FOXBOROUGH, MASS. – Sounders FC used a lineup featuring unusual faces in unusual places Saturday at New England.
But it was a pair of tested veterans who came up big to provide the 2-1 win that kept Seattle’s pulse beating in the MLS Supporters’ Shield race.
Fredy Montero scored both Seattle goals. And goalkeeper Kasey Keller made them stand up with six saves and vocal leadership that helped an unconventional back line protect a one-goal lead through most of the second half.
“I don’t think it was a fun game, or a beautiful game, but it was the result we needed,” Montero said. “We are happy about that.”
Coach Sigi Schmid, mundful of Seattle’s U.S. Open Cup final Tuesday against Chicago, penciled in an unconventional lineup. Forward/midfielder Roger Levesque got his first MLS start at right back – alongside Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni and Tyson Wahl. Second-year midfielder David Estrada got his second MLS career start and first of the season – alongside rookie Servando Carrasco.
“It was hard because we have to look at different players who we needed to rest, and who needed to be out there to see if we had the balance right,” Schmid said. “With James Riley having been out injured, right back was a little of a concern for us, but I thought Roger Levesque did a good job out there for us. So then the midfield became a concern for us. … (But) it’s always a little bit of a chess match when we’re trying to set the lineups. I think the lineup for Tuesday will be a little easier.”
The unusual lineup started shakily. In the opening minutes, Levesque cleared a ball practically out of Keller’s hands. Later, an apparent Revolution goal was waved off by an offside call.
New England got on the board in the 35th minute, when 16-year-old Diego Fagundez found space in front of the goal on a corner kick and headed it home.
Montero answered a minute and 27 seconds later, taking advantage of a misplay by New England defender Ryan Cochrane. Montero ran onto the loose ball and one-touched a left-footed shot to the far netting.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Montero provided what proved to be the winner. That sequence began with a deflected Estrada shot that Nate Jaqua chested down in front of the goal, where Montero slipped it past goalkeeper Matt Reis.
“We could’ve been four-up at halftime,” New England coach Steve Nicol said. “… (Their) two goals are on mistakes. What do you say? It was a travesty.”
Montero has a team-high 11 goals in MLS.
“He is in great form right now, and when a goal scorer’s hot, you sort of continue to bet on him and ride him,” Schmid said. “That was one of the reasons why we started Fredy tonight. … Hopefully, he’ll carry that form into Tuesday’s Open Cup game.”
The win keeps Seattle (16-6-9) in the Supporters’ Shield race, seven points behind Los Angeles, which came from behind for a 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday. RSL fell six points behind Seattle for second place in the Western Conference.
The loss eliminated New England (5-14-12) from playoff contention.
After the Open Cup final, Seattle returns to MLS play Saturday, when Philadelphia visits CenturyLink Field. Montero will miss that game on a yellow-card suspension after receiving a caution near halftime against the Revs.
Information, quotes available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.