BY: Karen Watson
SEATTLE – They might ask for the fans’ full 90 but tonight it was all about the number eleven in a match dedicated to the injured Steve Zakuani, and what a fitting tribute as the Sounders gave one of the most thrilling performances in their short three year history. Stretching their unbeaten streak to six games, the Rave Green totally dominated the down on their luck Toronto FC in a 3-0 home victory.
Most of the talk leading up to tonight’s match revolved around three of Seattle’s key players, or lack thereof. The Sounders were left scrambling last week in Colorado after losing left winger Zakuani to a broken leg, a result of Brian Mullen’s straight leg challenge. And with forward O’Brian White recuperating from leg surgery and Mauro Rosales out with a strained hamstring, Coach Sigi Schmid was forced to field a newly revamped midfield featuring Alvaro Fernandez on the left and Brad Evans in place on the right wing. Additionally, Nate Jaqua made his first start since July 2010 replacing White up front.
Seattle’s determination was clear from kick off and was rewarded within the opening minutes when Uruguayan international Fernandez headed in a perfect long cross from Evans during the 9’. This wing to wing style of play proved crucial to the Sounders’ attack throughout the rest of the game as they continually held Toronto inside their own half and out shot the visitors 10 to 1.
An emotional tribute to Zakuani soon followed when the sell out crowd held up cards printed with “11”, his number, and chanted his name for the full minute.
Toronto’s best chance came in the 29’ when Javier Martina went on an open run but was chased down by Tyson Wahl in a great bit of defending. Seattle fullbacks Wahl and James Riley also greatly aided the attack, playing far forward and passing the ball quickly which Coach Schmid identified as his strategy for the re-formed lineup.
Seattle widened the gap in the 52’ with a goal from Man of the Match Evans. By hugging the right side on a sprint downfield he was beautifully positioned for the pass from Fredy Montero and drilled it past Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Referee Ricardo Salazar called for a penalty in the 73’ following a Toronto handball inside the penalty box. Once again Evans stepped up and sent it whistling past Frei, giving him his first multi-goal game and the Sounders’ first successful penalty at Qwest Field.
The defeat was hard felt for Toronto who hasn’t won in their last six, five of which have been at home. The Sounders on the other hand made the traditional victory lap around the pitch, saluting the ever faithful home crowd and Seattle defender Riley made the round carrying a huge cutout “Z” in recognition of his close friend and teammate.