By Karen Watson
SEATTLE – The Sounders electric yellow kits were a perfect match for the atmosphere not only inside but surrounding CenturyLink Field as the Rave Green faced English Premier League Champions, Manchester United, in a friendly that the visitors made to look more like a goal scoring clinic with a 7-0 victory.
In the sell out 67,052 crowd, a record for a soccer match held in the Pacific Northwest, the supporters loyalties were evenly split but what occurred on the pitch was as one sided as they come. Almost perfectly split on possession and shots (10-9 Sounders) in the first half, Manchester United broke the game wide open after the break. Going into halftime one up on a Michael Owen header in the 15’, the English champions weren’t to be satisfied with that number.
After keeping United inside their own half for a good part of the first 45’ and another solid performance from goalkeeper Kasey Keller it looked like the Sounders might have a bit of chance to avoid being run over. But once again, finishing proved to be a problem for the hosts. Chance after chance was sent wide or over the bar, when all the while Manchester United was building momentum. Fredy Montero had several great chances – sending one over the bar and another straight in the arms of United goalkeeper Anders Lindegarrd.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid addressed the issue post match. “Were they six goals better than us in the second half? Yeah they were. They finished their chances and we didn’t finish ours. It shows their quality and their ability to finish. I need to apologize to our fans because I think we embarrassed ourselves in the second half. But I wanted to reward all our guys with a chance to play against Manchester United, but in retrospect maybe that was a mistake.”
Both teams made major changes at the start of the second half with Manchester United bringing on Wayne Rooney, Ji-Sung Park, Diouf, and Ben Amos in goal. Schmid almost completely changed the Sounders line up, save the back four, putting on Nate Jaqua, Mike Fucito, Brad Evans, Pat Noonan, Servando Carrasco and Terry Boss in goal.
Manchester United pulled ahead shortly after the break in the 50’ when Nani lobbed a ball over the Seattle defense to an unmarked Diouf who managed to send it diagonally behind Boss, across goal and into the far corner. That was quickly followed in the 51’ by a crack goal from England international Wayne Rooney, who connected with another well directed pass from Nani and buried it in the back of the net.
But then the display really began when Rooney came up big again in the 69’, quickly snapping up a pass from Park and drilling it past goalkeeper Boss who didn’t even get a hand on it. And that wasn’t to be the last of the goals. Park called one his own in the 71’, swiftly answered by a Rooney hat trick in the 72’, bringing Manchester United to three goals in three minutes. Displaying his usual expert form, Rooney pounced on the ball, turned and once again left Boss scrambling to defend the net.
Schmid had this to say after the match, “Every time they had a clean look on goal they had it in the back of the net. That’s the difference in quality between their league and ours. Our defending was absolutely horrendous in the second half.”
Gabriel Obertan finished things off for United with a goal in the 88’, scored on a breakaway. Second half Sounders substitution Mrisho Ngassa, who is on trial from Tanzania, had probably Seattle’s best chance of the night but failed to score in the 89’ even with a wide open net, lofting it into the crowd.
After the match United manager Sir Alex Ferguson commented, “I’m pleased with the counter attack in the second half and that the fitness was good. And it was good to see goals coming from different players because last year we depended on three players.”
The Sounders next transition into CONCACAF Champions League play, facing San Francisco away in Panama on July 26. Their next MLS match is away to Houston on July 30. After a stop in Chicago to play the Fire, Manchester United move on to New Jersey and a match against the MLS All-Stars which will feature Sounders goalkeeper Keller as part of the starting eleven.