The Seattle Sounders FC started their inaugural season in 2009 at home against the Red Bulls and came away with a big 3-0 win. For 2010 the Sounders were again home but opening against the newly formed Philadelphia Union. The goal was to show how much they had grown up over the first season, but also to not allow an even newer team to become the darling upstarts of the MLS.
In front of a sold out Qwest Field, with the upper decks still covered by tarps, on a rainy Seattle night on the national ESPN stage, the Sounders made Philadelphia feel the same way the Red Bulls felt 12 months earlier. Twelve minutes into the match, Steve Zakuani fed Fredy Montero on the left side, looped outside and received the ball back from Montero before centering it for Brad Evans to drive past Union keeper Chris Seitz into the back of the net.
The Union had their best opportunity at equalizing in the 38th minute when former Sounders Sebastian Le Toux beat Sounders keeper Kasey Keller but was called for offside.
Two minutes later Philly defender Toni Stahl was ejected with his second yellow card in the match on a horrible challenge. Fredy Montero took advantage two minutes later by heading a missed shot from midfielder Osvaldo Alonso past Seitz. Montero looked to be offside to the keeper but one of his own defenders was playing way back and kept Fredy onside for the goal.
Although Seattle kept Philadelphia from becoming the third MLS team to win their debut match, the Union may have set a record for the fastest booking in a franchise's history when midfielder Danny Califf got carded in the first minute for taking down Montero.
Philly was very physical all night and targeted Sounders midfielder Freddie Ljungberg repeatedly. Ljungberg left in the 60th minute, limping to the sideline after the beating he had taken all match long. After the match Philadelphia’s coach Peter Nowak accused the Sounders of “diving and flopping,” but from my admittedly biased view, there was not too much fake falling down from the UFC tactics that Philly employed.
The Union was right in their target; Ljungberg played a magnificent match and was the key in directing many Sounders attacks. A year after starting the season injured, Ljungberg and the Sounders fit together so much better. The passes were crisper and in the right spot. Defenders covered each other better, knowing their teammates tendencies and trusting each other. Steve Zakuani, in particular, looks miles better than he did last year.
It wasn’t a perfect game from Seattle by any means but it was very good and bodes well for the season.
Man of the Match: Freddie Ljungberg