36,433 fans the L.A. Galaxy(1-0-0) led by goalie Josh Saunders defeated the Seattle Sounders(0-1-0) 1-0 to earn three points on the road. The game opened up the MLS season on national t.v. on ESPN. The Sounders for the third straight year mostly because of the great turnout by the fans were featured in the opening game. Unfortunetly for the Sounders they couldn't capitalize on few scoring opportunities on tough goaltender Josh Saunders. Saunders entering this game hadn't allowed a goal in his last 342 regular season minutes in MLS play. The Sounders last year were swept by the Galaxy 4-0 and were outscored 10-2 in those four games. The Sounders have a long season left but they must figure out how to defeat the mighty Galaxy which features players like Landon Donovan and David Beckham.

The atmosphere was quite electric at Qwest Field. You would have thought this was a World Cup game not the first game of a seven month grind. The Sounders average attendance is over 36,000 while the second place MLS team is the Los Angeles Galaxy who averages 21,000. The Sounders have created a nice buzz in Seattle. With the Portland Timbers coming into the league look for the Sounders-Timbers rivaly to carry the MLS. This game had a buzz to it like no other MLS game. Despite the terrible weather conditions the Sounders set an MLS record for attendance in a game(Note only MLS games count, Sounders have had larger crowds before). The game had quite the opening atmosphere that even the biggest soccer naysayers must admit was well done. After the opening night ceremony had finished the match had begun.

In the first half the Sounders had controlled the tempo of the game but had nothing to show for it. Early on the Galaxy were having more shots but thanks to Kasey Keller the Galaxy were denied. Early on Keller went up for a save and collided with team USA star Donovan knocking Donovan down for a while. Then the Sounders started to attack the Galaxy trying to end Saunders goal less streak. The Sounders despite seven shots and five shots on goal were held scoreless. The Galaxy didn't even have a single shot on goal and had just four shots total. The Sounders had dominated that first half in front of an electric crowd. Keller who is a northwest legend has stated this will be his last season. While the Galaxy Beckham had also announced this was his last year as well. Beckham was loudly booed throughout the contest. The Sounders were shocked to start the game as they had cut designated player Blaise Nkufo who played in last year's world cup for Switzerland. He was believed to carry the load on offense for the Sounders.

In the second half the Sounders wasted more opportunities to finally score. Unlike the first half it finally caught up to the Sounders. After dominating the first 45 minutes the Sounders finally let the Galaxy have life. A costly turnover by Sounders midfielder Erik Friberg was intercepted by the Galaxy Todd Durnivant. That set up in the 58th minute a 25 foot goal by Juninho to give the Galaxy a 1-0 lead. The goal had just got by stellar goal keeper Keller. The Sounders weren't dead quite yet as they kept attacking Saunders. Each time Saunders kept making one save after another. When Saunders wasn't making saves the Sounders were wasting their chances. Like when O'Brian White had a shot that bounced wide off the far post in the 72nd minute. Friberg missed an open net as well and fan favorite Freddy Montero also missed a short short. Saunders when all was said and done had six saves. The Galaxy had survived to win the game 1-0 to extend their streak to five games in a row over the Sounders.

Overall the biggest winner in this game was Major League Soccer. This game showed that people in America do care about soccer. The crowd was intense and it was a well played game. The game could have featured more scoring but it was well played. There was plenty of shots on goal and this game featured some players that the average fan has heard of. The Galaxy earned a very important three points in a tough road game. Prior to this game the Sounders had never lost an opener before. For the Sounders the season is still young and anyone giving up on them after this loss is crazy. The Sounders do need to figure out a way to beat the Galaxy or at least earn points. The Sounders will have better days and this was a good showcase for soccer. Just remember when the NCAA tournament was going on the city of Seattle had over 36,000 fans in attendance. Soccer is slowly growing in America which can only be a good thing. The Galaxy earned the victory but the game of soccer was the big winner.


- This game featured probably the most popular and well known American player in Landon Donovan. As we all remember in World Cup 2010 Donovan was the one who scored the winning goal in stoppage time to advance USA out of pool play. Donovan for a short time in July was the most popular person in the country. He was just one of many stars in this game and shares the star treatment on his own team.

Donovan early on hurt his ribs on a collision with goal keeper Kasey Keller. Donovan didn't flop as he got up and remained playing. The Sounders did a good job on Donovan as he didn't have any shots on goal. Donovan as we all saw in the World Cup can be an explosive scorer but the Sounders did a good job defending Donovan.

- The biggest star in this game was David Beckham. Beckham at this point in his career is more of a celebrity than a good soccer player. Beckham announced this will be his last year in the MLS. Showing how serious the Seattle fans were in this rivalry everytime he had the ball he was booed loudly. Beckham also received a yellow crowd which the crowd reacted pretty emphatically to the call.

I felt Beckham at least this game showed he still has game. He was quite active and had a few shots. He obviously isn't the Beckham of the 1990's who was making movies but he showed he still has game. Beckham if this is truly his last year is at least showing he won't go out like many stars have had in the past. Most importantly for Beckham he is still on one of the best teams in MLS. The Galaxy won the regular season title last year and are on the short list of favorites to win it this year.

- Tough loss for the all-time MLS wins leader Sigi Schmid. Schmid is in his third year with the Sounders. The Sounders in his first season made the playoffs before losing to Houston Dynamo. Then last year the Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup. Schmid has this team going in the right direction. Fans in Seattle better start paying attention to the Sounders as they are closest mens professional team to winning a championship.

For all Schmid has done well for the Sounders beating the Galaxy seems to be a problem. This is the fifth consecutive loss to the Galaxy in MLS play. The season is young and a veteran coach like Schmid I'm sure isn't too worried. The Sounders will fix their scoring problems and should be one of the top tier teams of the MLS season. The Sounders feature one of the better goal keepers in Kasey Keller which should always keep them in games.

All in all, tough loss for the Sounders as they were hoping to make a statement to the rest of MLS. The city of Seattle made a statement to the rest of the nation that they are still the #1 soccer city in America. The 1-5 rivalry with Portland should be quite fun. I was never a soccer fan but the 2010 world cup sucked me in. I also kept hearing how the Sounders games were a fun atmosphere and even though they lost 1-0 I can see myself enjoying a game at Qwest. When the summer rolls around and most likely the Seattle Mariners are 20 games out of first place don't forget about the Sounders. The Sounders will be playing games from now until November and should feature a pretty good squad. The Sounders may have lost this game but you don't see NBA fans freaking out after losing the first of 82 games. Well fans don't give up on the Sounders after one loss. The Sounders will eventually figure out how to defeat the Galaxy. For now the Galaxy proved once again why they are one of the best teams in MLS.

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