Sounders FC back in the win column
O'Brian White and Steve Zakuani score as Seattle defeats Chicago 2-1 for first win since October
Seattle Times staff reporter
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As soon as the final whistle blew, it was all hugs and high-fives for Sounders FC players and coaches. A rousing cheer from the Qwest Field crowd of 36,223 expressed equal parts elation and relief.
The wait is mercifully over.
The first win of the 2011 MLS season has arrived.
Behind first-half goals from O'Brian White and Steve Zakuani, and a saving performance from goalkeeper Kasey Keller in the second half, Seattle outlasted the Chicago Fire 2-1 Saturday afternoon.
The Sounders (1-2-2) hadn't won a meaningful match since Oct. 15, a winless streak of eight in all competitions and one that included the first four league games of this year.
This time a long-awaited victory celebration — with music blaring — was alive and well in the locker room.
"Three points was desperately needed," said Keller, who had four saves.
"I think it was unsaid that it was kind of a must-win for us," said midfielder Brad Evans, who played almost exclusively as a defender in the final minutes to secure the win.
While the elusive first victory probably wasn't Seattle's best performance of the season, nor did it come easy, coach Sigi Schmid said he was proud of the way the players fought for one another.
"Even though it was a little ugly in the second half to a certain extent, getting a win was tremendous for their confidence in themselves and each other," Schmid said.
Tied 1-1 midway through the first half, Zakuani gave Sounders FC the lead for good in the 25th minute on his second goal of the season. The speedy midfielder played a give-and-go with White and burned past Chicago rookie defender Jalil Anibaba on a run into the penalty box, then calmly finished the chance past goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
After blowing a lead earlier in the game — and two last week against San Jose — emotions ran high in the locker room at halftime, but this time it would stick.
"It was nice to be able to finish it off this week," said Keller, who had three big stops in the second half.
White had given the home team an early advantage in the seventh minute when he beat two Fire defenders to a cross from forward Mauro Rosales and powerfully headed a shot past the flat-footed Johnson.
"He played a very good ball, I just put it in the back of the net," said the smiling White of his second goal in as many games.
The lead lasted only a few seconds as Chicago forward Diego Chaves scored his third of the year, but Sounders FC's next lead would hold up for good.
"I think it's just the progression and continuation of how we've been playing now," said Zakuani. "If you want to spin it now, we haven't lost in three games. That's one way to look at it. ... I think we've just been playing well. We continue to get better, and we reaped the rewards of that effort today."
• Four of Sounders FC's next five games are on the road, starting April 16 with a 1 p.m. road game in Philadelphia.
• Seattle made one change in the lineup from last week's 2-2 draw at San Jose: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado replaced Patrick Ianni at center back after a two-week absence. Schmid said the intention was always to start Hurtado again as he gets back into form after knee surgery kept him out of most of the 2010 season.
• Sounders FC forward Nate Jaqua, who played for the Fire from 2003 to 2006, entered the game in the 64th minute as a substitute. Fredy Montero didn't dress for the game as he recovers from last week's wrist surgery.
• Chicago, which has 16 new players on its 29-man roster, suffered its first loss of the season. The Fire (1-1-1) was coming off a bye week.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Chicago||1 0 — 1|
|Seattle||2 0 — 2|
Chicago — Sean Johnson, Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares (Dominic Oduro, 83rd), Dasan Robinson, Jalil Anibaba, Michael Videira, Logan Pause, Patrick Nyarko (Orr Barouch, 90th+), Marco Pappa, Gaston Puerari, Diego Chaves.
Seattle — Kasey Keller, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, James Riley, Jeff Parke, Steve Zakuani, Mauro Rosales (Nate Jaqua, 64th), Erik Friberg, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, O'Brian White (Servando Carrasco, 81st).
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