Sounders 3, Toronto 1
Opening night in the MLS for the Seattle Sounders and the Toronto FC happened on March 17, 2012 in Seattle. Perhaps it was a bit of irony that had Seattle’s green shining on St Patrick’s Day. It wasn’t irony that drew in an opening night record 38,709 fans into CenturyLink Field.
Both Seattle and Toronto came into the MLS opener a little tired and jet lagged after playing road games in the CONCACAF Cup. Toronto played in Los Angeles while Seattle lost 6-1 to Santos Laguna in Mexico on Wednesday.
The Sounders needed a fast start to get rid of that loss and it took just 17 minutes for Sounders forward David Estrada to provide it. Estrada scored his first MLS goal, a reward for his hard work and tenacity.
Estrada took the cross from Alvaro Fernandez, got the rebound and stayed with it twice more to finally work the ball into the back of the net.
Estrada was a thorn in Toronto’s side all night, uncorking his first attempt, a sizzling shot, barely two and a half minutes into the match. He continued the high work rate after the half, adding to his goal tally in the 51st minute with a great solo effort where he took on Toronto keeper Milos Kocic and left him flailing at air as shot was a brilliant strike that hit the side post to rattle home. Seattle keeper Michael Gspurning had no chance to lay a finger on it.
Johnson’s dancing was short-lived, just like Toronto’s flickering hopes. Less than a minute later, Estrada gathered up the ball on the left flat. Moving towards the goal, he ran a give and go perfectly with Fernandez, taking the return pass from Fernandez and crushing it past Kocic and getting the first MLS hat trick of the season and the third in Sounders history.
Seattle manager Sigi Schmid knows how to work a crowd, replacing Estrada in the 87th minute. He was cheered off the pitch and chanted his name for a long time after wards.
Man Of The Match:
Who else could it be but the young striker, David Estrada? Every move forward for the Sounders had him involved somehow. He took seven shots overall, connecting on three for a marvelous opening night in Seattle.
Estrada came into training camp this season worried that his very limited playing time meant he might get cut. The offseason moves by Seattle, trading Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to Montreal for Eddie Johnson signaled that the Sounders are looking for more shooting, more aggression in the offense.
Estrada turned St Patrick’s Day into St Hatrick’s Night in the Emerald City, sending green waves of Sounders fans into the streets of Seattle singing and dreaming that this could be the season that Seattle ends the first round MLS playoff losses.
Seattle returns to action on March 23rd, hosting Houston. In fact, seven of first ten matches for the Sounders FC are at home, giving the team an excellent opportunity to use the best home field advantage to build a foundation for 2012.
Photo credits: JOE BARRENTINE/TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE, DEAN RUTZ/THE SEATTLE TIMES