Finally, after a club MLS record nine games without a win, the Seattle Sounders FC came out with one on Sunday. It took a full team effort and from the first whistle, Seattle came out like a team possessed.
Leading the team was Mauro Rosales, the man of the match. He was in form and played the midfield like a maestro, orchestrating his team and probing the Colorado Rapids defense. Rosales’ surgical crosses led directly to the two Seattle goals, both headers. One was from Alvaro Fernandez, his first of the 2012 season, and the other by Eddie Johnson.
After a scoreless first half, Seattle finally scored in the 52nd minute. The goal came from a corner kick that Rosales curled perfectly to an unmarked Fernandez. Alvaro didn’t miss putting the ball under Colorado keeper Matt Pickens’ hand and into the back of the net.
The crowd, already determined to carry the hometown Sounders out of the nine-game drought, exploded with delight. The celebrations were still going strong as the Sounders continued to pile on the pressure.
The pressure, building like a volcano, exploded again as Rosales found Johnson in space inside the box and delivered a precision cross that Johnson had no trouble burying in the net. Johnson celebrated by removing his jersey, earning a yellow card but not a soul at CenturyLink Stadium cared. The Sounders were up 2-0 with 25 minutes left to hold on to the lead.
Colorado piled on the pressure, finally getting rewarded in the 79th minute when Rapids back Luis Zapata put a beautifully placed cross to the far post that striker Omar Cummings tapped in way too easily.
Only up by a goal, the crowd redoubled their efforts to keep the Sounders fired up and on top. It looked to all be for naught as Jeff Larentowicz appeared to score the tying goal in the dying minutes. Larentowicz was ruled offside and the lead was preserved.
As the crowd was still breathing a sigh of relief, Seattle manager Sigi Schmid substituted a player for the final minutes, a player that last played 15 months ago against these same Colorado Rapids. During that match on April 22, 2011, Steve Zakuani was taken out in a vicious tackle by Rapids defender Brian Mullan. The tackle broke Zakuani’s leg so badly, there was a legitimate concern he would never walk again without a limp, much less play soccer in the MLS.
As number 11 (Zakuani) walked onto the pitch Sunday, replacing the masterful Rosales, the crowd, already loud, exploded into jubilation usually only heard when the Seahawks are in the playoffs. It was a moment of supreme joy for all the players on the field.
The Rapids kept up the pressure, almost scoring again in extra time before referee Kevin Stott blew the whistle, kicking off the party in the terraces.
On the field, Zakuani met with Mullan. The two exchanged jerseys and a hug, closing the book on an ugly injury.
Seattle plays again on July 11, hosting Chivas USA for a U.S. Open Cup match before traveling to New York to face the Red Bull on July 15.
Photo Credits: John Lok/Seattle Times, Brendan Vaughn