Sigi heard you. I asked Sounders coach Sigi Schmid this morning if those on the pitch could notice that upper-deck seats were sold last night, and that the Sounders were playing before their largest MLS crowd of the season.
“It was definitely louder,” he said. “I thought it was louder. I thought the fans were really into it, the intensity. You could definitely feel the buzz in the stadium. The opening game had a tremendous buzz. The game against [FC] Dallas had a great buzz. Not that any game has been bad for us but this game was right up …
I know those things are expensive and they normally wouldn’t need to be replaced after a single season. But that is the goalkeeper of a Western Conference rival who was booed every time he touched the ball in what might have been the final home game of 2009. He really shouldn’t be there in 2010.
I say that despite Onstad seeming to be the nicest guy in the world — and a British Columbian at that, eh? — every time …
The result boils this whole aggregate-score stuff down to its simplest: The winner of Game 2 advances to the Western final.
“You always want to win at home if it’s possible,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “But we don’t look at it as a missed opportunity. We look at it as, hey, we played the first half of this series and we didn’t get a goal. We’ve got to make sure we get the goals in the second half of the series.”
Game Two will be played Nov. 8 in Houston, with the winner advancing. If that game is tied after regulation, 30 minutes of extra time will be played. If the deadlock remains, the series will be settled by penalty kicks.
Tonight, Seattle took 14 shots, and Houston nine. However, Houston put four on goal, and Seattle only three.
Still, Seattle had its chances. Two of the best came from Seattle defender Patrick Ianni, who moved into the lineup when Tyrone Marshall became a late scratch with a knee ligament strain. One Ianni headers was headed away at the goalmouth by Houston defender Brian Mullan, and another clanged off the crossbar just before halftime. In the second half, forward Fredy Montero faced Houston keeper Pat Onstad one-on-one — a chance for perfect revenge — but sent his shot wide. Roger Levesque almost got his recent late-game magic to work once more in stoppage time.
As for that early Montero-Onstad incident, different parties saw it different ways.
Montero: “I was looking at the ball, he got annoyed. He pushed me. I fell. It was a yellow card that I really didn’t expect. My intention was never to annoy him or anything. He simply pushed me with his shoulder.”
Onstad: “I think I was frustrated I didn’t get the call when I though Montero picked me. I just bumped his shoulder. If I had done that to Nate Jaqua he probably just would have (brushed it off.) But Montero, we know he likes to embellish things, and down he went. I deserved the yellow for unnecessary contact, but I didn’t raise my hand to his face or anything like that. I was glad the referee actually looked at it and he felt Montero was trying to embellish it.”
Houston coach Dominic Kinnear: I didn’t see it. The play right before I thought was going to be a foul called and I went to plead my case to the fourth official and did not see the altercation. I asked and someone said he just bumped him. I think for a guy to fall down so easily from a chest bump is looking to get him thrown out. It is important to maintain our composure in all areas. I think Pat was upset that they didn’t call a foul, we have to keep our head.”
But the best might have come from Schmid: “My analogy was it was a bowling ball and a bowling pin, and the bowling ball got a yellow and the bowling pin got a yellow for getting knocked over.”
By the way, referee Ricardo Salazar is the same guy who showed David Beckham a straight red in the Sounders’ win in Los Angeles. So he doesn’t lack for guts. But two yellows struck me as treating two very different actions equally.
By the final whistle, six cautions had been issued — also equally divided.
“We see a lot of each other so there gets to be some chippy and intense battles,” Schmid said. “But I think it’s a good competition, a good rivalry, because they’ve been a dominant team in the Western Conference. … We’re the next kids on the block and we’re trying to have people take notice of us. They don’t want to give away any of their prestige and we’re trying to take some of it. That makes it a good rivalry.”
It will heat up one more time, Nov. 8, high noon under the Texas sun.
Attendance: 37,807. It’s the largest crowd ever to see the Sounders in an MLS game, the largest ever to see an MLS semifinal match, and the seventh largest MLS playoff crowd ever.
Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Freddie Ljungberg was voted Major League Soccer’s Player of the Month for October. Ljungberg recorded four assists while leading Seattle to a 3-0-0 record during the month, and a place a berth in the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Seattle entered the final month of the season with a 9-7-11 record and balanced precariously on the playoff bubble. With Ljungberg leading the charge, the Sounders rallied for nine points finished as the third seed in the Western Conference bracket. Ljungberg is the first Swedish player to win MLS Player of the Month.