Sounders' friendly fight fizzles

Chelsea 4, Sounders 2: Fredy Montero scores 2 goals in 1st half, thinks he can hang in the EPL

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comJuly 19, 2012 

Fredy Montero, Sounders FC’s all-time leading goal-scorer, has long said he hopes one day to take his talents to Europe.

He got a taste of the competition he would face Wednesday, and scored twice against European champion Chelsea FC in the Sounders’ 4-2 loss.

The friendly was played before a crowd of 53,309 at CenturyLink Field.

Montero’s goals were the first the MLS Sounders have scored against an English Premier League club, following a 2-0 loss to Chelsea in 2009 and a 7-0 loss to Manchester United last season.

“I definitely noticed (a difference),” Montero said. “This time we managed to score two goals, and I believe we made it a close game. We were able to fight a close match.”

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid also acknowledged progress, while admitting a gulf remains between the EPL and MLS.

“There’s still a difference,” he said. “Speed of play is maybe a little bit faster, for sure – especially the speed of play from the standpoint of when balls turn over. And then the quality: As we always say, that’s why the value of the teams is drastically different.”

Montero’s two goals brought Seattle even in a match that had seemed to be getting out of hand early.

Chelsea jumped ahead 2-0 barely 10 minutes into the match, as Romelu Lukaku scored in the third minute, and Eden Hazard in the 11th.

Then, Montero got Seattle on the board in the 14th minute, stealing a weak Chelsea pass at the top of the penalty area and firing past goalkeeper Henrique Hilario.

About 18 minutes later, Montero scored again, this time after taking a long cross from Mauro Rosales.

“I wish those goals came in MLS,” Montero said. “But we need to keep trying, and we know what the important thing is – and that’s in MLS.”

The deadlock didn’t last long, as Marko Marin and Lukaku scored in the final minutes of the first half, sending Chelsea to the locker room with a 4-2 lead.

The wild first half was not repeated in the second, when both clubs substituted liberally, but no more goals were scored.

One halftime substitution had Josh Ford relieving Bryan Meredith in goal for Seattle. Another had Steve Zakuani coming on in the final 10 minutes.

In the 66th minute, Sounders veteran Roger Levesque received a standing ovation as he checked in for his final match.

“He’s a very special person, and because of him being a special person that has made him a very special player for this club,” Schmid said. “It’s great for him to go out today on a stage like that with the amount of fans that were there and to receive the recognition he got.”

Levesque, who had played most of nine seasons with the USL and MLS Sounders, had announced that he would retire after this match. And he went out wearing the captain’s armband after Montero checked out.

“It really was a great way to go out,” Levesque said. “When you come to the end of something, I find myself thinking back and thinking of the special moments, and this is one that is going to stay with me forever.”

As for Montero, he revisited the idea of playing in the EPL.

“I’m waiting for the right opportunity to come,” he said.

Does he believe he could play in Europe? “For sure,” he said.

While an EPL offer has yet to come for Montero, he remains optimistic. “I’m waiting for that,” he said.

Schmid said he understands that players want to perform at their highest level. He didn’t respond directly to Montero’s ability to play in the Premiership, but he said Montero is ready for “another level.”

Chelsea coach Roberto Di Matteo called Montero “an interesting player.”

Chelsea continues its four-match USA summer tour against Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday in New York.

The Sounders will train today, then take the weekend off before beginning preparations for their return to MLS play July 28 at Colorado.

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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