Tag Archive | "James Riley"

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Unfinished Business – San Jose 1 Seattle 0

Posted on 22 May 2010 by Kyle Alm

Stuff like this caught Schmid's ire...

San Jose took three points on the road at Qwest Field and all it took was three shots. The Quakes put one shot on goal in the 11th minute and that was all that it took. The ball was crossed by Brandon McDonald from the far right all the way across, past James Riley and Bobby Burling, dropping to a wide-open Chris Wondolowski who did not leave any doubt that he can finish.

Sounders got behind the high back-line of the San Jose Earthquakes, won 11 corners (one shy of the team record for all you stat nerds), took 18 shots but only manage three shots on frame.

There were many positive things about the match. Nyassi was productive and his replacement also did quite well. Gonzalez and Riley were able to contain Gjertsen and Convey respectively, certainly a big key to the game and probably why San Jose only managed three shots. Sounders not only took a fairly large number of corner kicks but they looked in control and turned corner kicks into scoring opportunities.

Finishing, remains the team’s bugaboo. Blaise N’kufo simply cannot get here soon enough.

The real bombshell hit at the press conference when Sigi Schimd made several overtures that are seemingly directed at Freddie Ljungberg, wondering why unnamed players throw up their hands when there is a bad pass or arguing with the referee when the play is going on. Freddie Ljungberg, you are no longer in the good graces of Sigi Schmid and are officially on notice.

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Michael Fucito Goal Celebration

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Fucito winner saves Sounders at Qwest

Posted on 18 April 2010 by Kyle Alm

The gray Seattle sky served as an appropriate backdrop for the Sounders on Saturday. Both teams started quickly in the first half and had chances to score, but the game became quite slow with both teams seemingly content to play from their defensive half when the other team had the ball. After 91 minutes of dreary dullness that seemed so pervasive during the Sounders vs Kansas City match a single bright spot stood out. Michael Fucito netted his first goal as a Sounder after coming on in the 85th minute for Steve Zakuani. It was first goal that Kansas City has allowed all season, first goal in stoppage time in Sounders history, and probably the first assist off of a throw-in. Evans to Fucito. Substitute to substitute.

“I saw Brad had the ball and I just kind of ran through trying to stretch them. It was a great throw great pass, and I turned and I was one on one with the goalie, hit it, and you know, I finished it well, it was unbelievable.”

Michael Fucito goal celebration

The fans at Qwest erupt as Michael Fucito scores the winner in the 92nd minute.

I wonder if the Wizards defenders are going to receive calls from their old coaches asking them about how Fucito got so open? Fucito had no one around him and only needed one touch to beat Jimmy Nielsen for the winner. Fans at Qwest who had been loud all game suddenly exploded with delight.

But it only took a few moments for the Sounders to show weakness as Kansas City promptly came down and shot the ball just wide of Kasey Keller’s post. That would have been a major letdown. Talk about the air going out of the building. Questions galore at that point.

There are still plenty of questions about the starting lineup that the Sounders put on the pitch. Ljungberg was not sharp today, nor was he sharp against Real Salt Lake last week. His touch was heavy, he isn’t going to beat anyone off the dribble and his passing was off. He was called offsides at a point late in the game that cost the Sounders a scoring opportunity. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid in his post-game statement was quick to mention how well Vagenas controls the ball in midfield and how important it was to his game plan against KC. It worked. Despite a couple of dangerous turnovers that lead to KC chances. Still Vagenas’ mistakes didn’t hurt, so he can be forgiven.

Now that we are four games into the season I’ll revisit my Seven questions for the Seattle Sounders 2010 Season post from the beginning of the season.

Nate Jaqua: I’ve heard he’s “training,” but he’s not going to be playing real soon, probably in a couple of weeks. Hasn’t had a chance to produce.

James Riley: Riley has been solid since he has been back. He does give players a lot of space up til the edge of the box. Hasn’t hurt him consistently that I can tell.

Fredy Montero: Has really improved getting the ball to his teammates with the exception of Freddie Ljungberg. For some reason the two best players on the pitch are never on the same page. He’s got assists and goals and will be in the running for a Golden Boot if he doesn’t transfer to CSKA Moscow or wherever the next rumor takes him.

Steve Zakuani: Major improvement, may be having the best season of any Sounder, Montero has a major stake in that argument. But Zakuani hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. That yellow card today was silly, he should have put his hands on the ref. In his defense the ref did come towards him and I think Zakuani was letting him know he was close enough, but I digress. Zakuani is a dangerous player and has continued to show improvement from game to game.

Freddie Ljungberg: Truculent at times, talks to the ref too much, and hasn’t been able to sync up with Montero well, which is a tragedy when you think about how much better the team would be. In the past I thought that the problem was with Montero not releasing the ball early enough or not looking for passes but I am wondering if Freddie Ljungberg has more to do with it that I would like to admit.

