Sounders FC

Sounder-to-be Nkufo offers glimpse of FC's future

Fans can expect goals, Sounder-to-be Blaise Nkufo said Tuesday after watching his future teammates practice.

Nkufo is spending a few days in the area between assignments: His Dutch league season has just concluded, and his duties with Switzerland’s World Cup team are about to begin. But once the World Cup is over, Nkufo will join the Sounders for the second half of their Major League Soccer regular season - perhaps July 15 at D.C. United.

Asked what fans can expect once he dons a rave green jersey, Nkufo provided the answer they wanted to hear.

“As a striker, they can expect a lot of goals,” he said. “But I need my team players and crossing passes. I know what I can do for this team, and I’m going to be focused on my skills: what I’ve done from the past and to do that for the Sounders.”

Nkufo has a past that includes more than 200 career goals for his country and various clubs. He has seven in 27 appearances with the Swiss national team. His 114 goals make him the all-time leader for FC Twente, including 12 in the just-completed season that brought the club’s first Dutch league championship.

He declined to compare that league with Major League Soccer.

“Every league has quality and strength,” he said. “Soccer is simple: just running after the ball and trying to play as a team.”

Soccer hasn’t been simple recently for the Sounders, who have tumbled to last place in the MLS Western Conference with a 2-3-3 record. They also are 14th overall in goal differential, having surrendered 12 goals while scoring eight.

The club hopes Nkufo can help especially in that latter category.

“He’s got a proven goal-scoring record,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s not the kind of player who’s going to run away from people, so he scores his goals by instinct and timing and understanding the flow of the game.”

Here are a few other comments from Nkufo during his time at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila:

On his visit: “I’m really happy. I just met with (general manager Adrian Hanauer and vice president of business operations Gary Wright) and I was really impressed about the facilities, and I really felt that they want me. My decision was easy. .. We did the deal, and I’m really proud to be part of this team.”

Impressions of Sounders practice: “I can’t judge, really, because you need to be on the field with the rest of the players. I wanted to just meet the players, the staff again. I can feel that they’re motivated.”

His reasons for coming to MLS: “I go with my family. I wanted to start new life. I think I said a few weeks ago I wanted to immigrate to live in this country.”

On fan expectations: “Of course people have expectations. But I think my expectations are higher than the fans’ or anybody here. I know I have to work hard to show what I can do. I have a name of course, but I start from - how do you say? - zero? Zero. I’m ready.”

On moving from one season directly to another: “The last years, I’ve played so many games. I think I’m fit, fit enough for playing with the Sounders after the World Cup.”

On Sounders fans: “I’ve heard they really support the team. I think that’s really great. If every team can get fans like that, it’s great. You can achieve a lot with the fans. They can be the 12th man.”

ADDED TIME

Nate Jaqua began participating in team training Tuesday, another step in recovery from the lower abdomen injury that has kept him out all season. He said he felt good, and without setback he believes he could be ready to play May 22 against San Jose. … Fredy Montero, last season’s leading scorer, said it was painful to be pulled from the lineup in the 58th minute of Seattle’s 4-0 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday. He added that he doesn’t believe Schmid used the substitution to send a message, because he and Schmid have good direct communication. … The Sounders will learn their CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round pairing May 19, when the tournament draw is scheduled.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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