Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid wrote three new names on his lineup card Saturday night.
Ninety minutes later, the new look paid off as the Sounders ended their two-game skid with a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes before a sellout crowd of 28,838 at Qwest Field.
One of those new names belonged to midfielder Steve Zakuani, who scored the first goal and assisted the other.
And the other names were goalkeeper Kasey Keller and defender Nate Sturgis, who combined to help keep the Quakes off the scoreboard – with Keller setting a Major League Soccer record along the way.
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“It’s nice to get back on the winning track,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought our team played very well at times. We moved the ball around, and I thought we created a number of opportunities in the first half. Steve Zakuani gave us a good boost starting on the left side. He was running at people and he was creating problems for people early on. … I though defensively we came up with plays when we had to. … And obviously, what can you say about Keller?”
You can say this: He is 389 minutes into his MLS career and he hasn’t given up a goal yet. As the closing minutes played out Saturday, he passed Ronald Waterreus’ previous record of 375 scoreless minutes to start a season.
And you can say this too: The personal record means little to him.
“I just like the fact that we’re winning home games, and I stayed on the pitch this time, which was nice,” Keller said, referring to his return from a red-card suspension. “(The record is) nice for the team, it’s nice for the club. I think we’ve been solid defensively, so it’s nice to have those little credits. But it’s not something for me, it’s something for the whole team.”
Keller ended the contest with five saves, four of those coming in the second half.
The first half was dominated by the Sounders, although they had nothing to show for it over the first 41 minutes.
There was a brilliant Brad Evans back-heel and cross capped by a Nate Jaqua whiff in front of the goalkeeper.
There was a sweet combination from Fredy Montero to Freddie Ljungberg that ended with a shot sent over the crossbar. And then Montero headed the ball to himself past San Jose goalkeeper Joe Cannon, but then sent the ball into the side of the net – the wrong side of the net.
The payoff finally came in the 42nd minute, after the Sounders pinballed the ball around the penalty area after a corner kick. Finally, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado lifted the ball across the box, where Zakuani headed it home for a 1-0 lead.
“That’s the closest we’ve come this season to scoring on a set piece,” Schmid said. “We’ve still got to get a lot better on set pieces. The service, we’ve still got to get more consistent on that. … But we talked about maintaining pressure on the opponent, and obviously we did that, and Zakuani snuck it in at the back post for the goal.”
Five minutes into the second half, Zakuani made a steal at midfield, and sent the ball forward to Jaqua who was in open space down the left side. As the defense tried to catch up, Jaqua centered to Evans, who finished from about 12 yards.
The win moved the Sounders to 4-2-0 on the season, and they remain four points behind Western Conference leader Chivas USA in the standings. San Jose fell to 1-3-2.
Seattle’s next test is a U.S. Open Cup play-in game against Real Salt Lake on Tuesday at the Starfire Sports Complex.
The Sounders return to league play Saturday at Chicago, the only unbeaten team remaining in MLS.
“It’ll probably be a little bit of a mixed team (on Tuesday),” Schmid said. “There will be some (regulars) who will play, and then there will be some guys who have been coming off the bench or who haven’t played much who will get an opportunity to play.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808