Sounders FC opens debut season with 3-0 win
For one night, the atmosphere had the feel of Germany and Argentina, La Liga and the English Premier League. The debut of Major League Soccer’s newest expansion franchise was pure perfection.
Young Colombian Fredy Montero scored twice and assisted on another goal, and the Seattle Sounders FC looked like a seasoned juggernaut in their inaugural game with a convincing 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Thursday night to begin the 14th season of MLS.
Playing before a raucous home crowd that had players asking coach Sigi Schmid if he could use hand signals because of the noise, the Sounders scored twice in the first 25 minutes and turned their debut into a two-hour party reminiscent of the atmosphere in more soccer established countries.
“There’s probably not a better atmosphere for soccer in America and I’m so proud to be a part of that,” Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller said.
While the pregame festivities were filled with fireworks and red-carpet arrivals, the Sounders performance on the field made the pregame pyrotechnics an afterthought.
Barely 10 minutes into their existence Montero scored, then assisted on Brad Evans’ spinning left-footed goal in the 25th minute that split the legs of New York goalkeeper Danny Cepero. Montero scored late in the second half on a breakaway and the 32,523 fans that turned Qwest Field into a sea neon green excitement went away impressed and satisfied with Seattle’s first result.
“The atmosphere was tremendous. I think we need to open up some more seats for next week to get more people in here,” Schmid said. “It was everything you dream of. We talked about it before the game, ‘What an incredible feeling it’s going to be to walk in here at the end of the game with the first win in Sounders history.’ And they all had that feeling.”
For a franchise that has already set new MLS benchmarks for support with a cap on season tickets at 22,000 and the first sports marketing partnership with Microsoft Corp., living up to all the hype surrounding opening night appeared challenging.
Yet, Seattle’s players made it look simple, none more than the 21-year-old Montero. Employing the attacking, offensive-focused style that was the desire of majority owner Joe Roth and Sounders’ GM Adrian Hanauer, Seattle (1-0-0) spent most of the night keeping Cepero wondering just where the next rush was coming from, even with designated player Freddie Ljungberg a spectator while still recovering from hip surgery.
Sanna Nyassi will get credit for the first shot in Sounders history in the opening moments, but it was Montero beating Cepero for the first mark off a feed from Sebastien Le Toux. After one touch to control the pass, Montero drilled a right-footed shot into the lower left corner of the net.
The sellout crowd cramming the lower bowl of Qwest Field suddenly sounded as loud as Seahawks’ fans after a touchdown as blue and green confetti rained from the upper deck.
Montero then added the capper to his sterling debut in the 75th minute, picking New York defender Mike Petke in the open field and then faking out Cepero for his second score. Schmid pulled Montero in the closing moments so the youngster could leave to roaring approval.
“The support of the fans was incredible, more than expected,” Montero said through an interpreter. “We were there to make them happy and meet their expectations.”
While Montero ran free all night, the Red Bulls (0-1-0) looked disjointed and easily flustered, hardly resembling the team that made a shocking run through last year’s playoffs and reached the MLS Cup before losing to Columbus.
“It feels almost like a hangover from the final,” Cepero said. “Unfortunately we didn’t play the soccer we know we’re capable of.”
Only twice – both in the second half – did New York find itself with reasonable scoring opportunities, only to be turned away each time by Keller.
Red Bulls midfielder Macoumba Kandji got behind Seattle’s defense and into the penalty box, but Keller blocked away a point-blank opportunity. Moments later, Jorge Rojas’ left-footed volley from 25 yards was punched over the crossbar. Red Bulls’ scoring star Juan Pablo Angel got only three shots and none on net.
“Today was not a good performance by anyone,” Angel said. “Of course, there’s a lot of new players in here, but we believe and we hope the changes we made are going to be for the good of the team.”
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