The fun of playing one of the world’s great clubs before the largest soccer crowd in Northwest history began to wear off for Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid with Manchester United’s third goal maybe the fourth.
By the time the final whistle blew with the score 7-0, Schmid considered it the greatest embarrassment of his coaching career.
“I need to apologize to our fans because I thought we embarrassed ourselves in the second half,” Schmid said. “Not to take anything away from Man United because they’re a great team and they scored some great goals and the movement was superb. We wanted to reward all of the guys on our team – we wanted to reward everybody. I think in retrospect that was a mistake.”
Seattle played evenly for the first few minutes and continued to get chances throughout, but couldn’t finish.
United’s lone first-half goal came in the 15th minute. Ashley Young sent a pass into the area to Patrice Evra. Sounders defender James Riley closed quickly, shoving Evra off the pitch – but not before Evra lifted a cross to Michael Owen, who was unmarked at the far post and headed it past Kasey Keller for the only score of the first 45 minutes.
“I think in the first half we did well,” Schmid said. “ (I) thought we were able to hold the ball, we were able to get in on them, we got some good chances. (Fredy) Montero had some good chances. The one he had, if he lifts his head and gets it to (Alvaro) Fernandez, Fernandez is naked. The other one that (Osvaldo Alonso) hits and gets deflected, Roger (Levesque) is naked at the back post. A little more cleverness, a little more sharpness, and we might have had a goal or two. Overall, I wasn’t displeased with what we did in the first half.”
However, both clubs sent out reworked lineups in the second half. For the Sounders, that meant mostly their second string, including reserve goalkeeper Terry Boss.
Meanwhile, Man U manager Sir Alex Ferguson had kept some of his stars out of the starting 11, and then used the final 45 minutes to unleash the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ji-Sung Park.
The floodgates opened: Mame Biram Diouf in the 49th minute, Rooney in the 51st, Rooney in the 69th, Parke in the 71st, then Rooney again in the 72nd minute – completing his hat trick in 27 minutes.
“Have you ever heard the cliché, ‘A game of two halves?’ It was kind of that a little bit,” Keller said. “Hopefully it’s a learning experience. We put so many guys out on the field in the second half because everybody thinks they can play in the Premier League in America. Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, if I just got the break, that I could be there.’ And actually, no, you can’t. And you need to learn to figure that out.”
Gabriel Obertan completed the lopsided scoring in the 88th minute.
“A strange game because the score didn’t reflect the chances,” Ferguson said. “In the first half, the Sounders had two or three good chances and our goalkeeper made two great saves. Kasey Keller made a couple good saves himself. I think our second goal opened the game for us.”
The game was played before a crowd of 67,052 at CenturyLink Field, topping the previous Northwest soccer record of 66,848 that turned out to watch the Sounders play FC Barcelona in 2009.
“It was brilliant,” Ferguson said. “The pleasing thing for me was the number of fans all mixed together. That was like the old days of England and Scotland, when fans could mix together and no trouble. I don’t know if we could ever get back to that, but it was a pleasure to watch that tonight. The atmosphere was always good. The Sounders’ support is fantastic.”
With their lone friendly of the season now behind them, the Sounders will take a couple of days off before returning to training for their CONCACAF Champions League match at San Francisco of Panama on Tuesday.
Seattle returns to MLS play July 30 at Houston.