Kasey Keller: Solid in goal. As usual. No worries there.

Corner Kicks & Set Pieces: Ugh. This needs it’s own post later this week devoted to this subject. I’ll just say that they are probably productive compared to the rest of the league and are really lacking in creativity, there are few instances where the ball doesn’t go exactly where you expect it to. A little misdirection can be a good way to find some space.

Rookie Class: Fucito got us three points today, I’d say that the 2010 Rookie Class for the Sounders is meeting or exceeding expectations for being productive. Estrada hasn’t had a breakthrough yet. Fucito remarked that his second game was a more settled affair for him. The same will also be true for Estrada .

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What awaits the Sounders tonight

Posted on 03 April 2010 by Kyle Alm

For the New York Red Bulls 2009 had to be disappointing. As runners up for the MLS Cup in 2008 they were expected to compete for a championship again. The Red Bulls came into Seattle as a team to beat and left as a study in moppishness. By any measure the Red Bulls tanked last season. Lowest point total in the league. Fewest goals scored.

The other side of that argument is that the Red Bulls were never really that good in the first place. Lowest point total for MLS 2008 playoff teams and the worst Goals Against of any playoff team. They were fortunate to wind up in the final and it may have been too optimistic to place them among the elite in the league. There has been a lot of discussion with a similar theme, “new stadium, new coach, new players, new team,” but who are these “new” Red Bulls?

Hans Backe has been brought in as head coach; he’s a newcomer to MLS, but has a lot of experience in “lower” European leagues and has won championships. Joel Lindpere has certainly been a noteworthy and productive midfielder so far, but it is still only one match into the season. Juan Pablo Angel is apparently still getting fit from his knee injury and may not be the player that he once was. Winning can cover any number of sins and shortcomings. When you lose everything is under a microscope. The win against the Chicago Fire doesn’t really prove anything for the Red Bulls, let’s see how they do away from their new stadium.

As for the Sounders everything seems to be lining up favorably. Ljungberg seemed to do whatever he wanted on the pitch, the only way that the Union seemed able to contain him by fouling him repeatedly. James Riley will be returning from a one-match suspension and will likely get the start tonight. Riley may not be the best defender in MLS but he doesn’t seem to make a lot of mistakes and he gets forward very well and had a career high in assists (and games) in 2009. The Sounders are definitely better with Riley on the pitch.

Key Matchups

Steve Zakuani – Jeremy Hall
Zakuani beat the Union defenders like a pack of rented mules. Zakuani could be one of the fastest wings in MLS and was instrumental in creating a goal for Evans and left a sitter for Roger Levesque that went into the North End stands.
Advantage SOUNDERS

Brad Evans – Joel Lindpere

Lindpere’s goal against the Chicago Fire was a very decent volley, the setup wasn’t all that great, it just kind of bounced to him and he got a shot. Lindpere is not the kind of player you can allow to shoot. He doesn’t need much space to get his shot off. Evans is a good midfielder, and a decent defender, should match up well with Lindpere physically. If Evans can keep Lindpere contained and keep him off of his goal pace it will be considered a successful outing.
Advantage EVEN

Questions:

Will Freddie Ljungberg start?
He’s been in training and is available for today’s match, but is a game time decision after due to heavy bruising from the Union.
LIKELY YES

Who starts on the right wing for Sounders FC Roger Levesque or Sanna Nyassi?
Levesque missed a couple of opportunities to score against the Union, but at least he had a chance to score and it didn’t hurt his team’s result. Sanna Nyassi looked good with the ball on his foot, which is a big improvement from last season, and was also able to use his speed to his advantage. Nyassi was trigger happy coming on and had a couple of shots where he had players open. Nyassi is also as fast as he is undersized. Nyassi could be more vulnerable to getting knocked off the ball.
TOSSUP (but look for both of them to play no matter who starts)

PREDICTION
2-0 Sounders, another clean sheet for Man of the Match Kasey Keller and deja vu for the Red Bulls.

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Ready for Sounders 2.0?

Posted on 25 March 2010 by Kyle Alm

Today is the opening game of MLS season XV. There will be rejoicing in Seattle for we have a collective bargaining agreement and we have a season. And we are playing host to First Kick for the second time in a row, itself a fortunate turn of events. It’s a safe bet that this game would be played in Philadelphia if their stadium was ready.

Seb Le Toux as a Sounder ©ASN/David Lindsay

It’s been said over and over again. So by now everyone has heard that the Seattle Sounders had one of, if not the best seasons an expansion side has ever had–both from a business perspective and on the pitch. In terms of ticket sales and money spent at the stadium, Seattle is one of the top in the league. The new expansion teams in Philadelphia, Portland, and Vancouver will be measured against us. Tonight, it should be interesting to see the Philadelphia soccer fan in action. They booed Santa Claus right?

