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Originally published Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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What to expect from Sounders FC

Sounders FC is set for its inaugural game Thursday night at Qwest Field against the New York Red Bulls. Here's a quick overview of what you need to start the season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Today

New York Red Bulls @ Sounders FC, 6:25 p.m., ESPN2

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You have your tickets for Qwest Field or you plan to tune in to Seattle Sounders FC's inaugural game tonight. You're excited and eager to witness history, but you are a casual fan still learning about soccer, and Major League Soccer, in particular.

You're not alone. So, here are the basics.

Sounders FC, led by coach Sigi Schmid and veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller, faces last season's MLS runners-up, the New York Red Bulls. The 6:25 p.m. game is sold out (32,400 capacity), but viewers can watch the ESPN2 broadcast, which starts at 6. There will be pregame festivities.

Schmid, in an effort to keep his opponent guessing, hasn't revealed his opening-night starting lineup. But the players to watch for Seattle are forwards Fredy Montero and Nate Jaqua, midfielder Sebastien Le Toux and defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Tyrone Marshall, who are charged with trying to keep New York star forward Juan Pablo Angel from ruining Seattle's big night.

"You're rolling the dice to see exactly what their lineup is," Schmid said. "Seeing bits and pieces sometimes from them on video to have an idea of some of the players that are playing. We've got stuff on Angel and [midfielder Jorge] Rojas" from last season. Schmid said "both teams, the first five minutes, are going to take a look at each other and say, 'That's what they're doing.' "

Angel is the clear focal point of the Red Bulls' attack. The 33-year-old native of Colombia scored 14 goals in 23 games last year as the Red Bulls charged to the MLS Cup final, losing to Schmid's Columbus Crew, 3-1.

"They're a different team than they were last year," Keller said of the Red Bulls. He and Angel played against each other in the English Premier League when Keller was at Fulham and Angel at Aston Villa.

"You want to think that if you put a good tail on him and not let him get in there, that's going to help you immensely," Keller said. "You have to think that Juan Pablo Angel is going to be the main goal threat."

Angel goes up against two countrymen in Hurtado and Montero.

"It's always nice to play with players from your own country," Angel said this week. "At the end of the day, that will open up the door for more Colombian players to come to MLS."

Notes

• Sounders FC added Monroe native Ben Dragavon to the roster, per the MLS "extreme hardship" stipulation. Seattle's backup goalkeeper, Chris Eylander, is coming off a knee injury and isn't available to back up Keller. Dragavon was added, probably only for the opener.

• A few tickets remain available for the March 28 Sounders FC game at Qwest against Real Salt Lake.

• A march through Pioneer Square is scheduled to start about 4:45 p.m. at Occidental Park. Fans are invited to join Seattle mayor Greg Nickels and team owners along with the Sound Wave marching band on a walk to the stadium.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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