WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fredy Montero had maintained all week that he had no personal score to settle with Josh Wicks, he simply wanted to help Sounders FC beat D.C. United.
Montero did just that Saturday, scoring the final goal in the 84th minute to give Seattle a 2-1 win. It was probably just an added bonus that the shot whistled into the near corner over Wicks.
Any personal animosities between the players had developed Sept. 2, when the United goalkeeper received a red card for stepping on Montero after he scored the first goal of Seattle’s eventual 2-1 win in the U.S. Open Cup.
However, the primary issue in Saturday’s regular-season rematch involved the coldly mathematical issue of points in the standings between two clubs battling for playoff position.
Seattle (9-8-10; 37 points) moved past United (8-6-12, 36) and into fifth place in the race for the eight MLS playoff positions.
“We talked about it and felt if we can get to 45 points we would have a chance at it,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “And we have 37 now, so we need to get eight points out of our last five games. We have two of those are at home, and we are getting closer to achieving what we want to achieve. And the main thing is that our team believed in itself.”
The Sounders jumped ahead in the fifth minute when Steve Zakuani ran onto a pass from Peter Vagenas in space behind the D.C. defense. Wicks darted off his line, but Zakuani slipped the ball between his legs and into the net.
Zakuani celebrated by cupping his hands toward the RFK Stadium crowd of 19,592, some of whom had directed “a vulgar pregame chant at the Sounders,” according to The Associated Press.
“Those first 20 minutes are going to be tough because they are coming with a flow of energy with a huge crowd behind them,” Zakuani said. “So we score first in this kind of game and its gives you confidence and something to protect. So that was very key. The goal was just a good counterattack. I think Pete played a good ball through, and then I’m one on one with Wicks and it’s about staying calm, and I managed to just sort of poked in there.”
That leads stood up until the 54th minute when a James Riley slide tackle in the penalty area happened to send the ball onto the foot of Rodney Wallace, who knocked it pass Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
“It’s always good on a personal note,” Wallace said. “But it’s a team game, and it was unlucky to have that end result.”
The result was settled after Riley threaded a 20-yard roller to Montero at top of the box. Montero turned and fired for the near upper corner. Wicks jumped, but seemed to short-arm his swipe at the ball, which went into the top of the net.
“(Montero) is heating up,” United defender Julius James said. “He did really well to get his shot off. I think I angled him pretty well. The only place the ball could go is right up inside there.”
Montero ran to a corner of the pitch and mimicked a home-run swing, which he capped by shading his eyes as if watching the imaginary baseball sail away.
“Obviously, Montero can strike a great ball, and when he turns around and gets all of it it’s difficult for keepers to handle it,” Schmid said. “He hit it well, it beat him near post and it was good because it was a turning point in the game where they certainly had a little more of the game; they were starting to dominate the game or more possession for sure.”
The Sounders return to league play at noon Saturday as Chivas USA visits for the first time. Chivas won both earlier meetings.
“We have two extremely important home games left,” Keller said. “... We just can’t think now we have good road form and we’re just going to take for granted that we’re going to go home and win.”