The Union have done things in more low-key manner compared to the Sounders. Seattle made a pair of big signings with Freddie Ljungberg and Kasey Keller and rolled the dice on Fredy Montero. Seems like a no-brainer now, but no one else did it.

Philadelphia has hired a coach in Peter Nowak with a proven track record in and out of MLS.

A couple of questions for today’s match:

1. Will Sebastien Le Toux play for a full 90? Will he even start?

2. How does Danny Mwanga, #1 pick in this year’s draft, compare to Steve Zakuani? Estrada probably won’t play today but it will be worth noting how productive a player he can be. Estrada looked pretty good against Portland.

3. How are the pieces of Philadelphia’s expansion draft coming together compared to Seattle’s? Several people were surprised that Riley wasn’t taken along with Le Toux in the expansion draft. Although Riley won’t be playing today serving a suspension from last season, it will be worth evaluating how Philly’s back line holds up against Seattle’s attack.

Ultimately if the Sounders have difficulty creating opportunities today their scoring woes could continue. Evans will probably fill in at right back for Riley. Although it wasn’t necessarily Evans’ fault, the goal that the USL Timbers scored two weeks ago came right up his side.

Win, lose, or draw I’m sure most people will be happy that the season is starting. Unless there’s some kind of atrocious mistake that leads to a draw or a loss.

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Seven questions for the Seattle Sounders 2010 season

Posted on 06 March 2010 by Kyle Alm

All things being equal, it appears the Seattle Sounders will continue down the path of their early success. Certainly everyone is very keen to get down to Royal Brougham and see the matches again. A year ago, as an expansion team, expectations were low. Even if the owners’ and players’ stated goal was to make the playoffs in the first season, no one would have been disappointed if the team didn’t make the postseason at all. It was a great run to inaugurate the the team and the city of Seattle in 2009.

This year is very different. The Sounders are U.S. Open Cup Champions and are playing in the CONCACAF Champions’ League. The thought of not making the playoffs is disconcerting and the thought of a losing season practically unbearable for Sounders nation.

Here are seven questions areas in rough order of importance to the team in 2010:

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Nate Jaqua: Needs to improve his finishing touch from last season to show that he was only in a goal scoring slump and not beginning a decline in his career. Jaqua can be a creative passer and was moved out on the wing where he prefers to play towards the end of the season, but doubts remain.

James Riley: Philly decided against selecting Seattle’s starting right back in the expansion draft. Age could not have been a factor; Riley is 27 which is not old for professional sports unless you are a female gymnast.

Fredy Montero: Spends too much time on the ball. Can’t remember him making a one-touch pass during the season. Ljungberg seemed furious with the precocious Colombian at times when he didn’t get the ball back. Montero is a single-minded striker.

Steve Zakuani: Has great pace with the ball. Few defenders can keep up with his pace. But he didn’t score many goals or get assists, and that’s what offense is really about: Creating and finishing chances. Needs to avoid a “sophomore slump” and improve skill to match his athletic prowess.

Freddie Ljungberg: Can the most fouled player in MLS stay healthy? This didn’t seem to be an issue for him last season, and Ljungberg was probably one of the fittest players on the team. But there are going to be a few more matches on the schedule this time around, and we are all one year older aren’t we?

Kasey Keller: Along with Houston’s Pat Onstad showing why life really is better at 40. Keller and Onstad are two of the oldest and best players in MLS. Mr. Keller’s continued health is crucial to the success of the Sounders, but it seems likely that he will be healthy and available for the entire season.

Corner Kicks & Set Pieces: Sounders were awful at set pieces and corners. Patrick Ianni scored a brilliant overhead kick against Houston on a corner, but the team needs more goals off corners and free kicks.

Honorable Mention
Rookie Class: No one is counting on any of the first year players to get Seattle to the playoffs, but if one or (wonder of wonders) two of them have breakthrough seasons it could really give the Sounders a lift in the US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions’ League and of course the MLS.

So that’s what’s on my mind as the Sounders get ready to start the 2010 season. Of course keeping players healthy is going to be the primary indicator of success, as it is in any team sport. The Sounders don’t seem to have many glaring holes. Other leading teams haven’t signed new DPs or major names. One could only speculate that the CBA has anything to do with the seemingly slow offseason in terms of personnel moves that bring players to MLS. Raul and Thierry Henry are rumored to be joining the New York Red Bulls, but the majority of player moves were outbound (Blanco and possibly Donovan). Sounders are going to compete for a playoff spot and the MLS Cup but it’s only if they stay healthy and get an improvement out of Jacqua, Zakuani and Montero.

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