Two important soccer matches collide today, competing for the attention of area soccer fans.
Kicking off first is the U.S. national team’s match with Brazil in the Confederations Cup final in South Africa.
But before that match concludes, the Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders FC will kick off at Qwest Field in a game pairing Western Conference rivals separated by a single point in the Major League Soccer standings.
The Sounders FC organization will try to accommodate both interests by showing the first half of the international game live on the Qwest Field video screens, then showing the second half after the MLS match.
Even Sounders coach Sigi Schmid admits that he’ll keep a pregame eye on the cup final.
“I’ll probably watch it in the coaches’ office instead (of the stadium screen),” he said. “But our main intention is we have a game against Colorado, and that’s where our focus is. We wish the U.S. a lot of luck, but our focus has got to be Colorado and three points.”
The Sounders’ lead over Colorado in the league standings is slim enough that a win by the Rapids today would send them past Seattle in the MLS West.
But the Sounders’ chances actually could be improved by that USA-Brazil match because Conor Casey, Colorado’s leading goal-scorer, is in South Africa with the national team.
“Once he left, it opened up a lot more space for (Omar) Cummings, you know,” Schmid said. “They added (Pat) Noonan, who I think obviously is a very good player – that’s why I brought him to Columbus last year. So they replaced a quality player with some quality.
“They’re still a very dangerous team. It just means that Cummings plays a bigger part of their attacking role, and he’s responded well to that.”
Two Sounders who have been called up for national team duty – midfielder Brad Evans for the U.S. and defender Tyrone Marshall for Jamaica – will remain in rave green today before joining their countries’ CONCACAF Gold Cup teams next week.
Seattle’s personnel decisions will be influenced more by health. Freddie Ljungberg (hamstring) and Sebastien Le Toux (ankle) seem probable for today. But the status of midfielder Steve Zakuani (ankle) is likely to be a game-time decision. And forward Jarrod Smith (hamstring), who just returned from time with the New Zealand national team, is doubtful.
One Sounders player who is eligible – and hoping to stay that way – is forward Nate Jaqua.
Jaqua has accumulated four yellow cards this season, which means that if he picks up another one today, he will have to sit out the Sounders’ next league match. And that game is especially important to him because it comes against the Houston Galaxy, the current Western Division leader and the team that made him available to Seattle in the expansion draft.
However, because Jaqua hasn’t picked up any yellow cards during his past two games, one card will be deducted from his record if he makes it three straight today.
That presents him with a balancing act, trying to play smart but not soft.
“I’ll try to stay off the ground as much as possible,” he said. “Sometimes when I go down, I get in a little late just because it takes me a while to get down. As a forward, there are certain situations where I need to, but for the most part, I don’t need to be tackling. I’m not like a center back where I have to go in on those. It’s almost better if I stay in front of him and hold him in on those.
“I’ll try not to commit to the ones I’m unsure about. But for stuff in the air, you can’t let it get in your head. I’ve got to try to win those 50-50s.”
Like his coach and many of his teammates, Jaqua said he’s interested in the Confederations Cup final. But once the whistle blows at Qwest, his mind will have to be on the Rapids.
“If (the U.S.) could win, it would be great,” he said. “But … our game is more important to me. I’ll check (the national team) out afterward, the highlights. But I need to be focused on us getting a win.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
SOUNDERS FC GAMEDAY
COLORADO RAPIDS (5-2-6, 21 points) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (5-3-7, 22 points)
Kickoff: 1 p.m., Qwest Field.
TV: KONG 6/16.
Radio: 97.3 FM (in Spanish on 1210 AM).
Head to head: The Sounders and Rapids played to a 2-2 draw May 23 in Colorado. Three days later, the Sounders beat the Rapids, 1-0, in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game in Tukwila.
Team leaders: For Colorado – G 8 Conor Casey; A 6 Omar Cummings; Sh 38 Casey; SOG 15 Casey; GAA 1.11 Matt Pickens. For Seattle – G 7 Fredy Montero; A 4 Montero/Nate Jaqua; Sh 47 Montero; SOG 17 Montero; GAA 0.90 Kasey Keller.
Coach Sigi Schmid scouting report: “Cummings is on a very good roll for them; he’s scoring goals, he’s playing with a lot of confidence, so he’s somebody we got to be concerned about. (Colin) Clark has played well. ... They’re a team that’s very confident. They haven’t lost many games in league, and it’s going to be a difficult opponent.”
Notes: A Colorado victory would send the Rapids past Seattle into third place the MLS Western Conference standings. ... Casey will miss this game because of his duty with the U.S. national team. ... Colorado leads MLS with an average of 1.62 goals per game. ... The Rapids are on a franchise-best eight-game unbeaten streak (3-0-5). ... Seattle is 4-1-3 at home; Colorado is 2-2-3 on the road, including a 1-1 draw at Dallas on Wednesday. ... Former USL Sounder Preston Burpo is Colorado’s reserve keeper. He’s played in four games with a 1.25 goals-against average. ... The first half of the Confederations Cup final between USA and Brazil will be shown live on the Qwest Field video boards. The second half will be shown after the MLS game. ... Even with the newly expanded 32,400-seat configuration, the game is sold out.
Next: 7 p.m. Wednesday, U.S. Open Cup third-round match vs. Portland Timbers, PGE Park, Portland.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune